Hopes that new department will ‘reverse rural decline’

The establishment of the new Department for Community and Rural Affairs could lead to the reversal of rural decline, according to the Irish Natura and Hill Farmers’ Association (INHFA).

The newly-appointed Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced Michael Ring as the Minister for Community and Rural Affairs as part of his new cabinet.

The INHFA welcomed the creation of the department, which it had been seeking for over 12 months now, according to the Spokesman for Rural Affairs Brendan O’Malley.

In order to have an impact, and to reverse the decline of rural Ireland, it is imperative that this department be properly resourced and have influence in key areas presently covered by other departments.

The immediate roll-out of high-speed broadband is of particular importance, he added.

Alongside this, ensuring the road and rail infrastructure is improved should be a priority. These conditions are required to meet the needs of businesses and multi-nationals presently in or looking to relocate to rural Ireland, he said.

O’Malley believes that the department should also address the reversal of cutbacks, which have led to the closure of both Garda stations and post offices across the country.

He called on Minister Ring to ensure that any rural regeneration programme takes into consideration smaller areas of population – such as villages and townlands, as well as rural towns.

The introduction of tax incentives to drive the tourism sector and to help build on many of the present initiatives, such as the Wild Atlantic Way, Ancient East and Lakelands and Inland Waterways, was also proposed by O’Malley.

The INHFA is keen to work alongside Minister Ring in the future in order to help solve the issues affecting rural Ireland.

Ring was first elected as a TD in 1994; he has previously served as Minister of State for Regional Economic Development.

He has also held the position of Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport with Special Responsibility for Tourism and Sport.