The President of the ICMSA, John Comer has questioned politicians understanding of the difficulties facing rural Ireland following the €800m drop in dairy incomes over the past two years.

Comer said that it is estimated that the wider rural economy will suffer an income fall of €1.35 billion due to the slump in dairy farm incomes.

The drop in rural incomes is an issue that is seldom mentioned by politicians, while there is endless discussions about fiscal space and tax cuts, he said.

The ICMSA President also dismissed the level of attention and focus that all the political parties have given to the problems currently facing both the farming and wider rural sector.

Comer said that there was no sign whatsoever that any candidates, including those from the main parties, even understood the problems much less had thought about solutions.

The question for candidates is what is their position on this hugely important issue actually is and, secondly, what are their proposals to address it?

“All we are getting is very generalised proposals with little or no detail on how we restore farm income”, he said.

Comer also said that it is obvious that the separation between rural and urban Ireland is becoming a decisive issue, as the State seems to have withdrawn from large areas of the country.

A whole range of services that took a century to roll out to every corner of the country have disappeared within a decade: post, policing, district courts, schools, veterinary, departmental offices, banking, the ICMSA President said.

“It has happened under successive governments but people all across the rural parts of Ireland feel that the state is somehow retreating back into the cities and large towns.

But this is a republic and people living in Roscommon, Kerry or any other county are citizens in the same way as those living in Mount Merrion or Ranelagh and with the same rights.

“People living in rural Ireland don’t feel that the State accepts that; they feel that they’re treated in a measurably inferior fashion to their urban or suburban counterparts and, in my opinion, that suspicion is absolutely correct”, the ICMSA President said.