Rural Ireland is not looking for a handout from the government to try and combat rural decline, but it deserves fair play, according to Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.

Speaking to AgriLand’s Claire Mc Cormack during a ‘live stream’ broadcast at the second day of the National Ploughing Championships, the elected representative for the Roscommon-Galway constituency highlighted that services are significantly behind those in urban areas.

Progress being made to close this divide has been too slow and more needs to be done to put a halt to the migration of young people towards cities – otherwise rural communities which are struggling at the moment could disappear completely, he warned.

“If growing up you saw your mother and father struggling for years, you are going to say maybe I would be better off leaving the land.

“The statistics prove that rural communities across parts of the west of Ireland are suffering from rural decline and depopulation. All we are looking for is a fairer displacement of the money,” deputy Fitzmaurice said.

Unless this happens the number of farmers in Ireland could fall dramatically, as there will be no young people left to take over from the older generation, he argued.

Deputy Fitzmaurice was taking part in a panel discussion on rural development alongside Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy and Louise Lennon from Irish Rural Link.

On the issue of tackling country-wide development, Carthy believes investment is key to making progress.

If Dublin didn’t have the interconnection of public transport, the airport, the port, top-quality broadband, companies wouldn’t want to go there.

“There’s an attitude in government that every single penny that larger urban centres get is an investment in culture, while every single bit of infrastructure that is provided to rural communities is seen as a hand-out or charity.

“We need to be thinking bigger and we need to start demanding more,” the Sinn Fein MEP said.