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It is now clear that the British people have made the choice to leave the European Union. The countr...


Horticulture Politics - Action Plan for Rural Development: Statements

Victor Boyhan (Independent)

I warmly welcome the Minister to the House and say that no Minister, particularly this one, needs to be lectured about rural development. She lives in a rural constituency and represents rural and urban. I have no doubt about her commitment and energy to deliver this plan. It is a balanced plan and is one that has been put down and worked out. Key objectives have been set and that is fair. I fully support it. How could one not support 135,000 new jobs by 2020 or increasing overseas visitors by 12%, which is one of the targets?

Other targets are to invest over €50 million in sports, recreational and cultural facilities and to revitalize 600 towns and villages. We do not need to be lectured about the revitalization of towns. We are hearing it from councils, the Dáil and the Seanad. There has been loads of belly-aching and now there is a plan. There is a proposal and we should be supporting it. If in two years, people are not delivering then we should come into the Houses, haul the Minister in and tell her she has not delivered.

The Minister has put a plan in place with deliverables and a timeframe and she has to be commended for doing that. She said she wants to revitalize all these towns and villages, protect vital local services and ensure all homes and businesses are connected to broadband in the lifespan of this plan. She wants to double the investment in flood relief. I spent last night in Shannon where there was an enormous meeting about the Shannon flood basin at which the Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, Deputy Canney, spoke. I heard the concerns of farmers who had 100 acres under water for six months. They see hope in the Minister's plan and they welcome it. To support 4,000 new community projects is a very ambitious target. It is an enormously ambitious target but the Minister is committed to it. She has set it out and I admire her. I thank her for that.

I will say a number of other things. This morning in the AV room, Department officials gave us an overview of Ireland 2040 and the plan. It goes hand in hand with this Minister's vision and plan for rural development and balanced regional development. I ask that the Minister's officials and those of the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government take the time to send people out to engage with the regional authorities, which represent communities and the 31 local authorities. They are key stakeholders in delivering on the ground. They are usually the first responders to crises in communities, both rural and urban. The Minister should tap into that resource.

I will caution the Minister regarding one issue. We saw when we talked about the hedge cutting initiatives how emotive the issue of heritage is. Heritage, landscape, and biodiversity are the challenges. We can have both but that is the area we cannot forget. There has to be balance. I ask the Minister to look at environmental issues, biodiversity, and all those issues and bring in the stakeholders that are involved in those areas because they have a valid argument too. They need to be looked at carefully.

We will have to diversify the agrifood sector from other forms of traditional agriculture back into the agrifood sector. The mushroom business is in crisis. The horticulture sector, forestry sector, cut flower production and nursery stock production are areas that need to be included because they are also part of it. I thank the Minister and sincerely wish her well.

Source: KildareStreet - Horticulture Politics - Action Plan for Rural Development: Statements