News & Media

‘Our Rural Future’ cannot become another false dawn

29 March 2021

Statement by Seán Sherlock TD
Parliamentary Party Chair and Spokesperson on Social Protection, Community and Rural Development and the Islands; Agriculture and the Marine
  • Mostly a repackaging of already flagged proposals and plans.
  • No new financial commitments beyond examining proposals.

Responding to the publication today of ‘Our Rural Future’, Labour spokesperson Seán Sherlock said that it must not become a false dawn like the 2017 Action Plan on Rural Development, and that crucial to its delivery will be high speed broadband, and real investment in the proposals it pledges to examine.

Deputy Sherlock said:

“Today’s launch of ‘Our Rural Future’ is eerily familiar to the Action Plan for Rural Development that was launched four years ago in January 2017. That plan had 5 pillars and 270 actions. In comparison today’s document has 150 commitments and focuses in on the fallout from the pandemic. What will be crucial to it’s success is the delivery of high speed broadband, and access to sustainable transport options.

“The Government described this as the most ambitious and transformational policy for rural development in decades but that will be determined by whether they follow through on their pledges.

“Despite much publicity about relocation grants, community ownership and tax changes there are no new concrete financial commitments in today’s policy document.

“This strategy can’t be another false dawn for rural Ireland. While there is much to welcome in the document there is little that is specifically new. This is a very well packaged marketing exercise that bundles together proposals that were already planned such as the right to remote working, or the €1bn Rural Regeneration and Development Fund.

“For over a year now workers have been remote working  and the hubs that this plan announces are already taking shape across the country, and are facilities we’ve been calling for over a number of years. We’re told there will be a review of tax arrangements for remote working but again I would highlight we’re over a year into this pandemic and these changes have been much discussed.  

“For years’ I’ve called for planning changes for over the shop spaces and conversion into residential use, and I’ve introduced legislation to address this. I welcome that the Minister has taken onboard my proposal on this and that this will be reviewed, but this report today also rehashes policies on shopfronts and commercial rates which we’ve heard about for years so delivery of these ideas will be crucial.

“For anyone deciding to work remotely, their choice will be informed by the success of the national broadband plan, and access to local services. I will be watching this closely and engaging with the Minister on how well the aspirational commitments in today’s document are actually delivered.”