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Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane
Catherina Cunnane hails from a sixth-generation drystock and specialised pedigree suckler enterprise in Co. Mayo. She currently holds the positions of editor and general manager at That's Farming, having joined the firm during its start-up phase in 2015.
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Only people who own or are in a partnership can build on a farm – TD

Limerick-based Independent TD, Richard O’Donoghue, has urged the public to contact their local TDs to support the Rural Independent’s amendment to Project Ireland 2040.

He made the appeal as he called on the government to provide basic infrastructure in rural towns and villages, so they can “progress with potential”.

O’Donoghue said there has been chronic under-investment in infrastructure across rural Ireland, which is now jeopardising a post-pandemic recovery prospect in rural areas.

Furthermore, he stressed there is a “serious digital divide” between rural and urban areas due to the “failure of successive governments”.

“Did the Minister know that if any of our rural sons and daughters want to live in rural Ireland, the 2040 plan does not cover that?” he questioned during a Dáil exchange on Project Ireland 2040.

“One may be fooled that into thinking that if one is the son or daughter of a farmer, one can build on a farm.”

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“That is not so. Only people who own or are in a partnership on a farm can do so. This is the case even though, due to a lack of infrastructure, people in rural areas pay up to €10,000 per house to install modern sewerage systems so that they can live in rural areas.”

“This is because of the failure of Governments and a lack of infrastructure over the past 30 years.”

Supporting farmers, rural residents and local communities

According to the Rural Independent TDS, if the government approach continues, then rural Ireland will be decimated within a decade.

The group recently brought a private member’s motion in the Dáil, seeking to “hold the government accountable for delivering key infrastructure to all parts of rural Ireland”.

Speaking ahead of the debate, the leader of the Group, Deputy Mattie Mc Grath, said:

“Our motion seeks to hold the government democratically accountable for the delivery of key infrastructural investments under the national development plan, a key plank of Project Ireland 2040.”

It also seeks to deliver the national broadband plan (NBP) roll-out by the end of 2022 instead of the government’s target of 2027.

“It is inconceivable how the government can claim the NBP is successful when the programme only delivers high-speed internet access to 12% of the 550,000 homes promised by the end of this year,” McGrath added.

“Our motion is all about supporting farmers, rural residents and local communities. We are seeking to have the chronic under-investment in rural areas addressed by prioritising infrastructural development in the regions and rural areas, by expediting the delivery and increasing the investment.”

He said this is essential to stem rural decline, improve quality of life, harness the opportunity of remote work and allow for balanced regional job creation.

One-off rural housing 

“We are also seeking an immediate review of the draconian planning restrictions on one-off rural housing, contained within the National Planning Framework so that local people can build a home on their land without the fear of government and/or an Bord Pleanála blockages.”

“The government have disgracefully and consistently refused to allow a democratic debate and vote on Project Ireland 2040 in the Oireachtas, despite that plan dictating where future investments occur and where people live, work and obtain state services over the next two decades.”

“We offer, through our motion, the opportunity for all TDs to decide if they are on the side of transparency and accountability and for a prioritised investment programme for rural Ireland.”

“TDs will have to decide if they wish to stand with the ongoing government spin and empty platitudes or support our motion, and stand up for the people of rural Ireland by addressing real issues that impact gravely on the lives of people in every parish,” concluded Deputy Mc Grath.

1.7 million residents in rural Ireland

Following the exchange, O’Donoghue took to Facebook to shed light on the matter and confirmed that a vote will take place shortly:

“1.7 million people live in rural areas. We need to make sure that our heritage and culture are protected.”

“For the sake of this country, make sure TDs overturn and vote with the Rural Independents, for an amendment to the 2040 plan, which will allow all the next generations the right to live where they were born and reared,” he concluded.

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