Published on July 28th, 2015 | by Ballaghaderreen & District0
Renewed call for full department of rural affairs
A renewed call has been made for the establishment of a full government department of rural affairs to bring about a “fundamental paradigm shift in regional development policy formulation and delivery”. The call was made by Ballaghaderreen-based solicitor Declan O’Callaghan, Chairperson of the Council for the West, when he addressed a major regional development conference in Ballaghaderreen. “For too long the official attitude to this issue could be described as one of benign indifference. This is no longer tolerable. We now require a more focused, planned and purposive approach on an ongoing and structured basis. A permanent seat at the Cabinet table is necessary in order to achieve this,” said Mr O’Callaghan, echoing a submission made by the Council for the West to the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA)in 2013. This report led to the appointment of Anne Phelan as Minister of State with responsibility forRural Affairs, but Mr O’Callaghan was adamant that the status of this ministry must be upgraded. “Our Constitution allows for the appointment of up to 15 Cabinet Ministers. Surely the survival and future viability of rural Ireland is one of the 15 most important issues facing this country and so merits a full and dedicated Government Department in its ownright,”he said. He was speaking at a conference held to mark the 21st anniversary of the Council for the West, a voluntary, independent, and non-political body founded by the Western Bishops in1994. Apart from calling for a full Ministry for Rural Affairs, the council placed three other major demands in front of CEDRA -the introduction of a system of equality assessment for all national legislation to ensure same does not negatively impact on rural areas, greater investment in rural Ireland, and an effective evaluation and monitoring procedure to ensure the CEDRA Report would be actually implemented and not left to gather dust on shelves. Minister for State Anne Phelan, who attended and addressed the conference, said that she agreed with the call for a full minister at Cabinet level in relation to rural affairs. Over 70 delegates attended, including founder member of the Council for the West, retired Bishop of Elphin, Christopher Jones. The conference paid tribute to one of the Council’s founding members and former Chairperson Sean Hannick who passed away in January of this year. The conference was chaired by Patsy McGarry, the well-known Irish Times Religious Affairs Correspondent.There were also contributions from Gerry Finn, CEO Northern and Western Regional Assembly; Finola Moylette, Principal Officer for Rural Development, Department of Environment, Community and Local Government; Joe Gilmore, Managing Director, Ireland West Airport; Council Member,Bishop Christopher Jones; Professor Emeritus Seamus Caulfield, formerly of UCD; Sean Finan, President Macra na Feirme;Paddy McGuinness, Chairman of the Western Development Commission; Ivan Mc Phillips, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Rural Development at GMIT,as well as Ms Anne Phelan, Minister of State with special responsibility for Rural EconomicDevelopment.
Source: Roscommon Herald