Charlie Flanagan at the Laois Offaly Fine Gael launch in Mountmellick. Picture: Denis Byrne
Fianna Fail harmed on rural Ireland, according to Laois/Offaly General Election candididate and outgoing TD and Minister for Justice & Equality, Charlie Flanagan, who also rejected a claim that Fine Gael does not care about areas outside the cities.
In a statement he said he believes in rural Ireland and wants to see it reach its full potential.
“Ten years ago, rural Ireland was a place of mass unemployment, and soaring emigration with little reason for optimism. Today, it is fighting back. 77,000 jobs have been created outside of Dublin since mid-2017, but that is just a start.
"Right now, Fine Gael is investing €1 billion in job creation measures in rural areas. Our party is delivering improvements in towns and villages with populations under 10,000. We are implementing our eight regional enterprise plans, which will deliver even more opportunities," he said.
He alao referred to what was described as the importance of rural Ireland.
“I want to see it flourish. That’s why, over the past few years, I have worked tirelessly with my colleagues to ensure adequate investment. Such investment is vital to undo the harm Fianna Fáil wreaked on rural Ireland during its time in office," he said.
In his statement he also outlined what he sees as the gap between the way two parties approach rural Ireland. He highlighted what he said was evidence.
"Rural crime for example, increased after Fianna Fáil closed Templemore Garda College. Fine Gael reopened the College in 2014 and over 3,000 Gardaí have been recruited since. The rural economy was devastated by Fianna Fail, with unemployment peaking at 16%. It currently stands at 4.8% because of Fine Gael’s management of the economy and focus on job creation. Soaring emigration hit rural Ireland hard with more than a quarter of households losing at least one family member in the period after 2006.
"But under Fine Gael, there are more people returning to Ireland than are leaving, and while Fianna Fail cancelled the Sports Capital Programme, and closed the CLÁR Programme, which provides for small scale infrastructural projects in disadvantaged rural areas, Fine Gael restored both.
"So I utterly reject any notion that Fine Gael does not care about Rural Ireland,"he said.
Mr Flanagan also highlighted the creation of a Senior Minister of Rural and Community Affairs.
"Laois is just one of the county’s which has benefitted from us having, for the first time in our history, a standalone Minister who sits at the Cabinet Table. In 2018, a total of €5,680,929 was invested in Laois under Department of Rural and Community Development funding," he said.
He concluded with a pledge.
"That is why I truly believe Fine Gael is the only party for rural Ireland. It is the party which will continue to bring employment, opportunity and people back to rural Ireland. Fine Gael will make rural Ireland a thriving, sustainable in which to place to live and work," he said.