Galway East TD Seán Canney has welcomed provisions in Budget 2017 which he says are good news for rural Ireland.
Among the items highlighted by the Minister of State for OPW and Flood Relief are an additional 500 places on Rural Social Schemes, a €25 million sheep scheme and increases to social welfare payments. He also noted allocations for the provision of high speed broadband, enhanced childcare packages and the provision of more Gardai and welcomed planned changes to the Farm Assist scheme.
‘Today’s Budget outlines this Government’s commitment to rural Ireland and to ongoing rural development. Funding for the Rural Development Programme is to increase from €494 million in 2016 to €601 million in 2017, which is a very significant and hard-fought increase.
‘As members of the Independent Alliance we set out our stall months ago in terms of the supports needed for rural Ireland. These included more support of rural development, the need for enhanced broadband roll out and increased funding of service provision in rural areas. We worked hard as a team for many months to ensure that these priorities were reflected in the Programme for a Partnership Government and the logical next step along that road is the funding of these measures in Budget 2017.
‘The Budget announced today reflects the real need for balanced regional development and a recognition that while some areas in the east of the country are bouncing back strongly in terms of economic development and jobs, which creates its own infrastructural pressures, there are many areas of the country where no economic bounce is being felt and where communities and businesses need strong, focused support in terms of achieving progress.

Extra RSS places
‘News that the number of places on Rural Social Schemes is to be increased from 2,600 to 3,100 is extremely welcome. These schemes are vital in the provision of services and the advancement of projects in many rural areas.
‘I recently invited Minister for Social Protection, Leo Varadkar TD to Caherlistrane, Co. Galway to see at first hand the great work being done by local schemes in rural areas and I believe that today’s announcement is due recognition of the vital role played by participants on these schemes across the country. These schemes represent excellent value for money and should be encouraged and rewarded.’

Farm incomes
‘There are a number of provisions in today’s Budget that will help farmers across the country. These include a flexible loan fund, increased funding for GLAS and a €25 million sheep scheme. The sheep scheme is of particular interest to farmers in the midlands and west of Ireland and should provide welcome income stability in what have been very difficult times for sheep farmers. Other welcome measures in today’s Budget include changes to Farm Assist, an increase in the earned income tax credit and the introduction of a step-out year from income averaging.

‘The need to support Irish agri-food businesses through the volatility caused by the Brexit decision is clear and that has been acted upon in today’s budget with a range of supports announced for agri-food industries to help them react to volatility and access new markets. I welcome the increased staff and funding resources announced today which aim to help businesses both big and small react to the changing economic landscape as Britain prepares to leave the EU.

‘Overall, Budget 2017 is a strong recognition that it is time to start easing the burden on families all across the country, whether they be pensioners or families with young children. People relying on social protection have endured massive cuts in recent years and it is only just that when the opportunity arises that they are first to benefit. It also gives due recognition to the particular problems facing rural communities and provides strong targeted support to Ireland’s agri-food industry through what are difficult and volatile times.’

To contact Seán Canney, call (086) 2513639.