Rural Ireland must not be overlooked in Budget allocations – MEP Maria Walsh

Budget 2023 failed to deliver the resources needed for regional development across rural Ireland

The Government has a responsibility to invest in the future of rural Ireland, with substantial funding needed for improved infrastructure and resources for the regions. That is the message being delivered by MEP Maria Walsh, ahead of Tuesday’s Budget. The Midlands-North-West MEP is calling on the Finance Minister and her Government colleagues to address the infrastructure deficits and to provide funding for rural Ireland to reduce the obvious and disappointing regional inequality.

“The West and Northwest region, for example, is considered to be ‘in transition’ and continues to be neglected in terms of funding. I have, on many occasions, highlighted the Regional Competitiveness Index from the European Commission which found that the Northern and Western Region of Ireland underperformed in areas relating to infrastructure, innovation capabilities, market size and business sophistication. Of the 234 EU regions examined in the index, the Eastern and Midland Region of Ireland was ranked 24th, with the Southern Region ranked 90th, and the Northern and Western Region ranked 113th. These inequalities need to be addressed,” she argued. 

MEP Walsh highlighted a number of key projects that desperately need to be progressed in the short term. “We need to see progress on the N17, on the long-awaited Western Rail Corridor, on rail connectivity to Donegal, and that’s just for starters. What we need, and what the region deserves right now, is a policy of positive discrimination to rejuvenate the West and North West. There are many projects that have been identified and committed to in the National Development Plan, and it’s time we moved forward on these. It’s high time we delivered on these and other projects of scale for the region, ensuring greater regional autonomy,” she reasoned. 

At present, the facts speak for themselves according to MEP Walsh, and she is appealing to Minister Michael McGrath, and the Government, to provide the necessary resources to reinvigorate and revitalise the regions, enabling the development of thriving and resilient rural communities. 

“Rural Ireland has long been neglected and it’s time we shouted stop. Our communities, our farmers, our businesses and our people deserve better. Last year’s Budget did not deliver the necessary resources for the many infrastructural projects that are so badly needed, and nor did it deliver in terms of regional development, the backing for SMEs and agriculture, and the overall provisions for better connected and supported rural communities,” she said. 

“We talk about wanting to ensure the future of communities all across our country, but our young people are continuing to leave in their droves. In rural Ireland, the desire is there, the community spirit is there in bucketloads, but we need to see investment, and we need to make rural Ireland a realistic and attractive option for workers and for businesses. Rural Ireland cannot be overlooked in Tuesday’s Budget. We need to start levelling the playing field, and we need to promote and support rural living for the good of our communities and our country,” added MEP Walsh.