Thursday, 1 April 2021
Project Ireland 2040: Motion [Private Members]
Catherine Connolly (Galway West, Independent)
Before dealing with the motion, I want to state that I share the concerns expressed by Deputy Boyd Barrett regarding the proposed development of our seas. While I am all for sustainable development, including wind energy, it must be done for the common good and not be driven by developers. If we have learned anything in recent years, that is something we should have learned. I fully share the concerns the Deputy expressed in this regard.
Gabhaim buíochas leis an Rural Independent Group as ucht an rún seo a chur os comhair na Dála. Tá sé go hiontach go bhfuil deis agam caint faoin ábhar seo. Bíonn díomá orm i gcónaí go bhfuil deighilt ann idir na cathracha agus muintir na tuaithe. Ní féidir liom glacadh leis an deighilt sin mar táimid go léir fite fuaite le chéile. I welcome the opportunity to speak on this motion. I understand what the Rural Independent Group is trying to do in bringing it forward. While there might be one or two minor aspects that jar with me, I fully share the sentiment behind the motion.
I despair of the artificial divide between cities and rural areas. I have the privilege of representing both as my constituency includes the three Aran Islands, Inishbofin, all of Connemara, which is both English-speaking and Irish-speaking, Galway city, which is one of the five cities chosen by the Government for development, and parts of south Mayo, including Kilmaine and Shrule. It is a huge constituency, one of the largest in the country, and it is an absolute privilege to represent it. I know the issues we are discussing from all sides and I despair of the false debate that goes on much of time in this Chamber in regard to cities versus rural areas.
There is no doubt that there has been an imbalance in development. We have expanded our cities out of all proportion and in an unsustainable way while neglecting rural areas. Even putting a focus on that today is positive, but to get something out of the debate is another journey and battle. Earlier this week, foilsíodh an tuarascáil seo, Todhchaí Cheantair Thuaithe na hÉireann, i mBéarla. Our Rural Future - Rural Development Policy 2021-2025 contains very good and positive sentiments in theory. I will come back to the town-centric nature of the plan and the lack of a real emphasis on rural development.
Tá orm a rá nach bhfuil aon chóip den tuarascáil le fáil i nGaeilge. Ar an Idirlíon, tá píosa den tuarascáil ar fáil ach níl an tuarascáil iomlán ar fáil. Sheolamar ríomhphost chuig an Roinn agus dúradh ar ais linn go mbeidh sé ar fáil am éicint sa todhchaí. There is no Irish version of it, notwithstanding that all the Gaeltacht areas, from Donegal down to west Cork and Kerry, are rural areas. There is no Irish version of the report other than an abbreviated one that is available online. That is not acceptable. From the beginning, Irish must be part of the solution. Not too long ago, I referred to a book, An Ghaeilge agus an Éiceolaíocht, by Michael Cronin. It is a fantastic little book, written in Irish and English, that I recommend to everybody. It talks about how the Irish language can be part of a sustainable solution to the problems we face.
Social Justice Ireland, an organisation for which I have great respect, goes to great lengths every year to educate us on matters of interest before and after the budget. It has stated that we have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to put rural Ireland at the heart of Government policy and build strong, resilient and vibrant communities. I rarely disagree with the points made by Social Justice Ireland but I would say that this is our only opportunity, rather than a once-in-a-generation opportunity, given the enormity of the challenge we face in regard to climate change. It is our only opportunity to learn, in a context where we declared a climate emergency almost two years ago. We supposedly are learning from the Covid crisis and will never go back to how things were done before. The necessity for balanced regional development is more important than ever. At some stage, we need to stop the false debate and make our words mean something when it comes to sustainable development. I offer the Minister my support in this regard, once again, if words mean something. I had more to say but my time is up.