ICMSA President, John Comer, was dismissive of the attention and focus that all parties have given to the problems currently confronting both the farming community and the wider rural sector. Mr Comer said that there was no sign whatsoever that any candidates, including those from the main parties, even understood the problems much less had thought about solutions.
“There are two massive problems affecting everyone that lives in rural Ireland and they are to a degree interlinked: firstly, there is the price crisis that is destroying income in every single sector of agriculture. For example, the latest figures now indicate an €800 million fall in dairy farmer income in the two years since 2014. The actual impact of this income loss on rural areas based on verifiable data is estimated to be €1.35 billion and yet we struggle to hear even a word on this crisis while we have endless discussions about the exact size of the fiscal space available for tax cuts that will only be slightly greater than the amount we’ve lost as a result of a falling milk price”, said the ICMSA President. “The question for candidates is what is their position on this hugely important issue actually is and, secondly, what are their proposals to address it? All we are getting is very generalised proposals with little or no detail on how we restore farm income”, he said.
“The second issue that is so obvious and is becoming a decisive issue is the growing realisation that the State seems to have withdrawn from large areas of the country. A whole range of services that took a century to roll out to every corner of the country have disappeared within a decade: post, policing, district courts, schools, veterinary, departmental offices, banking. This is categorically not a party-political point because it has happened under successive governments but people all across the rural parts of Ireland feel that the state is somehow retreating back into the cities and large towns and that those of us living outside large population centres are, at best, tolerated and, more bluntly, seen as an administrative burden and inconvenience. But this is a republic and people living in Roscommon, Kerry or any other county are citizens in the same way as those living in Mount Merrion or Ranelagh and with the same rights. People living in rural Ireland don’t feel that the State accepts that; they feel that they’re treated in a measurably inferior fashion to their urban or suburban counterparts and, in my opinion, that suspicion is absolutely correct”, said the ICMSA President.