Rural Ireland is not being left behind – and figures show that Dublin is the only county that pays more to the Exchequer than it gets back.
That’s according to Newstalk Breakfast host Shane Coleman who was speaking as Fine Gael prepares to host a special conference on ‘delivering for rural Ireland’ this weekend.
The conference will see the Taoiseach and party members discussing the opportunities and challenges the agricultural sector faces.
It comes after Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice accused Government parties of failing to represent voters outside Ireland’s towns and cities – and warned that he will not stand in the next election if he cannot convince rural TDs to form a new political party.
On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Shane rejected the idea that rural Ireland is in some way disadvantaged.
“The facts actually suggest that rural counties aren't [disadvantaged],” he said.
“Twenty-five counties get more from the Exchequer than pay in. There's only one county that doesn't - and guess what that county is? It is Dublin.
“If you look at all the CSO data, urban deprivation is considerably higher than rural deprivation.
“That's not to say rural Ireland should be ignored, of course it shouldn't, but there's a myth out there that rural Ireland has been left behind by urban Ireland. It isn't actually borne out by the facts.”
— NewstalkFM (@NewstalkFM) November 17, 2023
Also on the show this morning, Supermacs CEO Pat McDonagh claimed that everything in Ireland is “city-concentrated” – and warned that many people are losing hours of personal time each week travelling to the city for work.
He called for incentives to encourage more businesses to open in rural Ireland, providing local jobs for the people living there.
Shane said it is simply not economically viable to continue building one-off houses in rural Ireland.
“I come from rural Ireland. I grew up in a small parish of 800 families, but what I will say is this, if you're talking about, you know, the post office closing down, the bank closing down, shops not opening and so on, you've got to look at our population distribution.
“We have the least dense population in Europe. We have a plethora of one-off houses, even still a huge percentage of the houses we build are one-off and my point is this … if you keep building one-off houses; if you keep having ribbon development then it is not economically viable to have good broadband, good public transport, good services.
“We have to look at ourselves and not always look to Government to solve our problems.”
Fellow presenter Ciara Kelly said rural communities are a “way of life” in Ireland.
“The little white cottage on the hill has been there for hundreds of years,” she said.
“That is part of our culture and people don’t want a cultural change imposed upon them.
“I agree with you; I don't think it is economically viable to provide good public transport when you have a scattered population, but I don't necessarily think that's a reason not to have a scattered population.
“I don't think it's all about having good public transport. I think some of it is about a way of life.”
Shane said Ciara’s point would have merit were it not for the climate crisis and the fact that living in rural Ireland requires more carbon-intensive transport.
“That was all absolutely fine until climate change came into play,” he said. “But now it's not fine to drive absolutely everywhere.”
Fine Gael’s rural Ireland conference will take place at the Glenroyal Hotel in Maynooth, Co Kildare on Saturday.