Offshore Islands must be protected in EU legislation – Matt Carthy MEP
Sinn Fein MEP for the Midlands North West, Matt Carthy, has welcomed the endorsement by MEPs on European Parliament Agricultural Committee opinion on a series of his amendments addressing how islands are dealt with through funding structures. Carthy said that the support for his amendments last December must be followed by appropriate action for our islands by the commission and Irish government.
“The EU Treaty specifically lists offshore islands among those regions deserving particular attention when it comes to strengthening economic, social and territorial cohesion. However there are almost no targeted pieces of legislation to promote this priority.
“Since my election as MEP I have taken a number of initiatives to highlight the particular issues felt on islands, including campaigning for island-product quality labelling to promote food produced on offshore lands.
“I have also called on the Commission to consider island-proofing legislation it brings forward.
“However, one issue that comes up repeatedly is that there is no dedicated framework of financial support for our islands. The EU has actually never attempted to measure the cost of insularity, nor collected data on the needs of island territories. In fact many islands actually lose out on funding because GDP classification systems place them in the same category as their closest mainland regions, unfairly elevating their status.
“The amendments I tabled, which were endorsed by a majority of MEPs on the Agriculture & Rural Development committee, called for islands to be specifically mentioned in the objectives of the Regional Development Fund and the Cohesion Fund.
“Sinn Féin believes that it is important to have an island specific policy at national and EU level to ensure that gaps in funding are addressed immediately.
“There has been a 68% decline in the population on the islands off our coast during the period 1926-2016. This is a direct result of under investment particularly in areas of education, housing and infrastructure. Islands must be treated as a case apart in all Government strategies.
“If we are serious about respecting cultural heritage and making island life viable, then the continuity of such communities needs to be supported by specific actions, in cooperation with community led groups.
“The strong Committee approval of my amendments shows that there is a broad agreement in what we want to do. However, the most difficult step is to get this consensus translated into tangible commitments for rural communities, and supported by a strong budget.
“I will continue to advocate for these communities, including by pressing the Minister for Education to follow up on the most recent Joint Oireachtas Report addressing schooling needs on the islands”.