Sinn Féin MEP Matt Carthy has expressed deep alarm at what he said is a “damning indictment of Government policy in relation to the West of Ireland and rural communities in general”, provided by the Chairperson of the Western Development Commission, Paddy McGuinness.
Mr McGuinness has asked Minister of State for Regional Economic Development, Michael Ring not to reappoint him, citing a list of major criticism of how the Commission has been ignored by Government.
The MEP has called on Michael Ring to make a statement on the issue immediately.
Matt Carthy said:
“The Chairperson of the Western Development Commission, Paddy McGuinness has written to Minister Michael Ring asking him not to consider him for reappointment.
“He says he has taken this action because he believes strongly that there is absolutely no commitment at either political or administrative level to balanced regional development nor is there any worthwhile plan to redress rural decline.
“Criticisms made by Mr McGuinness of the manner in which the WDC has been treated by Government are deeply alarming.
“Mr McGuinness says that the the Minister’s Department has never engaged with him on what the WDC was doing or whether it could achieve more.
“Examples provided by Mr McGuinness of of the lack of interest in the Commission’s work include:
- The commission was left without a board for over three months in 2014 and presently does not have a board since 20th February of this year.
- The position of CEO is vacant for almost three years despite the board’s efforts to have it filled.
- An allocation of €2m in 2015 to develop a pilot Strategic Regional Development Office was appropriated (possibly mistakenly) as capital expenditure. The proposal did not need and could not use capital expenditure. Yet over 18 months of representations has failed to have the funds transferred to current expenditure. As a result, no progress has been made on an exciting initiative.
- The present Programme for Government contains a line committing ‘an enhanced role for the Western Development Commission’. In spite of persistent enquiries at political and administrative levels, the board has not been told what exactly the ‘enhanced role’ means or involves.
- A delay of at least six months work on the proposed Atlantic Economic Corridor through setting up yet another organisation to progress the proposal, despite the fact that this project could easily have been led by the WDC.
“The WDC is an important element with a good record of achievement but it clear from Mr McGuinness’s revelations that in the Government and Minister Ring have abjectly failed to support its work.
“This is a major scandal and a damning indictment of Government policy in relation to the West of Ireland and rural communities in general. It is just the latest in a long line of evidence of the failure of Fine Gael, like Fianna Fáil before them, to go beyond rhetoric when it comes to rural and regional development.
“Big questions will also now be rightly asked of those so-called ‘Independents’ who claim to champion rural Ireland but yet support this regressive government.
“Minister Michael Ring must make a statement on this immediately and outline what he intends to do to rectify a deeply worrying situation for people in the west of Ireland.”