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We’ll ‘reboot’ rural economy - Calleary


Programme for government will be ‘good for Mayo’

Anton McNulty

Regional development will be at the heart of the new programme for government, according to one of its main authors, who says the main priority of the next government will be to ‘reboot’ the economy.
An historic government coalition between Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael, along with the Green Party, looks on the cards after the three parties agreed a final programme for government yesterday (Monday) after weeks of talks.
Mayo TD and Fianna Fáil deputy leader, Dara Calleary, was one of his party’s lead negotiators in the talks. He told The Mayo News that while there will be challenging times ahead, the three parties involved are ‘fully committed’ to the programme of government.
“This is an ambitious programme for government and there are priorities we want to see delivered and we certainly need time to deliver. The first task for the government will be the recovery of the country. We have 1,700 people who lost their lives to Covid-19 and there is  huge tragedy and loss. So have to restore morale and obviously the economic side of the country as well. It will be a challenging time but everyone around the table has signed up to make this a full-term government,” he said.
Deputy Calleary said that the programme for government will be good for Mayo as regional development was at the heart of the document and there is no threat to any existing projects such as the N5. He said that everyone is committed to the delivery of a new REPS style farming scheme and increasing the threshold for local authorities to build social housing.

WRC hope
The current Project Ireland 2040 strategy for delivering public infrastructure will be reviewed and while there was no financial commitment to the Western Rail Corridor, Deputy Calleary said he was confident the project will see some expansion before the end of the term of government.
“It ticks all the boxes in terms of public transport, in terms of freight transport, in terms of regional development and moving to non-road options. Obviously given the challenges of the economy we are not making too many funding commitments but there will be an opportunity in the review of Project Ireland 2040, which will be done by the end of the year, to look at it in the whole. I think all the parties are very committed to it and making it work and I am confident we will see substantial expansion of it in the lifetime of this government,” he said.
The N26 project connecting Ballina with the N5 was another transport project which Deputy Calleary said he be prioritising and he added that there will be further investment in the Local Link service and rural transport.
The programme for government will have to be ratified by his party’s membership with 15,000 Fianna Fáil members entitled to vote. The vote will be taken by a postal ballot with the results expected by Friday, June 26.
Eamon Ó Cuív, a long-term critic of the government talks, has already dismissed the programme for government and Deputy Calleary acknowledges that some members will be concerned about going into government with Fine Gael.
“I know it is going to be very difficult decision for a lot of our members and I understand their worry and concern. This is a historic move for the party to make but we have within the document a lot of areas where we can make a change in and make a difference in. Unless we get a chance in government we can’t make that difference and politics is about making a difference for communities,” he said.
There has been a lot of speculation in the national media that the Department of Community and Rural Development, which is currently headed by Minister Michael Ring, will be scrapped. Deputy Calleary said he would like the department to be retained but it was a matter for the party leaders to decide.

Portfolio for Calleary?
In terms of his own ministerial ambitious, Deputy Calleary would not comment on which cabinet portfolio he would like to receive but added that having ‘worked incredibly hard on this document’ he would ‘certainly hope to play a central part in implementing’ it.
Responding to the new programme for government document, Sinn Féin TD Rose Conway-Walsh said that excluding Sinn Féin from the government formation process was an attempt to block change and ‘protect the status-quo’.
“The reality is that a government led by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael – no matter who they are propped up by – does not represent the change that people voted for and will not deliver for workers and families. Their record in government together over the past four years shows us exactly what they will do if this programme for government is endorsed by the parties involved. What we need is a break from the past, not a repeat of it,” she said.