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Ring of truth?

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GIVING THE ELBOW Former minister Michael Ring greets Achill GAA stalwart Packie McGinty at the official opening of the new children’s playground in Achill Sound on Saturday. Pic: Michael McLaughlin

Departing minister fears new Government not in touch with rural Ireland

Anton McNulty

Former Minister for Rural and Community Affairs Michael Ring TD says he worries for the future of rural Ireland with the Green Party in government and the attitude of some of his own party colleagues.
Last week marked the end of Michael Ring’s decade-long tenure as a government minister after he was dropped from the cabinet and overlooked for a role as a minister of state. Speaking in Achill over the weekend, Deputy Ring said he made no apologies for saying ‘Mayo was one and Ireland was two’ during his time as a minister.
He also said he is now worried about what the new government has in store for rural Ireland.
“What worries me [about the Green Party]? I was in the programme for government [negotiations] with them and that is what worries me. I do worry about the Green Party and their policies. I live in the real world.
“When I look at the Greens and the programme for government, what was the only tax-raising revenue in it? Carbon tax. Now, everyone wants to have a green environment, but when you have to start paying carbon tax while still having to depend on your car…. I told them in cabinet one time, if we are depending on electric [charging] points from Achill to Dublin, I’ll be getting a lot of pulls by tractors in Roscommon because we don’t have the points. You need the facilities in place first,” he told The Mayo News.

Big mistake
He described the decision not to appoint a senior cabinet member from the west of Ireland as  as ‘a big error’.
He also said that the decision to submerge the Department of Rural and Community Development into the Department of Social Protection sent out the wrong message. During his time in cabinet, he explained, he had to block proposals by other ministers which he said would have affected rural Ireland.
“I had the honour of being there and representing this county, and at times it was a lonely place fighting for rural Ireland and [witnessing] decisions being made by people who did not understand rural Ireland.”
He added that while he was a Fine Gael minister he had stopped members of his own party from bringing in policies that would have hurt rural Ireland, and that he intends to stand up for the rural regions again should anyone try to push through those policies now.
While disappointed that he was not reappointed to cabinet he said he was not expecting it, as Fine Gael was only allocated six ministries and ‘two had to be women’. Though he made national headlines last week for pointing out that he got more votes than Leo Varadkar and Paschal Donohoe in the general election, he denied he was being critical of them.
“I was not being critical, I was responding to a question. There was only two constituencies in the country where we [Fine Gael] got two seats. The two ministers who won two seats for Fine Gael, myself and Josepha Madigan in Dublin Rathdown, were not reappointed. They are telling us to get more seats and bring colleagues with them… but I am not bitter, I had a great nine-and-a-half years.”

Soul selling
Ring was adamant that Fine Gael should have gone into opposition but stated that ‘both Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael would have sold their soul to get into Government’. He also criticised the amount of power that the Green Party were allocated, saying a party with 12 TDs getting seven ministries was wrong.
However, despite his return to the back benches, he said he is not going anywhere and warned the Government that they could not rely on his support if policies go against rural Ireland.
“I am not finished. I won’t just sit on the back benches, I intend to be the voice of rural Ireland. I am still getting invitations to open projects I have funded, and I will continue to do that.
“My record will stand when history is written in a hundred years time – things that didn’t happen that I was able to stop. I will monitoring in the Dáil, and if it is not right for rural Ireland it will not be right for Michael Ring, and I will not be able to support it. I have done too much work to build up rural Ireland.”