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Tuesday 17 October 2017

Reversing rural decline ‘a great challenge’ – President Higgins

Ploughing Championships 2017. President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina at the Championships. Picture; Gerry Mooney
Ploughing Championships 2017. President Michael D. Higgins and his wife Sabina at the Championships. Picture; Gerry Mooney

Louise Hogan and Margaret Donnelly

PRESIDENT Michael D Higgins warned that “one of the great challenges of our time” was unbalanced development leaving rural areas lagging.

“Some rural communities are regarded as lucky because they are on the edge of expanding cities and 71pc of all the jobs created by foreign direct investment were concentrated in existing clusters,” said Mr Higgins, after paying a special visit with his wife Sabina to the horse-drawn ploughing.

Mr Higgins pointed to recent census figures that showed in 40pc of electoral divisions, the population was in decline.

“This is something we have to address, it creates a real challenge for policy,” he admitted to the crowds gathered at the bandstand.

“Rural depopulation has contributed and has been reinforced by the loss of services such as post offices, shops, banks, pubs, restaurants.”

Mr Higgins comments were echoed by Irish Rural Link as it voiced concerns about rural isolation, closure of services and incidents of rural crime.

Meanwhile, speculation is mounting that Mr Higgins wants a second term after he repeatedly refused to rule out the possibility during his visit to Co Offaly. He revealed that he will confirm if he plans to run for a second term “after the summer next year”.

There is a growing consensus in political circles that the 76-year-old would like to stay on but is not keen on a potentially gruelling election campaign.

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Speaking on RTÉ Radio One the President said people would have a better idea about his intentions to run “by the time of next year’s” event.

“My concentration, as it is now, is on doing this term very well and that’s why I don’t answer the question now.”

 


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