Monday 26 September 2016

Rural Minister wants focus on home-grown industries

Published 17/05/2016 | 02:30

Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys at her home near Ballybay, Co Monaghan. Photo: Kyran O’Brien
Minister for Regional Development, Rural Affairs, Arts and the Gaeltacht, Heather Humphreys at her home near Ballybay, Co Monaghan. Photo: Kyran O’Brien

Extra supports must be given to indigenous industries in rural Ireland if the Government is to create 135,000 regional jobs over the next five years, Rural Affairs Minister Heather Humphreys has said.

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A large proportion of €500m that has been set aside in the new Programme for Government for investment in jobs will be channelled to business ideas outside of Dublin. "It's about empowering local communities and local enterprise. It's about the indigenous industries," Ms Humphreys told the Farming Independent.

She said it is "not realistic" to have an IDA factory in every town "but if you support the indigenous industries and look at the regions and what their strengths are, like Cavan and Monaghan here, one of our great strengths would be the engineering industry and food".

"It's about building on those strengths and that spawns more employment," the minister said. "I'm a very strong believer in social enterprise. It's probably similar to the old co-operative movement."

Ms Humphreys said the Post Office and Credit Union networks will have a major role in the economic recovery.

In particular, the Fine Gael TD, who is a former Credit Union worker, said the movement must become central to providing finance for local industry.

"There are a lot of people who have good innovative ideas and they start out in local enterprise centres and they can grow from that.

"There are great opportunities for credit unions to provide finance in that space, something which they haven't been allowed to do as much of. They should be allowed to do that because there is a lot of local knowledge and a lot of local expertise."

Ms Humphreys also revealed that she is still in talk with Roscommon TD Michael Fitzmaurice about laws governing turf cuttings - despite his refusal to be part of the new government.

"He comes from an area that has been impacted by the Habitat Directive and the impact that has had on the turf cutting issue. Both he and I want the same result, which is to deal with the issue of turf cutting. I have to work within the confines of the EU regulations."

However, she added: "We can't do anything that's going to cause us difficulties in terms of EU fines. It was very much a traditional right for people to cut their turf, and it's difficult for them and I understand that difficulty."

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