Updated: 02/09/17 : 07:10:23
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McLoughlin hits back at Mac Sharry’s 'constant negative narrative' on the North West.

Sligo – Leitrim T.D. and Assistant Government Whip, Tony McLoughlin has this week, hit back at recent comments made to local media by Sligo Fianna Fáil T.D., Marc Mac Sharry about the North West of Ireland.

Speaking on the issue McLoughlin stated that, “Fianna Fáil and their public representatives throughout the country are now, amazingly, claiming to be the ‘Champions of Rural Ireland’. However, it is clear from our recent past that nothing could be further from the truth.

“People in Sligo and Leitrim don’t forget how our rural communities were decimated by constant job losses and mass emigration thanks to the poor economic decisions at the hands of Fianna Fáil, and we are still not yet back to where we were before the crash, despite recent improvements on many fronts here.

“It is clear that Deputy Mc Sharry’s party had no real long term- or even short term- vision for the region, yet now he wants to talk to the media about the lack of a recovery being felt here  through statements which suggest selected amnesia.

“It was the Fianna Fáil party, of which Mac Sharry was a Senator at the time, which led Ireland to soaring unemployment, peaking at 15.2%. When they were booted out of office in 2011, there were 9,183 people on the Live Register in Sligo and Leitrim, 3,640 in Leitrim and 5,543 in Sligo. By contrast, that figure has now fallen by over a third since Fine Gael took office in 2011 and unemployment here has fallen every month since 2012. In contrast, national unemployment currently stands at 6.4%. I know very clearly that we still need to see more jobs here in Sligo and Leitrim, but we are getting there.

“In 2016, 70% of new jobs created last year were outside Dublin and my Fine Gael colleague, Minister Ring, is continuing to support regional development on a daily basis in his new portfolio as Minister for Rural Affairs. As a T.D. for this area, I am in constant communication with him in this regard, highlighting the needs of our region and in the build up to Budget 2018, there are a number of key infrastructure requirements that I want to see delivered on in order to better equip us to attract more jobs and investment, including the upgrade of the N4 and the Western Distributor Road to name just two. 

“Mac Sharry mentioned in his piece that the ‘Wild Atlantic Way has had little tangible benefit here in Sligo and Leitrim. However, the facts are that tourism continues to be a critical industry for our local economy. 2016 was yet another record breaking year with over 9.5million international visits to Ireland. In office, Fine Gael has brought forward a wide range of initiatives to boost the tourism sector after the crash, including the 9% VAT rate for the tourism and hospitality sector, the scrapping of Fianna Fáil’s Air Travel Tax, and the creation of the ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, which have all paid dividends here in Sligo and Leitrim with both counties experiencing an additional 7,000 overseas visitors each in 2016 compared to Fianna Fáil’s last year in power in 2010. An example of this growth locally is how it is anticipated that 50,000 people will visit Carrowmore Tombs  this year, the highest number on record.

“It is also worth noting that with regard to his concerns for rural Ireland, MacSharry’s Fianna Fáil Party closed the CLÁR Programme in 2010, which provided for small scale infrastructural projects in disadvantaged rural areas. It was Fine Gael who re-opened this scheme in 2016 and who have delivered over €1 Million in funding to projects in both Sligo and Leitrim.  Fianna Fáil also went onto scrap the ‘Sports Capital Programme’, which we in Government had the sense to restore, in order to reward sporting clubs and organisations for the work they do in our communities. Since 2013, over €4 Million has been allocated to this constituency in Sports Capital funding. Without a recovering economy in the North West we could not have done this. 

“An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is very much in touch with rural Ireland, and will continue to prioritise our area in future Government policy. I have been assured of this. I provide the Taoiseach with frequent updates on the concerns and priorities in the North West, and his commitment to the region is clear from his many visits here and actions to date. Let’s not forget that it was Leo Varadkar as Minister for Transport who sanctioned the funding to begin the upgrade of the Collooney – Castlebaldwin  road, with over €17.4 Million being spent to date, even during difficult economic times. He also sanctioned the funding to commence the N-16 road upgrade in Leitrim. 

“Fine Gael is committed to creating a Republic of Opportunity for everyone, and I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure the people of the North West enjoy the same gains as everyone else from our growing economy. It is time now that Deputy MacSharry stopped releasing weekly negative statements about the North West of Ireland and time he started attempting to deliver real results on the ground for his constituents” concluded McLoughlin.