“Would a person in Dublin wait for 30 years for their road to be tarred?” the Independent TD for Kerry, Michael Healy-Rae would like to know.
The reason why Deputy Healy-Rae is asking the question is because he claims in his constituency “quite literally you could be waiting 30 years for your road to be tarred”.
Who gets their road tarred and when, according to the deputy highlights why rural communities are, in his opinion, “the poor relation” when it comes to national funding decisions.
Deputy Healy-Rae says when it comes to roads in Co. Kerry there is simply not enough funding being allocated under the Local Improvement Scheme (LIS) for rural roads and lanes.
Last month the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys, announced additional funding of almost €16 million, on top of the €12.5 million allocated earlier this year for the LIS.
So far this year Co. Kerry has received a total of €1,557,176 under the scheme but it has not met, according to Deputy Healy-Rae, the demand that exists for improvement works on private roads and laneways, many of which are vital for farmers .
The fact they cannot access funds to make these improvements just adds according to the Independent TD for Kerry, to growing frustrations in rural communities about how “spending decisions are made in Dublin”.
“The ministers have no understanding about rural Ireland, predominately the ministers in the current government are from urban areas” he said.
“What we need is people that will listen and that will take on board the view point of people from rural Ireland and at present they’re not doing that.
“We need more help in rural Ireland, we need a quicker roll out of broadband, we need better investment in our roads and we do need further and more enhanced investment in our schools to keep people living in rural areas.
“We also have a lot of Ukrainians living in rural areas and no additional services have been put in place to assist them,” Deputy Healy-Rae added.
He believes that these are the political “potholes” that will catch some prospective candidates out in the general election next year.
Although no firm date has yet been set for elections there is little doubt that the race to win rural votes has already begun.
The Farmers’ Alliance, a group which launched earlier this year, confirmed this week that it intends to run candidates in every constituency in the next general election.
It claims to have identified 12 candidates for the upcoming local elections and is “looking for more like-minded people”.
According to Deputy Healy-Rae he will not be one of them.
But Helen O’Sullivan, a spokesperson for the Farmers’ Alliance and a suckler farmer from Bantry in west Cork, has already declared an interest in standing for election.
She has told Agriland that farmers are “deflated” and demoralized” by the current narrative around agriculture.
We’re being totally labeled as environmental terrorists because of that. Everything is our fault.
“It’s wrong. It’s all a one-sided story, the truth really isn’t getting out there about the good we do,” she said.
The success of the pro-farming political party, BoerBurgerBeweging (BBB) in the Netherlands has not been lost on current elected representatives and those with political ambitions in Ireland.
The BBB, which describes itself as the “voice of and for the countryside, became the biggest party in the upper house of the Dutch parliament after the country’s provincial elections in March.
One of the party’s key objectives is to go head to head with the Dutch government over its climate targets and in particular its plans to reduce livestock numbers and cut nitrogen emissions.
Political observers believe this is one of the reasons why the BBB has enjoyed a swell of support from farming communities in the Netherlands.
There is now a strong sense in some circles in Ireland that a strong, pro-farming approach particularly in relation to climate targets and policies could also deliver a strong political dividend.
But according to Professor Pete Lunn, the founder and head of the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) Behavioral Research Unit (BRU), this might not necessarily ring true when it comes to the next general election.
Professor Lunn said the ESRI has published two reports on the Irish population’s understanding and attitudes towards climate change.
“We’ve looked at their perceptions, we’ve looked at how well they understand it, we’ve looked at what their general attitudes towards climate change are and we’ve also looked at specific things like how radical their policy support is for policies to tackle climate change.
“We’ve done for that for a fully nationally representative sample of adults and we’ve also done it for a sample of youth aged 16 to 25 and the bottom line is that the rural, urban divide on climate change is the dog that doesn’t ‘t bark.
“We can find almost no differences between urban and rural populations on any of those issues,” Professor Lunn added.
According to the head of the ESRI’s Behavioral Research Unit there is no difference between the urban and rural Irish population on “how important they think the issue of climate is and how worried they are about it”.
“There is no difference in their knowledge base, we gave people a multiple choice quiz, which tested their climate knowledge we got no difference in rural and urban on that, there is no difference in their belief that the carbon tax is an effective policy.
“We get no difference between rural and urban communities in their intentions to carry out more pro-environmental behaviors in the future,” Professor Lunn added.