Almost  €2 billion has been secured in Tuesday’s budget for rural communities which will secure improved transport, farming supports, more Gardaí and teachers and increased investment in schools and hospitals, according to Clare Fine Gael TD Joe Carey. 

Deputy Carey, who is Chairman of the Oireachtas Committee on Rural and Community Affairs, said that balanced regional development was a key priority for Fine Gael in Government and the budget was a testament to that. 

 “We are investing nearly €2 billon in rural Ireland to protect jobs and ensure our communities have access to first class services and schools. 

“Children across Clare will benefit from improvements to education. At over €11 billion, this is the highest ever allocation to the education sector and an increase of nearly €2 billion since 2016. This is a real sign of the priority this Government places on education and the ambition Fine Gael has for our country’s future.

“The increased funding will deliver supports to the children who need it most. As well as paying for 150 new mainstream teaching posts in schools, there will be an investment of €1.9 billion in special education, providing over 400 additional teaching posts to support those with special educational needs and hiring over 1,000 additional Special Needs Assistants (SNAs). With 17,000, we will have more SNAs in schools than ever before.

“A further schools package will deliver supports for small schools and increases in the standard and enhanced capitation rates. There is €1 million for free school books in 50-plus primary schools. We will provide an enhanced school meals programme, providing hot meals for 30,000 children.

 “Separately an additional €81 million has also been allocated to An Garda Síochana which will add 700 new recruits. We will also see more civil staff recruited which will allow more Gardaí be freed up for frontline duty. 

“Meanwhile, my colleague Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe has confirmed that the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport will get additional income of €384m this year, bringing the total allocation to €2.7 billion, which will include investment in the rural transport network,” Deputy Carey said. 

“For farmers, who are facing unique challenges, an additional €51 million has been allocated for the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and €17m for the Department of Rural and Community Development.

“This includes €3m funding for new agri-environmental schemes in 2020. These schemes will help to reduce emissions from the sector, while improving bio-diversity and water quality, and supporting farm incomes.

“This year’s budget allocation will also support 104,000 farmers in Areas of Natural Constraint, through the ANC scheme and further improve the capacity of meat inspection services to facilitate the maintenance of food safety standards and the development of export markets.

“It will also fund the operation of enhanced Beef Environmental Efficiency Programme and other supports targeted at suckler farmers. 

“If a No Deal Brexit happens, the Government has committed to increasing investment in our rural economy as needed. 

 “I also welcome Minister Donohoe’s commitment to examining how the Civil Service work, with a review set to look at where support offices are located. 

“Opportunities for people to live and work outside of Dublin should be maximised,” the Clare TD added. 

“This Budget will also see a record level of investment in housing, with more than €2.5 billion allocated to housing.

“This includes capital funding of more than €1.1 billion which will support the delivery of over 11,000 new social homes in 2020, many of which will be in Clare.  Significant investment is also being made in funds such as the Serviced Sites Fund to stimulate the provision of affordable housing. 

“The cumulative effects of Budget 2020 will see vital investment in rural Ireland at a time when the country is facing unprecedented circumstances, creating jobs and building vibrant communities.

“As well as improving facilities for rural communities, it will also create jobs. This is something that has been a focus for the Government in recent years, with more than half of the 119,000 jobs created in the last two years being created outside of Dublin,” Deputy Carey concluded.