I’ve a good perspective on the urban and rural issues facing Kildare: I was reared on a farm outside Rathangan , and have lived all of my working life in Newbridge, a busy town. Growing up in a small village, I recognised very early that people coming together to do things,  was the way forward and when people come together in a positive and practical way, there are great opportunities for people to grow and take on leadership roles. I believe that anyone of us can be a leader, it takes just one person to get people together and activate others.

And this is nowhere more obvious than in our  communities in Kildare, where people come together for tidy towns, Neighbourhood watch, community fundraising – it’s one of the supreme strengths of rural Ireland, people coming together to improve their communities. Some of our greatest assets in Kildare are our wonderful natural amenities, our canals and rivers, and to see local people pulling together to protect and enhance these amenities is a benefit, not just to them, but to all of us.

There’s a very dispersed population base in Kildare, with our rural population, 28%, living on 95% of the land. In our towns, there’s a greater ethnic mix, greater percentage of people with third level education, in the rural areas, greater numbers of people working in agriculture and construction. And the age profile of the rural areas in Kildare is much older, with ten percent of residents over the age of 65.

It’s time to re-imagine rural Ireland and place it at the heart of future growth. This means broadband for everyone, keeping vital local services, promoting industry and protecting farms. We need to keep rural Ireland as a place where families will always be able to live in a sustainable way.

Promoting Jobs –Job creation is vital to the long term future of rural Ireland. Fianna Fáil will revamp the Local Enterprise Offices to support rural business, enhance LEADER Funding and target infrastructural investment to ensure businesses can set up and thrive in rural Ireland.

Broadband– Fianna Fáil will prioritise the roll out of broadband in every home across the country.  High speed broadband will enable people to work from home, reduce commuting time, set up new businesses and connect families to the broader world. The current Broadband reach is very poor with areas in North-West Kildare and South Kildare very poorly served.

Supporting Towns and Villages – Fianna Fáil will reduce commercial rates for businesses, enhance restrictions on out of town shopping centres and promote development and residential housing back in town centres. We need to halt and reduce the ‘dead zones’ in our towns – streets that are empty of businesses, full of boarded up shops. Rate reductions and continually placing an emphasis on shopping locally will support new and existing businesses.

Retaining Services – Fianna Fail is committed to retaining existing state services across the country. We will also review additional state departments and agencies that can be redeployed and rolled out in low cost areas across the country.

Agriculture – Agriculture is the beating heart of rural Ireland. Fianna Fáil is absolutely  committed to securing a fair price for farmer’s products, ensuring the future of the family farm model and introducing a fair and transparent inspection regime.

Rural Housing – Local people deserve to be able to live in their own communities. I am glad that Fianna Fail have committed to  promoting a sustainable housing policy to ensure social housing investment and planning strategies to enable people to live in their home communities. Rural living cannot be confined to a select few.