The number of places on Rural Social Schemes – formerly FAS Schemes – being allocated to both sides of County Galway has been described by one former Government Minister as being well short of the mark.
And Galway West TD Eamon Ó Cuiv has accused the current Government of letting rural communities in the county down by the allocation of 47 places on local RSS schemes.
There is disappointment over the lack of such schemes both in Connemara and in the East side of the county.
The schemes carry out work in local communities including village enhancement, environmental maintenance, social support and caretaking of local facilities.
Deputy Ó Cuiv said that the allocation of places, which are mainly taken up by farmers in receipt of Farm Assist, falls “far short of the mark”.
He said that he is very disappointed at the very small allocation of places on the Rural Social Scheme for the West Connemara area and the development company, “Recently 14 extra places were allocated to FORUM Connemara on the Rural Social Scheme, which brings the total amount of places on the scheme for the whole of the non-Gaeltacht part of Connemara to only 36.
“We need access a lot more places on the Rural Social Scheme in West Connemara to cope with demand.
“County Galway has the third highest number of farmers in receipt of Farm Assist in the country at 659, and every one of these is entitled to apply for a place on the RSS.
“However, the places are simply not available. In fact, there are not enough places by half,” Deputy Ó Cuiv added.
The Fianna Fail TD said that a large number of the farmers who receive Farm Assist live in the Connemara area and the allocation of places on the Rural Social Scheme should be much higher.
His FF colleague in Galway East Deputy Anne Rabbitte said that there was a combination of factors that were militating against new schemes going ahead.
She said that Rural Social Schemes had done tremendous works in areas like Portumna, Woodford and Milltown in North Galway.
But she said that there were similar schemes needed for the Gort and Kinvara areas as well as Athenry, which she felt needed a town enhancement initiative to take place.
“There is a combination of factors involved here. We need more sponsors of schemes and more places to be made available – both of which had been promised by the Department of Social Protection.
“These schemes are invaluable to rural towns and villages as well as providing a vital income supplement for members of the farming community who need such a boost,” Deputy Rabbitte added.
However, Fine Gael’s Junior Minister Ciaran Cannon has argued that Galway has received the largest allocation of new placements in the latest expansion of the Rural Social Scheme.
He said that the county had received 47 out of the 250 new places on the national scheme.