13/05/2011

McGuinness Supports Rural Economy's Growth

Rural politics was on the agenda yesterday as the incoming Stormont Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness said that the Executive must help create enhanced employment and education opportunities for the rural community.

He yesterday delivered the keynote address at the 2011 Balmoral Show annual breakfast, and said: "I would like to see improvements in broadband and rural transport services.

"I would also like to ensure that there is a focus on reducing poverty and social exclusion amongst rural dwellers and to developing more innovative approaches to the delivery of key services in rural areas."

He was speaking at the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) annual breakfast at the famous RUAS Balmoral Show, where he continued by highlighting the need for an integrated approach to assist rural dwellers at this time of economic uncertainty.

"I want to ensure that these issues are tackled in an integrated fashion - with all departments across government taking account of rural issues and playing their part in addressing rural challenges."

He complimented the efforts of the food and farming industry to the wider economy: "There is a significant contribution made by rural businesses to our overall competiveness.

"In the past year the agricultural output was some £1.5bn and taken together, the production and processing industries account for just under 6% of employment and contributes almost £1bn per annum in terms of gross value added.

"This level of economic contribution cannot be underestimated or praised highly enough," said the senior Sinn Fein politician.

Mr McGuinness also paid tribute to the work of his party colleague, Michelle Gildernew as Agriculture Minister, saying that she knew and understood the needs of farming and rural communities.

"A well as helping to further grow the impact of the agri-food sector, Michelle helped tackle many wider issues through DARD's rural development programme.

"By addressing issues such as rural transport, rural childcare and rural fuel poverty, through working with stakeholders both inside and outside government, she made a real difference to the lives of rural dwellers."

(BMcC/GK)

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