Western Development Commission

Local politicians blast Government following Western Development Commission revelations

It has emerged that the Chairman of the Western Development Commission Paddy McGuinness wrote to Minister Michael Ring ask not to consider him for re-appointed to the body as he believes that it does not have the support at national level.

In a letter to the Acting CEO of the Commission, which was distributed to TDs and Senators, Paddy McGuinness said “I believe strongly that there is absolutely no commitment at either political or administrative level to balanced regional development, nor is there any worthwhile plan to address rural decline”.

“My experience over the past four years has convinced me that the WDC’s potential to initiate and deliver progress within its region is neither understood nor supported. For example, the only contacts with me from the parent Department were on matters relating to governance … never an engagement on what the organisation was doing or whether it could achieve more.”

He went on to list a variety of examples which he said demonstrate “the lack of interest in the commission’s work’ from politicians and Department officials”. These include the fact that “The position of CEO is vacant for almost three years despite the board’s efforts to have it filled.” In addition the Western Development Commission was left without a board for over three months in 2014 and presently does not have a Board since February 20th this year.

Local Politicians have called on the Government to take immediate action to address the revelations in the letter.
Michael Fitzmaurice TD said the contents “is vindication of the stance that I and others have been taking on a consistent basis for the past number of years”.

“The letter from Paddy McGuinness is further evidence that the Government is only paying lip service to the development and re-generation of rural Ireland and that it is not serious when it comes to addressing the real problems that exist. When I voiced those views in the recent past, I was slated as being too negative.

I am calling on all Independent TD’s and Senators in the Western Region to stand up and be counted on this matter. I will be raising it in the Dáil next week and I am joining in the calls for Minister Ring to make a statement on this most serious matter. Either we are serious about rural decline and regeneration of the regions or we are not. On the evidence of what we have seen so far there is no real commitment, only plenty of waffle and empty promises” he concluded.

Fianna Fáil TD Eugene Murphy says the lid has been lifted on the Government’s lack of commitment to seriously tackle the ongoing problem of rural decline.

Deputy Murphy said:“ The fact that Paddy McGuinness, one of rural Ireland’s greatest advocates felt that he had to take such unprecedented action is deeply regrettable. However, it is further evidence of the anger and frustration that exists in rural Ireland at this Government’s complete disinterest and abandonment of communities in the western region.

“The Western Development Commission was set up in the late 1990s to help reverse the effects of mass emigration and to restore communities and employment in towns and villages in the West and North West region. It has been extremely successful, but in recent years has been starved of resources and Government support. However one of the most alarming points raised by Mr McGuinness is that an allocation of €2 million in 2015 to develop a pilot Strategic Regional Development Office was appropriated as capital expenditure. Mr McGuinness states that the proposal did not need and could not use capital expenditure and over 18 months of representation failed to have the funds transferred to current expenditure so as a result no progress was made on an exciting initiative-it simply beggars belief,” said Deputy Murphy.

“This Government’s attitude to the Western Development Commission, and rural Ireland as a whole, is a disgrace. I have the utmost regard for the commitment and professionalism of the staff of the WDC and it is a fantastic organisation with great potential which sadly has not been allowed to flourish as it should due to a complete and utter disregard by Government,” concluded Deputy Murphy.