Urban/rural Divide

Oral Answers to Questions — Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:30 pm on 25th May 2021.

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Photo of Jemma Dolan Jemma Dolan Sinn Féin 2:30 pm, 25th May 2021

T5. Ms Dolan asked the Minister of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, who will be aware of the recent decision of the Rural Women’s Network to close for two weeks, citing workload and limited resources as key issues, whether he agrees that the pandemic has amplified the urban/rural divide on matters including access to services, broadband and opportunities to work from home for key workers in industries such as food processing. (AQT 1355/17-22)

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Our food processing sector continues to grow, and we are delighted to support it in so many ways. I have just launched a significant investment in the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE). The greater part of that investment, some £43 million for the Loughry campus in Cookstown, is in food processing. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that rural communities do not suffer as a consequence of not having the same opportunities. DAERA is contributing to Project Stratum some £15 million of the overall package of £200 million, and that has been delivered as a result of the confidence-and-supply deal done by the Democratic Unionist Party. That will help to ensure that people in rural communities are not disadvantaged, and it will show that we care about them.

Photo of Jemma Dolan Jemma Dolan Sinn Féin

Given the disparity between urban and rural and the impact that that has, does the Minister agree that all Departments must fulfil their rural needs duty to ensure that rural communities are not disadvantaged when accessing government funding?

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

Yes, and that is one of the reasons why I am opposed to the Climate Change Bill that your party supports. It had not gone through a rural needs assessment before coming to the House. Despite that, your party supports the Bill.