Question Time: Agriculture and Rural Development Tuesday 12 January 2016

Agriculture Minister, Michelle O’Neill, discussed the success of the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Framework (TRPSI Framework) 2011-2015 and proposals for a replacement scheme during today’s Question Time. Mrs O’Neill is “very proud of the achievements that have been delivered under the current TRPSI framework” particularly the positive impact to rural dwellers across a range of areas, including access to transport and broadband services, promotion of positive mental health, addressing fuel poverty, and supporting community development in rural areas. A recent report examining the impact of the framework shows it’s success in encouraging the development and implementation of a range of measures designed to target access poverty, financial poverty and social isolation among vulnerable groups in rural areas. The Committee for Agriculture and Rural Development also recognised the success of the current TRPSI framework in its position paper, published in March of last year. On 18 November 2015 the Minister launched a public consultation on proposals for a successor to the framework. The new framework will be produced following completion of the public consultation, with the intention of publishing a final framework document in March 2016. Mrs O’Neill added “I want to ensure that the successor TRPSI framework builds on the success of the current framework and continues to deliver real benefits for the most vulnerable rural dwellers.”

During topical questions the Minister then addressed Lord Morrow’s concerns about the recent flooding in Fermanagh and South Tyrone. The Minister maintained “we have been on the ground and making sure that our agencies are on the ground, delivering for people and businesses and trying to mitigate the worst effects, making sure that grilles were cleared and that the multi-agency approach was correct.” Mrs O’Neill added “properties have been flooded; people have been devastated; and some people have been cut off from everyday life, not because their home has flooded but because the land around them has flooded. That has caused considerable challenges. Collectively, the priority had to be doing the work on the ground to help those people through what is an ongoing situation, as agencies remain on high alert. ” Reviews will take place to see if there are engineering solutions that can be applied to stave off future problems and to look at the success of the multi-agency approach.

During Question Time the Minister also answered questions on pork exports to China, renewable energy, the Rural Micro Capital Grant Programme, ditch maintenance and management and basic farm payments.