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Ring hits back at claims rural budget was 'underspent'

Eamon O’Cuiv, who served eight years as Rural Affairs Minister, said the underspend was not a surprise.

Image: Sam Boal

RURAL AFFAIRS MINISTER Michael Ring has hit back at Fianna Fáil’s Eamon O’Cuiv over allegations he left money which could have been spent on rural areas behind.

O’Cuiv criticised Ring for failing to spend the allocated budget of €163 million last year. A total of €19 million went unspent.

O’Cuiv, who served eight years as Rural Affairs Minister, said the underspend was not a surprise.

“There was over €11m, which should have been spent on infrastructure projects in rural areas as well as a further €8m which could have been used for day to day spending.

“This underspend comes as no surprise – I had been forecasting throughout 2017, that there would be a very significant underspend by this Department as it was evident in the replies I was receiving from the Minister and his officials. In fact, if it wasn’t for the late approval for the Local Improvement Scheme, which I had been requesting, the underspend would have been much more significant.”

However, Ring said that O’Cuiv himself oversaw even greater underspends.

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“It has not escaped my attention that when Deputy O’Cuív was Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, he handed back €35 million from his Department to the Exchequer in 2008. In 2010, his final year in the job, another €38 million was handed back.

“This is money that should have been benefiting rural communities when the recession was really being felt. I would be interested to know how he allowed for this situation to occur on his watch.”

O’Cuiv said that he wanted to know how Ring plans to spend the money in future.

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