UFU meet with DARD to discuss Rural Proofing

Monday, 3 November, 2014

Ulster Farmers’ Union Rural Affairs Chairperson Freda Magill and Policy Officer David McConaghy have recently met with DARD officials to discuss proposals from the Department to make the “rural proofing” of legislation mandatory.  This would mean that all legislation which Stormont passes must have gone through an examination to ensure that it will not have any disproportionately adverse effect on rural areas in Northern Ireland.

Speaking after the meeting, Freda Magill said: “Under DARD’s ‘Rural White Paper Action Plan’, which was agreed and launched by the Northern Ireland Executive in 2012, departments in Stormont made a voluntary commitment to carry out rural proofing of their policies. However, from our perspective this only seems to be happening on the odd occasion but If DARD’s plans to make rural proofing mandatory were to be put in place there would be a statutory requirement to do this by the end of this Assembly year.

“It is our hope that the Department’s work will lead to any potentially unfair and adverse effects for rural areas being nipped in the bud. What’s important is that the interests of the rural community are protected and that the specific needs of rural dwellers are seriously considered in the legislative process. While we expect to encounter some difficulties as a result of our rural location, we do expect any such rules to be proportionate to the goal. Thus policy-makers and legislators need to assess new measures for disadvantageous rural impact and to provide evidence that this assessment has been carried out.”

Freda Magill continued: “There is a lot more work to be done on this issue, but we welcome the Department’s commitment to make rural proofing work for the rural dwellers in Northern Ireland. Their engagement with stakeholders will help shape the directions to follow and we hope to continue to work with the Department as this process develops.”