The Ulster Farmers’ Union says the decision to close the Rural Development Council (RDC) is yet another blow to rural communities.
It says this will leave those living there even more cynical about assurances that government policies are rural-proofed to minimise discrimination between urban and rural areas.
“For over 25 years the RDC was a voice for rural communities. It helped bring a large number of projects to fruition, helping offset the steady loss of public and private services in these areas. That it fell victim to a pension deficit problem that it tried to resolve with government is a further example of the fallout from our political paralysis in Northern Ireland,” said UFU deputy president Victor Chestnutt.
The UFU says pressures on rural communities have seen the union having to expand its role beyond farming in recent years.
The union has been to the fore, with the support of bodies like the RDC, in areas including education, medical provision, transport and services being lost from rural towns.
“This is a tough battle and it was good to know we could work with a body like the RDC to battle a culture that makes rural communities the first target when spending cuts bite. We will continue fighting that battle,” said Mr Chestnutt.
“But it is fundamentally wrong, and a disservice to people in these areas, that ways could not be found to prevent the closure of an organisation that has helped bridge the urban/rural divide for 28 years.”
The UFU says it regrettably accepts the decision on the RDC cannot be reversed and that closure is inevitable.
It says however, explanations are needed as to why it has been suggested the RDC was treated less favourably here than would be the case elsewhere in the UK over the resolution of a pension issue.