In the closing days of Election 2016, Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann, the Islands Federation, says only two of the six main parties (Fianna Fáil and Sinn Féin) have mentioned the islands in their manifestos. Fiann Fáil includes a specific Island Policy and Sinn Féin refers to the islands as part of their new ‘deal for the west’.
‘It is with great disappointment CoE is left to consider that most political parties do not have an awareness or understanding of the issues facing islands. Islanders have the right to be represented by people/parties who recognise and understand at least the basic issues involved in the struggle for the survival of islands,’ a statement reads.
Inisbofin, one of Ireland’s west coast islands, where poor political canvassing is higlighted by Comhdháil Oileáin na hÉireann. Photo Gillian Mills
Little political canvassing ‘thus far’ is also highlighted, resulting in a ‘lost opportunity for islanders to speak face-to-face with candidates’ and to hear party views and to discuss island needs.
‘It is ironic that Ireland as an island nation does not seem to have the political will to support the islands as other European countries do. Politicans are fond of saying that the islands are very important to the country in terms of their beauty, tourism, culture, arts, heritage and natural resources.
Yet there has been little work over the past five years on serious sustainability issues, such as reliable high-speed broadband; improvements to primary and secondary education; a unified health-care strategy; ring-fenced annual infrastructural fund; removal of the double VAT charged on all freight; stabilisation; support of scheduled ferry and air access and comprehensive long-term funding support of island co-ops and development offices.’
Islanders are also looking to vote on the same day as the rest of the country and not be denied access to ‘last minute’ information.
‘Politicans should remember that many a seat Dáil Eireann was secured with less than 100 votes. Ignore the islands at your peril,’ it concludes.