More than 400 people attended a meeting to discuss the threatened collapse of Rural Social Scheme (RSS) and Tús programmes at a public meeting attended by several local elected representatives in the Raheen Woods Hotel in Athenry, County Galway, on Monday (30th May). SIPTU Organiser, Clement Shevlin, said: “Participants in these schemes provide support to community groups and play a major role in social inclusion programmes for those vulnerable within our communities, who are otherwise forgotten about.  “Support is critical to ensure that the schemes, supervisors and participants are protected and renumerated for their invaluable work. SIPTU representatives are asking that the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection immediately engages in meaningful discussions on the proper funding of these schemes in order to prevent their collapse.” He added: “SIPTU representatives will be organising meetings on this issue across the country to ensure the voice of rural Ireland is heard and the importance of these critical schemes is recognised and respected.” Among the elected representatives in attendance were Sinn Féin TD Claire Kerrane, Fianna Fáil TD Anne Rabbitte, Fine Gael TD Ciarán Cannon, Independent TD Sean Canney and Independent TD Michael Fitzmaurice.  Galway Rural Development RSS Supervisor, Sean Larkin, said: “The RSS and Tús are the wheels that keep all the other wheels in the community sector turning. When that wheel stops all the others wheels will stop, which will have a devastating impact on our community.” Galway Rural Development Co-ordinator, Sean Broderick, said: “The cry out is save our communities, save our schemes. We are asking TDs, Senators and Councillors to step up now and lead from the front on this fight, go back to your Dáil, Seanad and Council chambers and speak up for your communities and these critical schemes.” Rural Social Scheme (RSS) supervisor and member of the SIPTU RSS National Committee, Liz MacDonald, said: “Minister for Social Protection, Heather Humphreys and her colleagues need to reflect on the name of their Department. Their remit is ‘Social Protection’. On their website they state they wish to promote active participation and inclusion in society through the provision of income supports and employment services. They need to live up to their remit.” Speakers from the floor of the meeting delivered passionate testimonies of the importance of the schemes for the GAA, Meals on Wheels, Charity Shops, Community Centres and Tidy Towns projects.