Dáil debates

Thursday, 23 April 2020

4:40 pm

Photo of Richard O'DonoghueRichard O'Donoghue (Limerick County, Independent) | Oireachtas source

We have heard from other speakers that broadband is a major issue in rural areas. I recently opened an office in Kilmallock, County Limerick. When I had broadband installed, four different people came to my office before they got it up and running. People who live within half a kilometre of me, who are on a main route between Charleville and Kilmallock, have been forced to go to work in 19 different businesses because they cannot get broadband at home. I have been sent around in circles in trying to get broadband through the services that are available to us. This affects 19 businesses. One employer has 60 people employed and he cannot open his doors because some of his employees cannot work remotely from home. These are the issues we are facing.

We listen to the Green manifesto on the need to bring down emissions. Broadband will bring down emissions in this country and it has been promised for years. If people are in a town or a city, or on a route between a town and a city, they can get broadband, but if they are any way off the beaten track, they cannot, unless they are working for the Government or the HSE. Everyone should get it because the service should be the same for everyone.

Members spoke about the five major banks, the five major banks that let everyone down, but none of the speakers mentioned the credit unions. All of the directors of the credit unions are volunteers. The credit unions are regulated by the Central Bank, like other institutions, but they are run by volunteers. I did not hear People Before Profit mention them, despite the fact they are volunteers. This is the only sector which came out, when people needed a three-month break from their payments, to tell them it would give them the three months and this would be added to the end of their loan, without interest being added on. Nevertheless, they were not mentioned with the five major banks.

I have written to the Government to ask if it has met with the credit unions but I have not yet received correspondence in reply. This is the only sector with directors who are volunteers and which is giving relief to members who have loans. The credit unions have rewritten their paperwork so that this happens at the end of the loan term so there are no repercussions.

Insurance companies have come out and insulted the people who have policies with them. I am told motor insurance customers have been offered €5 of a rebate, which is disgusting. These companies should be held to account. There is less traffic on the road and fewer accidents but, again, they insult us by doing this. Other insurance companies even mention Covid-19 on their policies, yet they want to bring people to court. They want to see whether companies can withstand Covid-19 and reopen, or whether they will close in the interim.

With regard to front-line services, there is a question I want answered. If people are in construction or a similar business they will have apprentices who are paid throughout their training.

I have brought up this issue previously. When this Covid-19 pandemic is brought under control our trainee nurses have to be paid while they train. We see the importance of our front-line services in a pandemic, as is the case now. They must have the same rights as any other trainee in this country, and they have to be paid. Our front-line service staff are essential, in the same way that our farming sector is essential. As I said earlier, farmers are contacting me on a daily basis who are trying to get work done for the harvest. They are being told by one office that their work is not essential but if they phone a certain party they are told that they are now available to do their work. Farmers keep food on our tables. Their work is essential. In terms of all farming work for the harvest season, a measure should now be implemented to ensure farmers have full rights to get materials to complete their work.


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