Thursday, 17 December 2020
Brexit Readiness for the End of the Transition Period: Statements
I want to raise an issue that has come to the fore and been highlighted as a result of Brexit, that is, connectivity and people being able to connect in the face of Brexit and the consequences that has for companies. We have a very intelligent, educated workforce who are eager to work and to learn. We are lucky in that respect. Many companies are now looking for employees to work from home but what we have seen as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, and of Brexit, is that there is no broadband in the communities. As a Corkman like myself, the Minister knows areas like Blarney, Whitechurch, Togher, Killeens and Kerry Pike. These are areas that have major problems with connectivity and broadband. Up the road from me is Apple, one of the biggest employers in Cork, if not the State, and just up the road in Kerry Pike, half the village does not have broadband. There are huge issues in respect of the roll-out of the national broadband plan and the inefficiencies in the plan. An estate in Blarney called Ard Dara was supposed to have commercial Internet broadband but it does not have it. I made inquiries. I contacted the provider and I was told that the cables were laid but were not connected. As a result of my correspondence and residents working with me and with the companies, I hope that issue will be resolved but it goes to the heart of the problem in terms of the broadband plan not working.
A constituent of mine lives in Whitechurch. There is broadband at the top and bottom of his road, but at its centre, he has no broadband. Broadband is vital for people living in places such as Blarney, Tower and other areas, especially when we consider the effects of Brexit. More and more work will be done online, including customs and administration for import and exports to Britain. That is why the whole broadband plan is essential.
As we face into a Christmas like no other, many people have listened to the Government and tried to stay out of shops, and to order online from local companies and Irish brands. As the Minister and most Deputies know, there are significant issues trying to get parcels delivered by An Post. This is a serious issue because it will be a disaster for many people who are waiting for these deliveries, both presents and other packages, if they do not arrive on time for Christmas. We know it is not the fault of the An Post workers who do Trojan work to try to get parcels and letters to people on time. I thank the workers involved in delivery and sorting who are trying to get the mail distributed. Years of underfunding by Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael Governments have left An Post in this position. It shows a lack of planning with regard to Brexit that we did not invest in An Post. How are we to survive in the face of Covid and Brexit? We need to support local businesses and to be able to get our post and packages out. If we do not have a functioning postal service, it is a significant issue.
I wish the Minister, his staff, civil servants, our own staff and everyone in Leinster House and the convention centre a happy Christmas. I wish everyone a safe Christmas. We will have significant challenges in 2021 that we need to rise to. I wish a happy Christmas to everyone because we have never needed Christmas as much as we do this year.