Thursday, 1 April 2021
Project Ireland 2040: Motion [Private Members]
Michael Collins (Cork South West, Independent)
I was one of those who voted against the 2040 plan because I could see the devastation it would cause to rural communities, the stronger focus it would put on the capital and that it would forget about rural regions. Of course, it was railroaded through as a fabulous plan and dream. Another plan for remote working was announced this week. A lot of things are lovely and seem beautiful when read off a paper, but the fact and brutal truth is that there is an issue.
There are a number of issues in my constituency, as is the case in other communities throughout Ireland, namely, sewerage, water and rural planning. Zoning is becoming a major issue. The Cork county development plan is currently being examined. Broadband, services, roads and public transport are all questionable. It is easy to pick out points that are a cause of great difficulty for people living in rural areas.
Rural planning is one issue. Many people want to come to live in rural Ireland and settle down, such as people in business, teachers or whatever. They would love to get planning permission for homes and get the architecture and environmental side right but then a rule is put in front of them to make sure they will not get planning permission. The Government has focused on plans for rural Ireland, but people cannot live there. Not everybody wants to live over a shop. People with young families would like to get on with their lives but they have been ruined by a planning process that is questionable, to be quite honest. It was questioned and pulled apart in Europe but then, other little tricks and tribulations were put in before people again.
There are sewage issues in west Cork in , , Goleen and . Castletownbere is being worked on - I will give credit where credit is due - and I understand work will be finished in 2022. The county development plan states a number of houses can be built in a community like Ballinspittle and people are absolutely delighted about that. However, when they look for planning permission they cannot get it because nobody has invested in the community. Irish Water will not invest in it. The sewerage system is at capacity.
In terms of trying to extend it, locals have tried their best to play ball but it was of no use to them. The town cannot expand. It is in close proximity to the city, Bandon, Clonakilty and all parts of west Cork. It is a fabulous place to live, as are , and Goleen. These places need investment, in the same way as any other part of the country or Dublin. There should not be a two-tier society.
Water is a serious issue in Clonakilty. If Irish Water does not invest seriously in the town there will be a crisis. One dry summer will lead to a massive crisis there. Investment is needed and it cannot keep going to bigger towns year after year. These are areas that need investment. Clonakilty is a growing town.
The proposal in the county development plan is to de-zone ground. What has gone wrong with our country? More people want to come to live in rural areas. A few days ago a beautiful plan for remote working and living in rural Ireland was published. Where will people live? Are they going to come to west Cork for the day and then return to cities? I think that is the plan the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, wants. I wonder if she is on a different planet to me, because I see reality in the one I am on. The reality is that people want to come to west Cork to live and work. They could work there but they cannot do so if they do not have broadband or cannot build a home. There is a lack of investment in broadband. I have always said we should roll out the €3 billion plan, but there should have been investment in wireless operators.
They could have delivered broadband to people in the valleys and other areas where it cannot be got. The Government is investing in the national broadband plan. The Tánaiste told me about a month ago that would take between five and seven years. That is no problem if one has time enough to wait.
On roads, the main roads into Cork, the N71 and R586, have had no investment. The Skibbereen bypass was built 20 years ago and there has not been a brown cent spent since, other than on pothole repair and whatever. Public transport is a disaster and then there are services like the post office and banks. These are hugely important for people but we are losing them. I speak to postmasters in Schull and Goleen and places all over west Cork who are on the verge of losing their businesses. We are losing services in the banks. I listen to Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil Deputies and Senators on the radio and television. It is as if they are not to blame at all and someone else is to blame. The State has a 14% stake in our banks. The Government should be fighting to save these services. Unfortunately, my time has run out as I could spend an hour just on this issue.