Thursday, 1 April 2021
Project Ireland 2040: Motion [Private Members]
Ruairi Ó Murchú (Louth, Sinn Fein)
I thank the Rural Independent Group for tabling this motion and giving me this opportunity. I will initially deal with Sinn Féin's document, Our Rural Future, and particularly the part of it which relates to optimising digital communications. We had much conversation in the Chamber earlier about investment in remote working and broadband provision. The national broadband plan is the plan we have. On some level, there is no alternative. It needs to be accelerated. We have heard much commentary from the Tánaiste and from the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan, as to their conversations with National Broadband Ireland, NBI. I spoke to representatives of NBI myself and they brought up particular issues in respect of planning permission and dealing with Transport Infrastructure Ireland, TII, and local authorities. I am told these issues are being dealt with, which is necessary for this acceleration. This needs to happen. We also need to get timelines.
Even in the best-case scenario, however, we are talking about a seven-year project becoming a five-year project. We need the Government to engage with private operators and to look at alternatives so that we can deliver decent rural broadband, whether by satellite or other means, as an interim solution before the full roll-out. I request that the Government do all it can and engage with these private operators in this regard. Sinn Féin will be bringing forward proposals in this area in the very near future because it is so important. We are talking about remote working but that will not be possible until people have the facilities to do so in their homes or in remote hubs. I call for this to happen as soon as possible.
I will also make mention of the Dublin-Belfast economic corridor and the necessity for the Government to engage in cross-Border planning. I refer to the Enterprise rail service and the necessity to speed up consideration of high-speed rail projects. I know there are plans to increase the frequency of the Enterprise service between Dublin and Belfast but these plans are taking too long to be implemented. All of this needs to be speeded up. We need to ensure that other projects such as the Narrow Water bridge and the A5 are dealt with.
All this planning has to be built into the NDP.
We need to have a real conversation on rural living. We are all dealing with development plans and with the huge difficulties that exist for people who are trying to get planning. We are talking about the death of certain rural communities unless we get an answer.