Thursday, 1 April 2021
Project Ireland 2040: Motion [Private Members]
Patricia Ryan (Kildare South, Sinn Fein)
I also thank the Rural Independent Group for bringing forward this motion. I am sure the Minister has heard of the expression "beyond the pale", which to this Government means those of us who live outside the Dublin area. To those of us who live beyond the Pale, it is our view that the Government's contempt for us is beyond the pale, which means it is outside the bounds of acceptable behaviour.
Project Ireland 2040 was launched with great fanfare but it turned out to mainly consist of a rehashing of previous announcements. The press conference held in Sligo was probably the most expensive in the history of the State. Not only was there a fancy website but there were newspaper, TV and cinema ads. It would remind one of the old Pathé propaganda short films shown during the war. Sectoral interests, including the Construction Industry Federation, the Irish Farmers Association and IBEC were briefed about the document before any elected member of the Dáil was. Selected members of the media were also provided with briefings in advance of the launch.
It is not only the Dáil that this Government treats with contempt. The Government has left rural Ireland behind. The Green Party means well but it has little or no concept of the reality of life in rural Ireland. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have neglected rural Ireland to pander to their vested interests. We need to reverse the regional imbalance and neglect by accessing capital to improve the infrastructure of our towns and villages, and to create jobs.
Far too many people are leaving Kildare and Laois every day to drive to Dublin for work. This has an effect on their quality of life and well-being. Many of our towns and villages are blighted by dereliction. I invite the Minister to come down to Monasterevin, Athy, Rathangan and Portarlington when restrictions allow, and to see the buildings on our main streets that have been empty for years. No effort made to bring them back into use.
Broadband is essential for the economic growth of rural Ireland. I recently spoke to a teacher who uses the data on his phone to run the interactive whiteboard in his class. This is unacceptable in 2021. Just 16% of Kildare's surveys under the national broadband plan are planned or under way. We must increase the speed of the roll-out of the plan, focusing on neglected rural areas and the use of rural work hubs.
I want to add that we have one bank in Monasterevin where I live, a Bank of Ireland branch that is going to close. That is shocking.