Thursday, 1 April 2021
Project Ireland 2040: Motion [Private Members]
Michael McNamara (Clare, Independent)
I greatly welcome the motion from the Rural Independent Group. I also welcome the Government's announcement earlier this week, but it is just an announcement. Like many announcements before it, when one drills down into the detail, there is absolutely nothing there. If we are going to get people back into rural Ireland, we need to put services in place, including banking services and post offices. Unfortunately, post offices, such as the one in Broadford in County Clare, are being closed and the Government says there is nothing it can do about it. Bank branches are closing all over the country, including three in Clare. When I raised the issue with the Tánaiste, he said that post offices need to get with it and get online. When I asked him what the Government plan is to accelerate the roll-out of broadband, he said the Government is looking into it. When I asked what the plan is to facilitate ComReg in making sure that those who have a proper broadband connection, of whom there are few in rural Ireland, can make a complaint and have it dealt with, I was told that a Bill was to be brought to the Dail in February. Today is April Fool's Day and there is no sign of that Bill, even though we were told it was being drafted. I do not know whether the Tánaiste meant what he said or whether it was an April Fool's Day joke on his part.
It is all well and good to make grand announcements about rural Ireland but the services that are needed must be provided. There are towns throughout County Clare that do not have a sewage treatment plant. The Green Party has correctly identified the problem, namely, that we need sustainable development. I very much agree with the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications on that point. However, I do not necessarily agree with some of the solutions articulated by his party, although it has, at least, gone some of the way, as I said, in identifying the problems. Unsustainable development simply will not work but, equally, there has to be development in rural areas. There has been very little development in large parts of rural Ireland for decades in terms of sewage treatment plants in towns like Broadford and Carrigaholt, broadband infrastructure, and services like banking and post offices. These are the services that need to be put in place if we are to get people to live there, which is something everybody agrees we need to do.