Monday, 22 February 2021
Ábhair Ghnó an tSeanaid – Matters on the Business of the Seanad
Tim Lombard (Fine Gael)
Last week, we debated the important issue of the remote working strategy. My office was overwhelmed by feedback on that debate. A large number of people are looking for a place where they can use this strategy to change their quality of life and want to engage with it.
An digital hub strategy is being rolled out throughout County Cork. Towns such as Bandon, Skibbereen and Bantry all propose to have digital hubs. Unfortunately, Clonakilty does not have that opportunity at the moment and the lack of digital hub is a drawback. To compound that, a Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine building has been sitting idle there for a decade. There is a purpose built building in Clonakilty with nothing happening in it.
If we are to have a real strategy on working from home, it has to involve the local authorities working with the State - in the case of Clonakilty, it would be the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine - to utilise all opportunities available to the State. I refer to the opportunity of infrastructure. Key infrastructure is sitting idle. Darrara agricultural college, a Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine building, has been sitting idle for more than a decade. We need to get this building back into use. It is an ideal location for a digital hub. The benefit to Clonakilty and its hinterlands would be immense. We need joined up thinking.
We need a real debate with the Departments to see what infrastructure can be utilised to ensure we do not have infrastructure, which could benefit rural and urban Ireland, sitting idle. Making sure our infrastructure is utilised is a key issue, so we can implement this strategy which has knock on effects for society. Nobody wants to spend hours in cars anymore. That is gone. The big issue is to ensure we legislate so that the State works with local authorities to ensure we can provide these digital hubs.