Monday, 29 March 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
It has been a busy time for Government. Despite the ongoing issues in relation to Covid, the business of Government continues. Last week we saw the landmark Climate Action and Low Carbon Development (Amendment) Bill 2021 passed by Cabinet, and a new pollinator plan was launched before the weekend. Today, the Government will launch its new rural development policy, Our Rural Future. That all amounts to quite a lot of pressure on rural Ireland which has many roles to fulfil, whether it is to deliver for climate action, improve our biodiversity and water quality or deliver jobs. These are all significant asks.
However, rural Ireland is also the home to an increasing number of our citizens.There have been many heated discussions about the merits of one-off homes and who should be allowed to live in the countryside, but ultimately if we make our towns and villages more accessible, more liveable and more like home, then I am quite sure we will see this becoming a less divisive issue. Bringing life back to urban centres in rural Ireland will be key to delivering more vibrant and sustainable living, because rural towns and villages should not be there to serve only those who live in the countryside. They should be desirable places to live, work and raise families. The residents of such settlements will ultimately be the best stewards of them.
My local group in Laois-Offaly organised a super webinar last week called Revitalising Portlaoise. It brought together many people with a wide variety of interests, such as business, active travel, commuting, heritage, culture, and local amenities. The one thing they had in common was they wanted Portlaoise to deliver it for them. That was the landing zone and it will exist in every town from Birr to Edenderry, and Abbeyleix to Mountmellick, and towns all over the country. I especially thank my colleague, Councillor Louise Heavin, for bringing the town centre first policy to life in the webinar, and our local area representative, Sean McManus, for his insights and views as a resident of the town. The town centres first policy is a keystone in the programme for Government.
I want to raise concerns about the cargo ship, the Ever Given, which I understand has become a little less stuck in the Suez Canal this morning. There have been many images circulating of comparatively minuscule diggers tackling the huge vessel and gags about three-point turns. Joking aside, it has had significant consequences for supply chains. It highlights the fragility that exists in global markets which are totally dependent on a fluid supply chain. The cost of this grounded ship is estimated to be in the region of €7 billion per day. Perhaps even more concerning is the fact that up to 20 livestock vessels are thought to be caught in this blockade, which is adding significantly to their journey time. We recently witnessed the fate of unfortunate cattle on two live shipments from Spain. These animals were caught at sea for months in horrendous conditions, which resulted in eventual euthanisation. It is critically important in farming and in transporting animals that animal welfare is held in high regard. Therefore, we must do all we can, including keeping journey times as short, safe and comfortable as possible, to ensure the welfare of these animals.