Monday, 29 March 2021
An tOrd Gnó - Order of Business
I, too, would like to acknowledge the launch this afternoon of the Our Rural Future plan by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Humphreys, together with the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and the Minister, Deputy Eamon Ryan. Work hubs are proposed in 400 locations across Ireland. We have had debates regarding the recent closures of Bank of Ireland and the exiting plan by Ulster Bank, and we have seen certain areas where post offices have closed. There are key landmark buildings in many communities that could be used for such hubs.
I would like to acknowledge the work of the Western Development Commission and, indeed, Údarás na Gaeltachta, which over the past number of years have been promoting, even before the Covid pandemic or any changes to work practices, working hubs and digital hubs. Údarás na Gaeltachta has worked on its gteic network of hubs in places such as Carna, An Cheathrú Rua and An Spidéal. Indeed, the one in An Spidéal was the first project completed under the rural regeneration and development fund.
The potential of rural Ireland, as we all know, is huge. Whether it is in regard to work hubs or remote working, high-speed broadband is vital. I would like to acknowledge, as I am sure the Leader would, the work of the previous Government in ensuring that state aid was provided under National Broadband Ireland to ensure the roll-out of high-speed broadband, which is a key to developing rural Ireland.
We had a positive debate last week on the national development plan. We also had announcements regarding the urban regeneration development fund and today funding was announced under the National Transport Authority for active cycling and walking in all counties.All of these plans and projects have one key component: construction workers. I wish Cabinet well in its deliberations tomorrow on the next phases of Covid. Construction workers are key, and getting them back on sites in towns, villages and construction sites throughout the country is vital because we are at risk of people moving to England to get higher wages than what they receive with the pandemic unemployment payment, PUP, if we do not open up the construction sector soon. That is key to all of the plans and policies we have as a Government.