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Government’s Reheated Plans Amount to little more than Social Welfare for Rural Ireland – Tóibín

 

NB

Please Find the Report on “Sustaining Viable Rural Communities” that was authored by the Oireachtas Committee while Tóibín was Cathaoirleach

https://www.oireachtas.ie/en/press-centre/press-releases/20171130-radical-change-in-model-of-capital-investment-necessary-to-sustain-viable-rural-communities-culture-heritage-gaeltacht-committee-report/


Government’s Reheated Plans Amount to little more than Social Welfare for Rural Ireland – Tóibín



Aontú leader and the former Chair of the Oireachtas Committee who authored the detailed “Sustaining Viable Rural Communities” report, Peadar Tóibín has criticised the latest government plan for rural Ireland. He stated;



“The governments approach to Rural Ireland amounts to making it subsist on hand outs rather than facilitating it to thrive on its own. Rural Ireland needs a circuit breaker to challenge Ireland’s lopsided city state development but instead rural Ireland only gets a few bob here and continuously reheated plans. Ireland is developing into an enormous commuter belt of Dublin with people commuting from as far as Munster, Connacht and Ulster. What’s left of Ireland beyond this commuter belt is struggling to keep its younger population.



People will live in rural Ireland if they can make a good living in rural Ireland. To do so they need access to the same infrastructure that exists else where. But over the last 10 years both FF and FG have spent their time closing down closing down public services ibn rural Ireland.



Economic energy and population are concentrating in urban areas most especially in the Greater Dublin Area. Many areas in regional and rural Ireland are depopulating. Dublin’s dominance in comparison to the rest of the state is an outlier in European terms. This rapid divergence is damaging for both Dublin and the regions. That Dublin is an international city is a good thing. All of Ireland benefits from its economic engine. However nearly two decades of rudderless spatial development has left Ireland lob sided without a critical urban mass elsewhere to provide balance.



Some of the changes are less visible but none the less profound. Young educated couples starting out in life typically need two well paid incomes and as a result locate within commuting distance from a large city. This movement shifts some of the most productive and creative people from regional and rural areas to the cities. It also has the effect of creating an average a significant age divergence from east to west. Following this movement of people is a parallel migration of services. It’s estimated that currently 500 Post offices are economically unsustainable. 139 Garda Stations have been closed. There has been a withdrawal of fully functioning banks from rural Ireland. Add to this the persistent absence of key infrastructure such as broadband.



Farming, the backbone of rural Ireland is under significant pressure. Only 37% of farmers are independently economically sustainable. Yet in a renewable energy hungry country most farmers are prohibited from making a living out of its generation due to the lack of a feed in tariff. While chairperson of the lasts Dáil Committee that carried out an extensive study into what needs to be done in Rural Ireland we heard evidence from well over 50 organisations that work, live or advocate for rural Ireland. What blindingly clear is that Rural Ireland does not want to live on hand outs it wants to thrive in its own right. It wants the same chances in terms of transport infrastructure , Broadband infrastructure and public service provision. It needs banks and post offices to do businesses in. If the government continue to sell Rural Ireland short on this rural Ireland will continue to die.



Rural does not need is the constant reheating and recycling of the same proposals. Every year for the last 5 the government has announced Distance & Remote Working proposals. Yet there has been very little done. In a recent PQ response to me the Minister for Enterprise Heather Humphreys stated; there is currently no existing dataset which identifies all remote working hubs in Ireland, the number of people working in them, or the funding that they have received. Since 2016 the Minister stated that only €50m has been spent developing this key sector. The government have a long history of talking about additional services to be provided through the post office network and a long history of doing nothing.

 

By Aontú Press | 29 March, 2021



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