Minister ‘all at sea’ over broadband
Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin addressed a number of issues during his visit to Ballinasloe and south Roscommon earlier this week including the need to “rebalance the country” and the unlikely possibility of a General Election happening soon.
Deputy Micheál Martin said Minister for Communications Denis Naughten “was at sea” when it came to the roll-out of broadband before adding that the current Government had forgotten about rural Ireland.
The opposition party leader said that broadband was “more important than roadways for rural Ireland” and slammed the Government’s failure to deliver high-speed broadband nationwide.
“For me the big story in rural Ireland is broadband. It’s been a colossal failure of Fine Gael in government and I think Minister Naughten is at sea in relation to it as well nationally.
“It’s a great enabler and the key to the modern economy and if we really want to resuscitate and sustain rural Ireland and towns in rural Ireland then the state has to become directly involved and provide broadband. It is even more important than roadways at this stage in terms of the capacity of small businesses, sole traders and individuals to earn income and to set up their companies.
“We know that that some international companies would employ people in their homes if there was high-speed broadband connectivity,” he said.
Deputy Martin also questioned the current Government’s commitment to rural Ireland.
“There is no doubt (that the Government has forgotten about rural Ireland). You walk around Dublin and the Dáil there and then you go to Boyle, Tubbercurry, Ballinasloe and they’re two different worlds”.
Deputy Martin said more needs to be done in terms of bringing industry to rural Ireland and cited high commercial rates and a lack of high-speed broadband as two obstacles to this.
“There needs to be a national policy of saying ‘we need to rebalance the country’. The quality of life in our cities is eroding, it’s impossible to rent, and it’s impossible to buy a house if you’re a young couple. We need to be selling a better picture, or package if you like, in rural Ireland”.
As for the possibility of a General Election this year, the Fianna Fáil leader said his party was committed to the confidence and supply agreement but “unhappy with housing and health”.