As Ireland’s ranking position within the EU continues to improve – in fact, according to latest reports we ranked first on being Innovators and scored high in the Economic Effects categories – we’re obviously accelerating regarding our financial returns. In addition, when it comes to the minimum wage issue, we pay the second highest of any country in the EU; with that last little nugget of info coming from Eurostat, who found that “the minimum wage for Irish workers works out as €1,563 per month, behind only Luxembourg, whose minimum wage is €1,999 a month.”
However, while this may be a fact, anyone on the minimum wage, which is most of us, will tell you it’s barely enough to scrimp by on and with poverty in rural Ireland on the rise, it’s a sad fact that many communities are being left behind on a number of levels.
First we had the mass closure of Garda stations with approximately 139 of them being shut to date since 2011…some of these have since been sold off with the remainder being maintained at a cost of €846,560 to the taxpayer who has been left feeling not just out of pocket, but vulnerable to criminal thugs and socially isolated without the friendly face and reassurance of their community Garda.
However, it’s not just our Garda services that have been lacerated. It appears our population is also declining and just as myself and my husband left the big shmoke and relocated among you in search of our rural idyll, it appears (according to Census 2016), that there’s a distinct increase in deserted villages across rural Ireland, clearly reflecting the changing priorities of not just the Government and their policies, but the people they affect, with residents now opting for urban living, or worse, emigration, severely wounding the essential contribution of agriculture and fishing to the local economy, resulting in it rapidly declining towards a spiralling downward slope.
Next, we have the scrapping and scaling down of Bus Éireann’s transport service…which is hilarious, given the country’s only State carrier provider’s website logo declares they’re ‘at the heart of the community’ delivering a contradictory slap in the face to rural commuters who depend on the critical public service they provide! (Or profess to provide). Also, given the strike action, which now affects a number of Iarnród Éireann workers as they share depots with Bus Éireann and have refused to pass pickets, thousands of Roscommon people have been left isolated and, in many cases, unable to get to cities for vital health visits and health checks, etc.
And don’t get me started on broadband services…I said don’t get me started; because without an ad
Continued on page 33 –>
Continued from page 32 –> equate supply, how can farmers and business owners expand their crafts and functions and create jobs, and how can new businesses even consider setting up in the first place? And, as our neighbours in Longford experience the ‘slowest average speed’ of broadband at 1.98Mbps it’s a fact that Roscommon, along with Mayo and Leitrim, falls into the bottom five.
But wait, the Government do have a rural development plan in the pipeline which we are assured will resurrect rural villages with a €60 million investment that’s set to create over ‘100,000 jobs in rural communities over the next three years.’ And as there are plenty of derelict buildings sitting idle across our lovely county we are certainly on course to provide the Government with plenty of opportunity, never mind skilled professionals and natural resources.
In addition, our very own lovely Communications Minister Denis Naughten assured the media at the initiative’s launch back in January that, “there will be a renewed focus (on rural Ireland) within government departments,” declaring “not only will I be holding government to account, rural Ireland will be holding me and the government to account.” And I for one have no doubt this honourable gentleman, who is also a Roscommon man, will keep his word.
In the meantime, the cost of a postage stamp is set to rise from 0.72c to €1.00, which I personally think is still good value. Then again, I don’t use the post that often, however, what I do use quite a lot are their services for paying bills, etc., and I find it worrying that, an (as yet) unpublished review of the future strategy for An Post, which is reported to have been devised by businessman Bobby Kerr, and is aimed at stopping losses of up to €12 million per year, is understood to recommend the closure of 80 post offices…another devastating bullet delivered by a State-owned enterprise and aimed right into the very heart of rural Ireland whose knock-on effect will further erode local services.
No matter how you look at it the fact is, the numbers and the problems are stacking up against rural Ireland and rural living, and to be honest, as someone who relocated here from the big job in the big city, this greatly disturbs and destabilises me. With each month that goes by and each high profile, highly paid job offer that I decline back in Dublin where the streets could be, for me anyway, paved with gold; the thing is neighbours, you’re not getting rid of me that easily, I’m happy here; hubby and me think Roscommon is a fab place; and while that alone is not enough to pay the bills or encourage others to relocate here, sure it’s a start, and, if we all pull together and ensure, nay stamp our wellies and demand that we get a big juicy slice of the government’s €60 million rural budget, we can put our heads together and get to work regenerating Roscommon. C’mon…who’s with me?