Are we go­ing to al­low the mar­kets to de­cide ev­ery­thing?

Irish Independent - Farming - - RURAL LIFE -

I CAN’T tell whether last week was a good one or a bad one for ru­ral Ire­land. On the face of it, it’s been bad.

First Eir pulled out of the ten­der­ing process for the roll-out of broad­band to ru­ral ar­eas, leav­ing one bid­der in the chase.

Then we read that the last of the rail­way lines weav­ing their way through the less con­nected cor­ners of the coun­try could go the way of the Lim­er­ick to Tralee line, the West Clare Rail­way, the Gal­way to Clif­den line, the West­port to Achill con­nec­tion and all the rail ser­vices in Done­gal.

To top it all off, we had the pub­li­ca­tion of the draft Na­tional Plan­ning Frame­work: Ire­land 2040 Our Plan, a ma­jor na­tional doc­u­ment that seems to be­lieve that ru­ral Ire­land will be saved by ur­ban­i­sa­tion.

The with­drawal by Eir is a shame and has not only un­der­mined the ten­der­ing process for ru­ral broad­band — it has po­ten­tially re­moved the best player from the pitch.

I couldn’t be­lieve my ears lis­ten­ing to Min­is­ter for Com­mu­ni­ca­tions, Cli­mate Ac­tion and En­vi­ron­ment, De­nis Naugh­ten, on the ra­dio telling us how lucky we are to have only one bid­der left at the auc­tion; the only per­son ever to rel­ish that kind of a prospect was the farmer go­ing to the fair who couldn’t wait to rid him­self of his stock, han­dle the cash and perch him­self on the near­est high stool.

In re­cent months I’ve had oc­ca­sion to deal with Eir. I had a new land­line in­stalled and soon af­ter got fi­bre op­tic broad­band thanks to Open Eir. The broad­band is a dream; I have as good a ser­vice as any­one in the coun­try.

There were some teething prob­lems at the be­gin­ning, which would have been im­pos­si­ble to man­age were it not for lo­cal hu­man be­ings who work with Eir and were able to sort things out.

This was the se­cret and it al­ways has been the se­cret of good pub­lic ser­vice.

Even though cut­backs have fol­lowed since Eir was pri­va­tised by Mary O’Rourke and Ber­tie, there is still a strong residue of pub­lic ser­vice in its staff, but that too is be­ing drained by cut­backs and si­phon­ing.

Eir’s pre­de­ces­sor Eir­com was fat­tened for sale be­fore it was gonged by O’Rourke as she tolled the bell of its demise an­nounc­ing it’s flota­tion on the New York Stock Ex­change in 1999. Those with shares will re­mem­ber well how the dingy sank like a stone soon af­ter­wards. It has been a sad tale of plun­der and re­sale since.

Our rail ser­vice would also be in the hands of skull and bones pri­va­teers were it not so im­pos­si­ble to fat­ten it for sale. In th­ese days, as we seek to free our­selves of the tyranny of pri­vate mo­tor ve­hi­cles and their ru­inous im­pact on the planet, the rail­ways could have been a ver­i­ta­ble life-saver.

Even if the in­fra­struc­ture had been left in place, we could be in a much bet­ter po­si­tion to ad­dress our trans­port needs and our emis­sions tar­gets in tan­dem. It is in­struc­tive to view con­trast­ing maps of the rail­way sys­tem of Ire­land as it was in 1920 and as it is to­day.

Pro­duced in a joint paper pub­lished by IBEC and its North­ern coun­ter­part CBI in 2016, the maps show how the rail­way ser­vice reached ev­ery corner of the coun­try in the early 20th cen­tury and that now the op­po­site is the case with the north west be­ing par­tic­u­larly badly served. And just when we thought things couldn’t get worse it ap­peared like the ser­vice could be fur­ther down­graded.

Mean­while, we are fac­ing the prospects of mas­sive fines for ex­ceed­ing our emis­sions tar­gets and the world is scram­bling to find an al­ter­na­tive to fos­sil fuel cars.

Last week also saw the pub­li­ca­tion of the draft Na­tional Plan­ning Frame­work: Ire­land 2040 Our Plan. I read it with an open mind un­til I came to the fol­low­ing para­graph: “Prac­ti­cal ex­pe­ri­ence and re­search shows that in an econ­omy and so­ci­ety such as Ire­land’s, si­mul­ta­ne­ously fos­ter­ing eco­nomic growth on the one hand and spread­ing it out smoothly or evenly across a coun­try, is nei­ther re­al­is­tic nor prac­ti­cal. Nor can large num­bers of peo­ple be di­rected to se­lected lo­ca­tions.”

The only im­age that comes to mind is Neville Cham­ber­lain wav­ing his white note on his re­turn from Mu­nich.

I con­tin­ued to read but al­most lost the will to live as I waded through a trea­cle of mean­ing­less ver­biage such as:

“How­ever, it is pos­si­ble to fa­cil­i­tate more in­clu­sive and in­te­grated growth more broadly, through­out Ire­land, that would have the

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.