News & Media

We will ensure rural Ireland is socially, economically and digitally connected

15 May 2019

Statement by Brendan Howlin TD
Party Leader and Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Northern Ireland

Labour Party launches new policy 'Connecting Rural Ireland'

Speaking in Dungarvan, Co Waterford, at the Launch of Labour’s Rural Policy – Connecting Rural Ireland: Labour’s Vision for Safe Rural Communities, Guaranteed Rural Transport and a Strong Rural Economy – the party leader, Brendan Howlin TD, committed that Labour will ensure rural Ireland is socially, economically and digitally connected.

Brendan said:

“As the only party leader in Dáil Éireann not from Dublin or Cork, I am reminded every day that people around Ireland have different needs from those living in the biggest urban centres.

“Labour’s Councillors, Senators and TDs represent communities from all parts of Ireland. The Labour Party was founded in Tipperary and there has always been a Labour tradition in rural Ireland as well as in the towns and cities.

“Our Rural Policy shows practical ways that Labour will deliver on our promise of decency, equality and justice for everyone in Ireland. No part of the country should be left behind by new technologies like broadband, and no one should get a worse service from health or disability services because of where they live.

“Labour’s policy is to connect rural Ireland, and that requires State-led action to fill the gaps left by market failure. We need to subsidise public transport, so we can implement Labour’s idea of a Rural Transport Guarantee. Every rural town should have guaranteed access to a reliable, affordable and sustainable form of public transport, and every child should have a guaranteed place on a school bus. We also need stronger incentives and supports for doctors to take up practice as GPs in rural areas.

“Rural crime is a serious threat and Labour was the first party to roll out rural CCTV to deter crime and to aid law enforcement.

“Labour is fully committed to delivering rural broadband. We just insist that the network should remain in public ownership, as it is outrageous for the people to pay €3 billion and for Fine Gael to give away the network to venture capitalists who might sell it on to vulture funds, as was done with Telecom Éireann. Fine Gael took the decision to give away the network two months after Labour left Government. The alternative model being considered by Labour would have meant the network came back to public ownership after 25 years.

“As I said in the Dáil, I personally regret that Town Councils were abolished when Labour was in government. I have brought forward legislation to correct that mistake, as the five years since 2014 have shown that the alternative has not worked. Labour wants Town Councils to be restored to every town with a population over 5,000.

“Brexit and climate change both pose major challenges to rural Ireland, as does de-population due to younger people seeking work in our cities. Labour has fought for a Just Transition Task Force to be established, with funding to help create sustainable new jobs in rural areas, with towns to be developed as local economic centres. Labour will also fight to protect workers in farming, fishing, food, hospitality and tourism who are especially vulnerable due to Brexit.

“Labour’s vision of equality and inclusion is a vision for everyone in Ireland.”

ENDS

A PDF of the policy document is available here.

Connecting Rural Ireland is here: https://www.labour.ie/manifesto/connecting-rural-ireland/