The President of ICMSA has said that the controversy around the National Broadband Plan has provided rural Ireland with “a very revealing glimpse” of where some commentators place rural concerns and needs on the state’s priorities’ list. Pat McCormack said that without endorsing the plan on a line-by-line basis, he felt the Government was perfectly correct to finally move on rolling-out a workable and fit-for-purpose broadband network and he said that two principles must underpin infrastructure spending of this scale and importance.
“The first principle that must inform an expenditure decision like this is one of simple equality: if this is a republic than the state is obliged – we would say duty-bound – to at least endeavour to provide the same level of infrastructure and services to all areas of the state, whether urban, suburban or rural. There is no-one in Ireland today, looking at the disappearance of whole rural networks of banks, schools, Garda stations, district veterinary offices, post offices, even bus stops, who could argue that a reasonable effort has been made to provide equivalent levels of service and infrastructure in rural Ireland as that taken for granted in the bigger towns and cities. It is a fact that there are areas of rural Ireland now where services and infrastructure, like those mentioned, that took a century or more to roll-out have just disappeared in less than a decade. The second point relates to this, but cuts to the heart of the matter: if the most crude cost/benefit analysis is going to be applied to every cent of state spending on a simple ‘Dundrum, Dublin’ versus ‘Dundrum, Co Tipp’ basis then nothing will ever get spent outside the M50 again. If population density is going to be the only consideration or the decisive consideration than rural Ireland will always lose out, and the flight into the urban centres – with all the attendant accommodation crisis that we’re seeing right now – will actually accelerate and worsen”, said Mr. McCormack.
“The Government was absolutely correct to proceed on both the basis of equality and of strategic consideration. I have to say that in reading and listening to some of the criticisms of the announcement, that rural Ireland has been given a very revealing glimpse of how we are viewed by some very well placed commentators and where our concerns are deemed to register on the national priorities’ list. Rural Ireland is not some ‘add-on’ concept or recurring cost item in the national accounts; we are citizens too and we will insist that our communities and infrastructure are factored-in and included as Ireland looks to the next decades. The idea that rural Ireland isn’t worth investing in is unfair and self-fulfilling –because if we don’t get the investment then we definitely will fall further behind and be unable to play the role we certainly can and want to”, concluded the ICMSA President.
Ends 14 May 2019
Pat McCormack, 087-7608958
Cathal MacCarthy, 087-6168758
ICMSA Press Office