Rural Equality Bill will ‘rural proof’ Government policies says West Cork TD

DEPUTY Michael Collins has described the Rural Equal Bill as a ‘very good starting point’ at which people living in rural Ireland will be able to access the services and opportunities enjoyed by those leaving in urban centres.

‘This bill acknowledges that rural Ireland is on a lesser footing than urban Ireland,’ Deputy Collins said speaking in the Dail last week. That said, it is a very positive starting point from which to focus on where the inequalities lie and, thereafter, how they can be addressed. I welcome the Rural Equality Bill, which proposes to look at the impact of all legislation which comes before the House in respect of the social and economic status of people in rural areas.’

The Rural Equality Bill is designed to ensure that any legislation before the Dail will give people in rural areas equal access.

‘However, first and foremost, a robust roads budget must be put in place to ensure there is a proper road network, including an annual repairs and maintenance programme,’ Deputy Collins continued. Effective mobile phone coverage throughout all rural areas is a matter that must be addressed. Nationally, high-speed broadband must be rolled out as a matter of priority if we are to bridge the blatant inequalities that exist between urban and rural Ireland. It would provide a level playing field for businesses which might be contemplating a move to rural Ireland.’

‘This bill will rural-proof major Government policies and strategies by taking into account how rural communities are impacted upon by Government decisions and, where appropriate, ensuring that adjustments are made,’ Deputy Collins said.

However, Deputy Collins reminded the Dail that rural communities are suffering now due to the lack of simple services readily available in urban centres.

‘We must be aware that it is vital for rural communities to retain their small schools, shops, Garda stations, post offices, banks, community hospitals, rural transport and other vital services,’ Deputy Collins said. I envisage that the bill will look at ways to secure the future of these services and ensure the sustainability of rural communities.’

‘Farmers are the backbone of rural communities and every measure should be taken to protect their futures, in particular those of farming families in disadvantaged areas on our islands and peninsulas. Deputy Collins continued. Also, it is essential to give our fishing industry a high level of support as an important source of economic activity in remote coastal regions.’