I welcome the announcements of different streams of funding for projects in North Cork. There has been a series of announcements from government ministers of funding for local organisations, to help them develop and provide facilities for local people. These are welcome as they allow local groups and organisations to improve on their facilities as well as expand the services they offer to local communities.
Over €500,000 has been allocated to different projects in North Cork over the last few months, including €165,00 through the Town and Village Renewal Scheme; €80,000 through the Community Enhancement Programme; and €163,000 through the Leader Food Initiative. Added to this St Colman’s College have been awarded €77,200 in the Sports Capital Programme, and Mitchelstown Community Centre have been awarded €48,000.
In the context of these welcome announcements, there are two issues still remaining that need to be progressed in 2019. The lack of availability of broadband in parts of rural Ireland is an ongoing frustration. While some fibre has been rolled-out, there are still gaps in coverage that are preventing some people from accessing services or being able to work from home. The National Broadband Plan faced problems in 2018 that cannot be allowed to undermine the rollout of broadband to parts of the country. It is an imperative that the project proceeds as soon as possible and physical work commences on the delivery this vital infrastructure for rural Ireland.
A second issue that needs to be addressed is the impact of the changes in road traffic legislation that was introduced in 2018. The debate about drink-driving has moved on from whether people should drive after alcohol, to one of how to provide transport services for those who want to be responsible and not drink and drive, along with the apprehension of many who find themselves unsure if they are legally allowed to drive the morning after consuming alcohol.
A Fine Gael senator, Joe O’Reilly, has proposed that publicans who offer transport to their customer be provided with a rebate on VRT. This may or may not be the solution, but it is a proposal worth investigating. Other public representatives have suggested that the Road Safety Authority should produce or endorse reliable personal breathalysers, so that people know if they are over the drink driving limit in the morning. The majority of people want to stay within the law while driving on the roads, but it is clear that this is having an impact on the social and economic fabric of parts of rural Ireland. Imaginative solutions must be sought for these issues in 2019.