Varadkar under fire over rural Ireland’s neglect

Post offices are closing because people have bank cards and internet, while garda stations are closing because they were built before there was a fleet of garda cars, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said.

Varadkar under fire over rural Ireland’s neglect

Mr Varadkar, addressing the Seanad for the first time since becoming Taoiseach, came under fire from Opposition senators about what they described was the neglect of rural Ireland.

Among the issues raised by senators was the closures of Garda stations and post offices in small rural towns and villages but Mr Varadkar said such entities must have a customer base to survive.

Fianna Fáil senator Jennifer Murnane O’Connor said the people of Ireland beyond the M50 have yet to experience any recovery.

“ It is time for a change, but it is radical change that will make a difference to all our people,” she said. “It is time for us to accept that the recovery that is taking place has broken down on the M50. We need to spread the recovery across the country.

“When he became Taoiseach, he promised us he would be a Taoiseach for people living in areas from Dungarvan to Doohoma but this plan says something really different.

“I hope that in the coming weeks before it is finalised he will take on board the submissions that have been made by all parties and that it will be radically changed to address the serious problems in rural Ireland.”

Rose Conway Walsh of Sinn Féin struck a similar tune describing Mr Varadkar as a “trickle-down Taoiseach”.

“Unless the Taoiseach wants to be remembered in rural Ireland as the trickle-down Taoiseach I urge him to make major investment west and north-west of the Shannon. A rising tide does not lift all boats,” she said.

An Oireachtas committee with an eight-month mandate to consider the Manning report on Seanad reform is to be set up, Mr Varadkar told senators.

The 2015 report recommendations included the extension of the vote to all Irish citizens, including emigrants and residents of Northern Ireland, in Seanad elections.

“I want to give reform a chance and I want to see what we can do to implement, on a phased basis, the Manning recommendations,’’ said Mr Varadkar.

The report also recommended that 30 of the 60-member Seanad should, in future, be elected by electoral suffrage, with all holders of Irish passports entitled to vote.

A further 13 senators would be elected by members of the incoming Dáil and county councillors, while six would be elected by third-level graduates.

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