Government formation: 'Rural Uber' and new bus laybys agreed by parties

As the final days of government formation talks are approaching, issues around rural Ireland were back to the negotiating table.
Government formation: 'Rural Uber' and new bus laybys agreed by parties

Rural Uber and new bus laybys at country roadsides were agreed on by all three parties in Thursday's negotiations.

The talks, which concentrated on rural development for over two hours, saw Green TD and rural affairs spokesman Malcolm Noonan and councillor Roisin Garvey join the Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael negotiators to discuss "how to make life easier for people in rural Ireland," according to one TD.

There was "broad agreement" on a number of topics including a ride-sharing initiative like Uber which would see residents offer and accept lifts from neighbours into local towns in a "hackney-like service", and a new system of allowing buses to pull into specially allocated laybys to drop people off nearer their homes, making public transport more accessible in especially isolated areas.

All parties were in agreement that more should be done to protect community post offices, with the Green Party suggesting their role be expanded to ensure their longevity, suggestions were a tourist information point or, space allowing, a community centre or local community hub.

Rural tourism was also discussed, and it was agreed that tourist hot spots should promote the local area, with issues like using only locally sourced produce in coffee and gift shops and performance indicators being implemented to ensure the destination is profitable to the local economy as well as it's own revenue generation. Sustainability in the tourism sector was discussed at length, with the three in agreement that in order for the businesses to be profitable long term, the local community would have to be involved and see tangible benefits.

Many of the suggestions appeared to be low cost, concentrating more on utilizing current funding to ensure maximum return for the local communities.

It's understood that there was enthusiasm for local innovation hubs, which would provide high-speed broadband for people to work from home, and would also tackle rural isolation as well as congestion.

There was a long discussion on the number of derelict buildings in rural towns and villages and all three parties agreed that an incentive programme would have to be launched in order to encourage people to buy and redevelop these properties for use.

The meeting which was "very positive", according to another source, and said "although nothing is set in stone" as they "didn't get into the nitty-gritty", due to lack of time, papers will now be drawn up and sent back to respective party reference groups for approval.

It’s understood these policy papers will be presented to a range of regional independent TDs who are due to be brought into government formation talks next week, many of whom have advocated for “balanced regional development” concentrating on rural and farming areas.

The three negotiating parties have often been framed as natural enemies on the issue. Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil’s traditional rural bases and their representing TDs have repeated that they will “not stand for the destruction of rural Ireland,” according to one TD yesterday on Thursday.

However, it's understood that all three parties came to the table with similar ideas, which two sources relayed as "common sense proposals from people who actually live in rural Ireland", however, did not have enough time to discuss pressing measures like rural isolation, Traveler rights or mental health, which they had planned to do.

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