IF Taoiseach Leo Varadkar is still convinced that the people of rural Ireland want, as he puts it, “to turn every town into a city and every village into town, and railways to everywhere,” he should stop being so condescending and get out more.
Out of his office. Out of Leinster House. Out of Dublin.
In fairness, he is already showing a willingness to do so. The Taoiseach and his cabinet are travelling to Sligo tomorrow to unveil the Government’s 25-year national development plan. Let us hope that the visit will be more than a ‘photo opportunity’ and that it will encourage him, and his cabinet, to experience the reality of life for those far-removed from Dublin and other major cities.
He might start by visiting the town of Killorglin, in south Kerry. His chauffeur-driven car could stop outside the modern and beautiful main square, just outside the library and close to the world headquarters of Fexco, an Irish-founded financial services company that employs 2,300 people on all four continents. More than 1,200 of those are based in Ireland.
Set up in 1981 by entrepreneur, Brian McCarthy, Fexco now has operations in the UK, Spain, Scandinavia, Malta, Australia, Dubai, the US, and New Zealand. It is one of the world’s leading, independent financial technology and customer contact providers.
He will hardly fail to be impressed by the hard work and vision that drove this success story, despite the unique challenges of being far beyond the Pale of Dublin.
As our extensive report and analysis today reveal, rural dwellers have suffered the closure of post offices, garda stations, and bank branches. Farm and fishing food producers have been forced to supplement their income with part-time employment, while their children move to Dublin or abroad to study or work.
It might be worth Varadkar’s while taking the scenic, southern coastal route and enjoy the delights of Skibbereen, in West Cork. If he finds Fexco impressive, he will be amazed at what he finds at the Ludgate Hub, in Skibbereen — a virtual Silicon Valley located in a 10,000 sq ft, converted bakery donated by local businessman, John Field. Its success is grounded on Ireland’s best broadband service, an essential tool for businesses throughout the country.
With a 1,000MB connection, the Ludgate Hub utilises the digital age for job-creation and innovation.
The Taoiseach and Government could also draw inspiration from the past, and the transforming nature of the rural electrification scheme, which, literally, brought power to the people. Constructed in 1929, Ireland’s network was the first, fully integrated national electricity service in the world. We now need a similar vision for the 21st century.
The people of rural Ireland aren’t looking for every village to become a town or every town to become a city. They merely want a reason for hope for themselves and their families — a helping hand, not a handout.
Many of our county towns are small, but that doesn’t mean they can’t think big.