The broadband scandal highlights once again the dire need for a strong, authentic independent political voice for rural Ireland. The treacherous policy of privatising Telecom has resulted in the fact that Eir is now owned by a French billionaire and that the Government is left with just one bidder to provide broadband for over half a million houses in the rural areas.
According to the Fianna Fáil TD Timmy Dooley, this is akin to a farmer going to the fair with a bullock and knowing that only one buyer awaits him.
Of course Timmy Dooley forgot to mention that the national sabotage of privatising Telecom was implemented by Fianna Fáil under the baleful influence of the Progressive Democrats and guided by the neo-liberal policies of the European Union.
Rural Ireland must fight back this time or remain forever silent.
By Rural Ireland I mean all the areas outside the cities, as outlined in the CEDRA Report, which was chaired by Pat Spillane.
The five cities have less than a third of the population of the Republic.
Rural Ireland fighting back does not mean an attack on the cities. Balanced sustainable countrywide development is in the interest of city-dwellers too. In order to get that we must wring concessions from a system which is unduly centred on Dublin city.
In fact our country is the most centralised state in all of Europe. Consequently our local government system is a joke and a fig leaf.
In April of last year Paddy McGuinness highlighted the problem we face when he announced he would not be seeking reappointment to the chair of the Western Development Commission after spending four years in the post. “I believe strongly that there is absolutely no commitment at either political or administrative level to balanced regional development, nor is there any worthwhile plan to address rural decline,” he said.
I can understand his frustration. I spent two terms as an independent on Galway County Council and three terms on the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta, as well as being a member of the Western Regional Authority and of the Border, Midland and Western Assembly. Early on I realised that most of our efforts were in vain. Indeed at one meeting of the Western Regional Authority I suggested that we all resign together to expose the whole charade.
Pessimists amongst us say that the power is in Dublin and that we can do nothing about it. Yes, but the balance of power could be in rural Ireland.
Without succumbing in any way to the politics of the Democratic Unionist Party, we should take a leaf from their book as regards tactics.
Imagine if we organised a Rural People’s Movement and got ten teachtaí Dála elected on a carefully crafted rural platform. The days of majority government in Ireland are gone. Our ten TDs could be the king-makers after the next election.
Is anyone is interested in this idea please contact me by e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.