Brexit and broadband among the burning issues for rural readers
'We are making huge progress' - open eir managing director
Published 22/09/2016 | 02:30
Brexit has lead to a situation that is "worse than uncertain" for farmers, particularly those close to the border, Mairead McGuinness has warned.
Speaking during a special series of talks at the Irish Independent tent in Screggan, Co Offaly, the Midlands North-West MEP said the biggest challenge for Ireland is understanding the position of other EU member states ahead of negotiations.
"People in my constituency work in Northern Ireland, farmers trade with each other. If there is a hard negotiation and a tough outcome there will be difficulties, because it's impossible to say that we can hold on to the status quo today and see the UK leave," said Ms McGuinness.
She said the European parliament has a "good understanding" of the political and agricultural consequences of a hard border with Northern Ireland.
But she said Ireland "cannot seek a special deal" with the UK to maintain current relationships on work and trade.
She said the situation is "worse than uncertain" and criticised British Prime Minister Theresa May for not articulating that she wants a strong Europe.
"The noise from her Leave campaign within the Conservative party has gotten stronger and louder even this week. They want a hard leave because they believe they can ignore Europe and import from New Zealand, Australia, Brazil and that has consequences for this audience, this event and this country," she told host Dearbhail McDonald, INM Group Business Editor.
Rural internet was another hotly-debated issue during talks at our stand located at block two, row 10.
Carolan Lennon, open eir Managing Director, who also featured on the panel, contended that no other company has done more than Eir to provide access to high-speed broadband in Ireland.
"I admit that it's slow but we are making huge progress," she said.
Seamus Sherlock, Rural Development Chairman of the ICSA, warned that rural Ireland is "slowly dying" as delays over the rolling out of the Government's National Broadband Plan by 2021 continues to rankle with farmers living in "black-spots".
"Unfortunately many farming communities are still in the dark. The Government insist on farmers making all Single Farm Payment applications by 2018 but the truth is many of our members don't even have emails and we still have to contact them by letters and hard copy," he said.
"A lot of the money a farmer relies on depends on access to the internet," he said.
Darragh McCullough, Deputy Editor of the Farming Independent, described the lack of access to the internet on his Meath farm as "infuriating".
"We're still using dongles to get a signal and charges are crazy. This is all despite the fact that we're supposed to be an economy hard wired into the tech space. Imagine telling people to wait until 2021 for electricity," he said.
Technology Editor Adrian Weckler shared the view that broadband is essential to the sustainability of farming nationwide.
"The agri economy is losing out significantly. Recent studies have shown that one-in-four rural residents would consider moving to a town or city to have broadband," he said.