Thursday 20 July 2017

Enda Kenny promises to slash taxes for rural publicans and high-speed broadband for pubs in Independents pitch

Taoiseach Enda Kenny
Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Philip Ryan and Niall O'Connor

FINE Gael leader Enda Kenny has promised to slash taxes for rural publicans and ensure there is high-speed broadband in every bar in the country as part of his effort to convince Independents to support him as Taoiseach.

Mr Kenny has also pledged not to close any small schools in rural communities without the permission of parents if Independents and smaller parties vote for him to remain leader of the country, Independent.ie can reveal.

In Fine Gael’s ‘discussion paper on jobs and rural development’ which was presented to politicians considering supporting Mr Kenny today, there is a commitment to bring high-speed broadband to every home and business within five years.

There are also pledges to improve the rural bus network, provide more grants for regional arts and culture centres and increase spending on mental health.

The meeting was attended by Mr Kenny and his negotiation team who are seeking to win the support of the Independent Alliance, the so called Rural Five, the Green party, the Healy-Rae brothers and Katherine Zappone.

In the ‘public houses’ section of the Fine Gael document, which has been obtained by Independent.ie, Fine Gael recognises the “the economic and social role” the local pub plays in “sustaining rural communities”.

“We will support pubs to diversify their range of services and products. As part of this we will endeavour to deliver access to high quality, high speed broadband to every pub in the country by 2020 as part of the National Broadband Plan,” it states.

“We will also remove the rate of duty for publicans’ licences for premises with an annual turnover of less than €190,500,” it adds.

Currently publicans earning over €190,500 pay €250 duty to Revenue.

The document also promises an extra €500m in State investment to accelerate export led jobs growth in rural communities

This will include €300m in capital funding designated to Enterprise Ireland which will be used to support start-ups and small business.

While an additional €200m will be given to Industry Development Authority (IDA) for building infrastructure in regional towns which will attract multinational investment.

A further €100m will be invested in the Wild Atlantic Way and Greenway.

The Fine Gael document also proposes the development a “new Atlantic Economic Corridor” which will “balance” the levels of national development in rural areas with those in urban communities.

Mr Kenny’s party will also commit to “town and village renewal” which will “improve the living and working conditions” of rural communities.

There are also pledges Post Offices and Credit Unions.

The meeting was also presented with a series of proposals on mental health, an issue several Independents say has been neglected by successive governments.

The proposals include the extension of counselling services to people on low income and the extension of free mental health services for young people.

Fine Gael also plans to provide additional resources for psychiatry services and in the area of perinatal mental health.

The document states that "one in four of us will develop a problem with our mental health at some stage in our lives".

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