Wednesday 18 September 2019

Fionnán Sheahan: "'Rural Ireland' is not a subject of a David Attenborough anthropological documentary'

Rollout: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar canvasses Kells butcher Tony Grey with local candidate Peter Farrelly. The Taoiseach has promised to sign the contract for fibre before the Ploughing Championships. Photo: Gerry Mooney
Rollout: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar canvasses Kells butcher Tony Grey with local candidate Peter Farrelly. The Taoiseach has promised to sign the contract for fibre before the Ploughing Championships. Photo: Gerry Mooney

Fionnán Sheahan

Don't get on the middle carriage of the Dart during peak morning rush hour.

Go right up to the front. There's more chance of you being able to push your way on. It's not quite Japanese underground territory but it's getting there.

After Grand Canal Dock station, home to the tech capital of Europe, the train empties out and you can breathe again.

In the past 10 years, the growth of companies like Google and Facebook means the station has become one of the busiest commuter stops in the city, right up there with Tara Street, Pearse and Connolly stations.

The capital city is creaking with housing and transport systems unfit to cater for a growing, young population.

The high cost of rents and uncertainty of tenancies have become what property prices of the Celtic Tiger era were as a bar-stool talking point on the economy and society.

There's a discernible groan now when a tech company makes a jobs announcement.

It doesn't emanate from rural areas looking at Dublin with envy, but from capital commuters in dread at the prospect of yet more clamour for space, be it in accommodation or traffic.

Blame short memories but a complacency has kicked in around the dominance of the east coast.

Hence the rollout of broadband is as important to Dublin residents as it is to people living in rural areas. Levelling the playing pitch or even giving an advantage to areas Beyond the Pale will be vital.

The negative reaction to the plan to ensure the country becomes the best connected in Europe has been about knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing.

The alternative 'let them eat cake' proposal coming from the mandarins was to install broadband in community centres in parishes and let the locals come down to plug in.

The Dublin 4 mentality becomes a parody of itself at times.

And this attitude extends to the commentariat who opine on 'rural Ireland' as though providing the narrative to a David Attenborough anthropological documentary on lost tribes of the Amazon.

The infuriating prospect of having to listen to the chattering classes earnestly chin-rubbing on Marian Finucane on RTÉ Radio 1 is enough to drive you to go to church and encourage the priest to extend his sermon so the show will be over when you get home from Mass.

Within the political system, there's the same old narrative which accompanies most government projects: everyone is all in favour of a plan to roll out broadband, just not this plan, which is politically opportunistic.

Roll back 15 years and the decentralisation plan was greeted in the exact same way.

The Department of Finance plays its usual role of being the naysayers.

Of course, those who speak of unprecedented risks ignore the cost of the economy crash and the bank guarantee.

Making it as easy to work, rest and play from Belmullet as Blackrock is a gamechanger.

Irish Independent

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