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Turning out the lights in rural Ireland again

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'A report for the Government on the future of post offices, aimed at stemming losses at An Post, recommends the closure of 80 post offices, mainly in rural areas' (stock photo)

'A report for the Government on the future of post offices, aimed at stemming losses at An Post, recommends the closure of 80 post offices, mainly in rural areas' (stock photo)

'A report for the Government on the future of post offices, aimed at stemming losses at An Post, recommends the closure of 80 post offices, mainly in rural areas' (stock photo)

Will the last person out of rural Ireland please turn out the lights?

That appears to be the attitude of the Government and institutions towards the future of the country outside the main urban areas around the east, south and west coast.

Every now and again, there is a well-meaning report produced which talks about the potential for the development of rural Ireland and proposes initiatives being undertaken to harness its assets.

Unfortunately, little of substance ever follows.

The world has shrunk and so too has our island. The motorway network means our main cities are under three hours apart and it is common practice for workers to commute long distances every day.

Those left behind in rural areas are doubtless wondering what the future holds.

Beyond the changes in the employment market, the removal of basic services makes living in rural areas increasingly less attractive.

The closure of rural Garda stations became a frequent occurrence during the downturn. The bus services are under threat due to the financial difficulties at Bus Éireann.

The latest blow is revealed in today's Irish Independent with plans for the large-scale closures of post offices and bank branches.

A report for the Government on the future of post offices, aimed at stemming losses at An Post, recommends the closure of 80 post offices, mainly in rural areas.

And Ulster Bank is planning to close up to 30 branches.

A clear statement from the Government on the policy of supports for rural Ireland is well beyond time.

Fitzgerald's entry would intensify FG competition

And what about the top job in the land?

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald told the Central Bank Women's Network yesterday: "My aim for the National Women's Strategy is to promote the theme of female leadership across a range of sectors."

Why not politics?

In the next two months, the top political job in the country will become available when Taoiseach Enda Kenny shuffles off into the sunset.

Hillary Clinton was the first woman to contest the presidency of the United States of America.

Britain currently has its second female Prime Minister in Theresa May. German Chancellor Angela Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office later this year.

In Northern Ireland, there was a female first minister for the first time in Arlene Foster (although it's unclear if she will return to this office).

On this side of the Border, we've had several women hold the office of Tánaiste - Mary Harney, Mary Coughlan, Joan Burton and now Ms Fitzgerald. And of course two female presidents in Mary Robinson and Mary McAleese.

Yet no woman has come near becoming Taoiseach.

With Simon Harris wisely dropping out of the race, Ms Fitzgerald is now tipped to make a run for the Fine Gael leadership and, therefore, the Taoiseach's position.

Neither Leo Varadkar nor Simon Coveney have it sewn up so Ms Fitzgerald's entry would intensify the competition.

Irish Independent