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'Remote working can benefit rural areas'

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With rural businesses finding the implications of the Covid-19 crisis, it's imperative the Government doesn't leave out rural Ireland, says Cllr Paul Taylor.

He said he is calling on the Government to support remote working and not to miss an opportunity to help rebuild rural Ireland.

The Cathaoirleach of the Ballymote-Tubbercurry area says now is the time to look into and set up supports to enable people to work from home and remain in their rural communities, such as South Sligo.

A motion he tabled with the Council last year has particular significance now in a time that remote working has become the norm due to the coronavirus crisis, he said.

Cllr Taylor explained that he proposed a motion to Sligo County Council last year calling on it to create a Government Remote Working office in Tubbercurry to enable people from South Sligo working elsewhere around the country to work from the town remotely.

"We all know many of our Departments are based many miles from here and spread all over the country, many of these offices have people from South Sligo working there, who would love to return home to their families but due to their work commitments are unable to.

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"Thus people working in offices such as Ballina and even as far away as Dublin could work in the office in South Sligo while maintaining their roles with their various Departments and allowing the community of South Sligo to continue to flourish and grow."

He said: "At the time the motion was very well supported and work has continued to happen to try and make this achievable, however I believe we now have an opportunity to develop this further and not just support Public Sector staff, we now have an opportunity to support Public and Private sector staff.

"I am calling on the Government as they work to create plans to help us get back up off our feet, to help us recover from what has without doubt been one of the greatest crisis any of us have ever seen, to ensure their plans include supporting more people to work remotely and from home."

The Councillor added: "Covid-19 has without doubt caused the biggest crisis we have seen in out life time.

"While there are very few positives from Covid-19, especially for the families who have lost loved ones, may they rest in peace.

"However I believe there is a positive which needs to be highlighted and one which we have called upon for many years here in the Northwest to try and improve our areas, to bring people home.

"Covid-19 has brought many people home who had travelled prior to the restrictions and are now very successfully working from home, working in their jobs in Dublin, Galway, Castlebar, Ballina, London etc.

"They are every day getting up and going to work in their kitchens and home offices.

"While this is not without its challenges, working from home with children and family around is difficult.

"We do need to ensure there is support for remote workers and now is our opportunity to ensure our communities open back up.

"We need our schools, Early Years services, School Age services and other amenities to open but we want them to open in our communities.

"If we can encourage more people to work from home, as we have now proven that it can be done.

"The benefits of working from home are many, some have huge impacts such as better quality of life, time with our children, time with our parents, as people reduce travel to and from work, this helps with mental health and creates a happier population," Cllr Taylor added.

"By supporting remote workers we also are reducing Carbon Emission which supports the governments long term goals to reduce of C02 emissions.

"Remote working also supports our small shops and local economies.

"For many years, we have all watched as cars leave driveways here in the Northwest and head to bigger cities or airports on a Sunday night or Monday morning. As those cars leave so does the spending power, by supporting people to remote work they are staying in their own communities to work and shop."

Cllr Taylor said since the Covid-19 crisis began, he has spoken with several people who usually travel for work and they have all told him that working remotely is something they want to continue.

"But they do need some supports, broadband is usually the main difficulty, they need supports to support their own self-isolation, one constituent said they would be happy to only have to travel to the office one or two days a week, that since Covid-19 they have continued to work and have discovered they've become more productive.

"I appreciate remote working is not for everyone but we are creating hubs in the area, including further development in An Chroí in Tubbercurry, a new development hub in Gurteen and seeking funding to develop similar hubs in Ballymote and Enniscrone.

"We need to build on these hubs across the region as hot desking and smaller offices may also be an option for many people who may not be able or want to work from a home office but still want to work remote from their main office.

"Last Year An Chroí, South Sligo Smart Community And Grow Remote brought the Grow Remote Conference to Tubbercurry, who would have thought this was possible but it was and we now have a unique opportunity.

"We must ensure that we grasp this opportunity and rebuild or communities for the better.

"I urge our elected Government TDs to ensure this is a priority for people and together we can rebuild, but we must re build for the better," Cllr Taylor added.

The story of An Chroí began in 2015 situated in the location of the former Aurivo head office.

The centre is already home to several remote companies who have remote offices within the Centre.

In 2019 the Board partnered again with their long-term partners Sligo County Council to seek funding to turn An Chroí into a state-of-the-art digital hub, through Digiwest. The funding was successful.

Louise Kilbane Chairperson of An Chroí said: "This is a very exciting project for us and one which we hope will support businesses in the area but will also attract new businesses.

"Our hope is the centre will be able to support people to move home and continue in their current companies but also be part of their community here in South Sligo and Tubbercurry.

"Having partnered with Smart Community and Grow Remote last year, we saw how successful remote working can be and we fully support any initiatives which will help ensure remote working becomes more of a reality for more people," she added.


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