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Leaders' Questions (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 947 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] The credit unions are regulated by the Central Bank. Two reports on credit unions were produced. The Government has implemented them and is fully supportive of the credit unions all over the country. It is not true for the Deputy to say that the Government has no interest in rural Ireland - far from it. In fact, many of the major policies of this Government are focused directly on giving opportunity and incentive to rural Ireland, not least the recent announcement by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment regarding the roll-out of national broadband. The review of the capital programme for the next number of years, which will provide opportunities for infrastructure throughout all parts of the country, including the Deputy's area, is under way. As a result, I do not accept at all his suggestion that the Government has reneged or is reneging on its commitment to rural Ireland. Every single regional sector has shown a growth in employment.

In respect of the Deputy's opening remarks about the way people do their business now, he should appreciate - as I am sure he does - that €14,000, I think, is now spent online every minute by people doing their business. The way people do their business has changed and it will not go back to the way it was. I cannot speak for Ulster Bank, but we do support the credit unions and the opportunity to provide basic banking facilities in post offices and to give them whatever services can be given. Post offices will not survive unless they are used by people. They cannot be locked away if everything is dealt with online. If they are social centres, which they are, and very important for communication, they must have a range of services that people will use and want to use because that is the lifeblood of business as well.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle Regarding the rural action plan, there is much plan and no action. Three months after its announcement, we face the possible closure of 265 post offices, reduced bus services and the scuppering of the national broadband plan by the Taoiseach's Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. How does this reflect on the Government's action plan? It shows that no action is taking place. People cannot use post offices if the latter cannot provide services. That is the bottom line. Two years on from publication, the Kerr report has not been implemented. All the Government does is open up more consultations. Nothing actually happens, and that is the problem. The Government needs to take action. I have met the Registrar of Credit Unions. The Registry of Credit Unions gives the perception of being helpful but it does nothing except place obstacles in the paths of the credit unions. The Taoiseach's Government can change that policy and engage with and direct the registrar to be a facilitator of the credit unions providing services, not a blockage in their path. The Government can take action but, unfortunately, is not doing so. It can take action to strengthen the post office network and the credit unions and allow them to facilitate and help people and business in rural areas but it is too slow in dragging out the roll-out of these plans.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I thought the Deputy might take the opportunity to say that people with the challenge of cystic fibrosis in rural Ireland are very encouraged today by the decision made by the Minister, the Department of Health and the HSE in respect of Orkambi and Kalydeco.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle That is for another day-----

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny They live in rural Ireland as well.

  The Deputy mentioned Cockhill Bridge in Inishowen, which is now in receipt of several million euro as a consequence of interest in rural Ireland. The specific actions and the programme for Government commitments regarding post offices include encouraging social welfare payments at post offices, and the Minister has confirmed that tender. The point is-----

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle Why did the Government take them away?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----how many of all the social welfare recipients in Donegal want their payments paid into banks as distinct from post offices? If we are serious-----

(Interruptions).

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny -----about our post offices, people must use them.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher I thank the Taoiseach. His time has expired.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny They have that right and that choice. We support the roll-out of the pilot scheme presented at Cabinet by the Minister of State, Deputy Ring, and adopted by Government for four hub post offices to be determined as a pilot scheme.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher The Taoiseach will have to avail of another opportunity.


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