THERE are approximately 18 flights daily between Cork Airport and the UK and any disruption to the single aviation market would greatly impede that, Fianna Fáil Deputy Margaret Murphy O’Mahony told the Dáil.
‘Those flights are imperative to the continued rise in tourism numbers, especially in West Cork,’ she said. ‘Moreover, if we are to expect multinationals to locate and invest in rural areas, we must be mindful of the fact that adequate facilities are essential. In that regard, extra resources for State agencies such as Fáilte Ireland, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland are essential,’ she said.
‘In the context of small and medium enterprises, I refer to a Department of Finance report published in October 2016 which indicates that regionally-based SMEs are most likely to suffer a negative impact following a less than favourable Brexit deal for Ireland.’
All of the above sectors, together with many other sectors in the Border area, will be negatively affected in the absence of a properly negotiated agreement, she said. ‘I represent Cork South West, which is one of the furthest constituencies from the border and I want the Minister to understand how important proper negotiations are for all of us.’
Meanwhile, a call for the reopening of the casualty department at Bantry General Hospital on a 24/7 basis was made in the Dáil by Cork South West Independent Deputy Michael Collins.
He told the House that a large percentage of our rural population does not live in towns or villages. People are dispersed in townlands, which means they have to travel long distances to the nearest hospitals.
‘This is particularly evident in West Cork where Bantry General Hospital, the only remote rural hospital in Ireland, serves a population of 82,000, many of whom live on the three remote peninsulas and islands along the Cork coastline,’ he said. ‘In July 2013, as part of the reconfiguration of acute hospital services in Cork and Kerry, the casualty department of Bantry was closed between 8pm and 8am. As a result, casualty patients have to travel long journeys of sometimes up to three hours by ambulance to CUH. We are all aware of the overcrowding problem which continues to get worse in CUH.’
Deputy Collins proposed that a new Rural Equality Bill, brought forward by Sinn Féin, would encourage the Department of Health to review the reconfiguration plan and, perhaps, make suitable adjustments which mean the reopening of the casualty department at Bantry.
‘The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas, CEDRA, report of April 2014 recommends a series of actions by Government departments to support the long-term sustainable development of rural Ireland,’ he said. ‘Along with the Action Plan for Rural Development, the report could form the blueprint for realising the potential of resources of our rural communities.’
Deputy Collins said the Rural Equality Bill attempts to ensure that the laws passed give people in rural areas equal access to everything. ‘First and foremost, a robust roads budget must be put in place to ensure there is a proper road network, including an annual repairs and maintenance programme,’ he said. ‘Effective mobile phone coverage throughout all rural areas is a matter that must be addressed. Nationally, high-speed broadband must be rolled out as a matter of priority if we are to bridge the blatant inequalities that exist between urban and rural Ireland. It would provide a level playing field.’