SIR – I refer to a letter of mine that you published in The Southern Star (September 2018), namely, ‘The lights are being turned off all over rural Ireland .’
In consideration of Pat Spillane's appearance on the Late Late Show on Good Friday, April 19th, it occurred to me that the good word had been suddenly re-written, i.e. ‘the dead arose and appeared to many.’
The saintly Pat Spillane informed the good people who tune into the Late Late Show that his post as Ambassador for Rural Ireland had been terminated. Mr Spillane was allowed by RTE to go on a total rant, without being challenged with any single fact. Is this because he is a paid RTÉ pundit ?
There was no mention of the famous Action Plan for Rural Development launched by the government in January 2017, and was headed by the ambassador himself, Pat Spillane. This Action Plan contains five pillars of achievable actions which include support for the post office network, support for rural GPs, bringing high speed broadband to every premises in Ireland – yes, key deliverables, as stated in the plan!
Where has Pat Spillane, the Ambassador for Rural Ireland, been while these stated deliverables have been reneged on over the past two years? Where has he been while post offices have been closed down all over Rural Ireland and particularly in his native Kerry – yes he was a very silent Ambassador !
He suddenly appears on the Late Late Show criticising the Minister and the failed plans. Why at this time ? Because he has been removed from the gravy train!
Minister Michael Ring was quick out of the traps to defend himself and his department, publicly on Monday, April 21st, declaring that ‘Spillane has a high regard for himself.’
Furthermore, Minister Ring advises that Spillane received €30,000 in fees for the two years he worked as Rural Ireland Ambassador and was paid an additional €14,381 for expenses. He also received €27,000 in fees and expenses for his work with the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas – that's a total of €71,381.
It's no wonder that Spillane has suddenly awoken. The good days as Ambassador for Rural Ireland are over for this 'Lazarus'!
Spillane, by his own admission on the Late Late Show, is only now googling the various government reports and statements released over the past two years; with respect to Rural Ireland Development Plans. Suddenly, they are ‘gobbledegook and horse s**t.’
While Minister Ring and Pat Spillane have engaged in a public spat, rural Ireland continues to experience the dissolution of the banks in rural towns; a post office network continuing to be eroded; vanishing bus stops, population and GAA club decline, struggling rural schools, poor broadband and pub closures, among others.
As Spillane and Minister Ring have chosen to go to war in public, surely, the Public Accounts Committee need to immediately request clear and precise answers on behalf of the taxpayer. The questions and answers need to take place in a proper forum – not on the Late Late Show.
The taxpayers of Rural Ireland deserve clear-cut answers from these two ‘champions of Rural Ireland.’