Addressing island challenges can help all rural communities – Naughten

In Blog, Infrastructure by Denis Naughten

I’m firmly of the view that innovative delivery of water, electricity and broadband infrastructure to our islands can be used as a template for other isolated communities right throughout our country, benefiting all our citizens, regardless of whether the reside on our mainland or on our islands.

 

I am pleased today to commence our discussion of a priority item on our Committee’s Work Programme, which is our consideration of the proposed National Action Plan on the Development for the Islands from the Department of Community and Rural Development.

 

The coastal islands and communities are a crucial part of our history and heritage. Our Committee wants to hear the voice of Islanders and get their opinion on what is needed to stop population decline, reduce that downward trend, and build & sustain vibrant communities.

 

Key issues that will be discussed include vital transport and social infrastructure needed by the islands including education, childcare, transport, housing, and broadband and key supports needed for industries like tourism, fishing, small business, and farming.

 

I am very conscious that the publication of this Action Plan is long overdue and while the Covid pandemic has delayed its publication, it also now provides us with a very new dynamic on how we can support island communities and stimulate job creation.

 

Key to this are three very basic pieces of infrastructure, water, electricity and broadband.

 

As Minister for Energy, I insisted that Ireland would along with the European Commission and 13 other member states, sign up to the Clean Energy for EU Islands initiative which I believe can not only provide reliable & sustainable electricity for our off shore islands, but can if managed properly, also provide seed capital for a new wave of community enterprise.

 

In terms of broadband, while more technically challenging, this Governments welcome commitment, to fast-tracking the delivery of the project, must mean a step change in timelines for our islands.

 

I’m firmly of the view that innovative delivery of water, electricity and broadband infrastructure to our islands can be used as a template for other isolated communities right throughout our country, benefiting all our citizens, regardless of whether the reside on our mainland or on our islands.

 

Therefore, this crucial piece of work on the Action Plan should be expediated, and we must, as a Committee, use this short time to have an impactful input; to ensure that our Island populations are catered for, as necessary, and, to meet their needs and requirements just like everyone else on the mainland.