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Bus links, GP surgeries and local schools must be protected in rural Ireland
If Ireland is to have vibrant local communities then Government must support the provision of services that are vital for small, struggling communities across rural Ireland.
Headlines from the past week revealed that:
- Over 90 bus services linking the Southeast, South and West to Dublin will be axed because they are unviable, according to Bus Éireann;
- GP surgeries face closure as deep cuts to medical card scheme allowances have stripped income from many rural practices, the Irish Medical Organisation warns;
- Small schools with one to three teachers cost the Government an extra €43m to run
The reaction of local organisations shows how important these services are for rural communities.
The National Transport Authority will meet with Bus Éireann to discuss the bus routes issue. Education Minister Jan O’Sullivan has reversed teacher cuts in small country schools and is rethinking the main proposals of her report, Value for Money and policy review of small schools. And, on a positive note, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Brendan Howlin announced an €818m investment in broadband, half of it provided by the EU, although his junior ministerial colleague, Ann Phelan, acknowledged that the roll-out process for high-speed broadband outside large urban areas will take time.
Social Justice Ireland’s own research and its involvement with local groups through the Public Participation Networks (PPNs) makes it clearly aware that to maintain viable communities in all parts of rural Ireland these communities must have access to social services, adequate income and meaningful work opportunities. It is clear that public transport, basic health services and primary education are essential services that should be protected at local level.
These are core policy objectives for Social Justice Ireland. For further details, see Socio Economic Review 2014.
Rural Ireland cannot survive without these services, and Government will ignore this fact at its peril.