New thinking needed on rural Ireland


New and imaginative ideas on the provision of services in rural Ireland are needed, according to East Galway T.D. Paul Connaughton, who this week said that greater co-operation between Credit Unions and An Post can renew banking and postal services in rural Ireland and has the potential to provide a new hub at the centre of rural communities.
‘I strongly believe that an array of important services need to be retained in rural Ireland, services which are currently under threat and a complete re-think is necessary on the way that important services are provided in rural areas.
‘Banking services are key to the economic development of any area and the ongoing withdrawal of banking services across towns, both big and small, in rural Ireland is a real worry. The large banks have shown no loyalty to their customers or to the areas from which they derive much of their businesses. Increasingly, the large banks are failing their rural customers and many now expect their customers to drive a round trip of thirty or forty miles to do their banking business.
‘Similarly, rural post offices are increasingly under threat. As postmasters or post mistresses retire, the service they provide is often discontinued, leaving large swathes of rural Ireland without a proper postal services. Concerns have also been expressed in relation to rural policing and community welfare services.
‘Recently, I sought the creation of a new cabinet post to oversee rural development and in particular the implementation of the CEDRA report. Increasingly, I have come to believe that Credit Unions can be a cornerstone in the economic development of rural Ireland, but only if the cumbersome regulations that they operate under are removed.
I believe that Credit Unions can, if properly equipped, provide proper banking services to the people of rural Ireland. By working with An Post, they can also ensure that postal services are maintained in rural areas and in many instances could also provide facilities which would provide a point of contact between Gardaí and Community Welfare Officers and the local community.
‘This is an issue that I have raised with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and senior Ministers in the Government and I will continue to push for the implementation of new and innovative ideas to ensure that rural dwellers in Ireland are given equal economic, social, education and health services. A huge shift in the mindset at central level is needed to effect the changes that rural Ireland needs and I believe that it is only by placing the remit for rural development in the hands of one energetic and forward-thinking Minister that this can be achieved.’