Seanad row as FF Senators claim Government abandoned rural Ireland

FG Senator Eamonn Coghlan defends Coalition record

Fianna Fáil Senator Paschal Mooney (right): said rural people could see the impact of Government policies. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

Fianna Fáil Senator Paschal Mooney (right): said rural people could see the impact of Government policies. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Claims by Fianna Fáil Senators that the Government has abandoned rural Ireland led to sharp exchanges.

Fianna Fáil Senator Mark Daly said some 20 GP posts had remained vacant for more than three years, with the Irish Medical Organisation claiming 20 per cent of posts would be vacant within five years, “The Government has no plans to fill those posts.’’

Fianna Fáil Senator Paschal Mooney agreed. “The people who live in rural Ireland – I happen to live in Leitrim but this is mirrored throughout the country – can see at first hand the impact Government policies have had, including the closure of Garda stations and the threat to post offices.’’

He said the Department of Transport had produced a “damning report’’ on the lack of funding for the maintenance of the road network.

People like himself could remember the men who used to be out on the roads with a shovel. “What they were doing, until the service was withdrawn as a result of a lack of government investment, was clearing drains and gullies on roadways to ensure the surfaces were maintained.’’

Fine Gael Senator Eamonn Coghlan said Fianna Fáil in power had closed more Garda stations and more post offices than the current Government.

Fianna Fáil Senator Jim Walsh asked: “Would the Senator agree the Government accelerated it?’’

Mr Coghlan said employment had increased and unemployment had come down to below 9 per cent.

“What about emigration?’’ asked Mr Mooney.

Mr Coghlan said recent statistics showed rural Ireland stood up as much as urban Ireland in terms of job-creation, adding the 2012 Action Plan for Jobs created 60 per cent more jobs in rural Ireland. “It is all about keeping the recovery going.’’

Mr Mooney said he hoped Mr Coghlan sent out that story to rural Ireland. “The Senator is losing votes by the second.’’

Fianna Fáil Senator Brian O Domhnaill said Mr Coghlan lived in the “suburban reality’’ of Dublin. “It is not the same in Donegal or in the west.’’