Podcast: Escaping the Leinster House bubble

Three local politicians discuss issues in Sallins with transport problems of particular concern

In the space of 10 years, the population of Sallins, Co Kildare, has increased an astonishing 10-fold from 500 to 5,000. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

One of the constant criticisms political reporters hear is that all they hear are the views that are aired "inside the bubble" of Leinster House and, ergo, are disconnected from the views of ordinary people throughout Ireland.

In a response to this, we in The Irish Times political podcast, Inside Politics, tentatively dipped our toes in the water to go out and talk to real people (and their politicians) in their home place to talk about the issues that affect them.

A little nervous about leaving our rarefied environment, we ventured outside the bubble but not quite outside the Pale. We arrived in the picturesque Sallins in Co Kildare, nestling on the banks of the Grand Canal.

Sallins is not your typical country village. While we hear lots of stories about rural decline, it has been quite the opposite in Sallins. In the space of 10 years, its population has increased an astonishing 10-fold from 500 to 5,000. So its problems are associated with success.

READ MORE

The town has been a transport hub for generations. It is on the canal. An intercity rail-track passes through the town. And it is close to the M7 and essentially a satellite of Naas. Largely it has become a commuter town.

This week, water charges and the ongoing controversy in policing services dominated political discussion.

On the radar

But in Sallins, these issues, while noted, were not really on the radar. The big issues down here relate to the traffic that clogs up Sallins from dawn to dusk. There is a bypass planned but it cannot happen soon enough for residents.

Other issues relate to the population boom. Schools, services and sports facilities have lagged behind. There is no playground yet, despite there being hundreds of young children in the area. Broadband coverage (really important for local services) is patchy. Housing (or the lack of it) is another huge issue.

We spoke to three local politicians, Catherine Murphy (Social Democrats), James Lawless (Fianna Fáil) and Cllr Fintan Brett (Fine Gael) as well as to residents.

There was one very good example of a policy forged in Leinster House being practically implemented in rural Ireland. That was Brian Cowen’s tax break for micro-brewery that helped kick-start a new industry –the latest microbrewery in a gastro pub called Lock 13 has just opened.