Where to now for the National Broadband Plan (NBP), Ireland, and more importantly rural Ireland? With 74% of the country having a broadband service, there are 542,000 homes and businesses left without an adequate service. The present high-speed broadband plan was first announced by Fine Gael in their 2011 manifesto; three Ministers for Communications later, and a few dinners thrown in for good measure, progress remains slow. The decision is now in the hands of the Government, which now has sight of a report compiled by Peter Smith, on whether or not the NBP has been compromised. The findings of the report appear to indicate that the tendering process has not been compromised by the relationship which evolved between Minister Denis Naughten and David McCourt, a key figure in a US investment firm, and the only remaining consortium bidding for the NBP contract.
In 2015, the preferred bidders were reduced from five to three. The remaining bidders comprised of; 1. Eir, 2. Siro: ESB Networks-Vodafone, and 3. ENET: Granahan, John Laing Plc, and the Irish Infrastructure Fund, SSE (SSE pulled out of the consortium in July 2018). By July 2018, all but the remaining ENET consortium players had pulled out of the bidding process.
Having spent 275-million-euro so far, the Government claims they intend to see the NBP through. Despite initial estimates putting the total cost of the NBP at half-a-billion-euro, it is currently estimated that the plan could cost three-billion-euro to implement. The NBP may yet have a journey to run, so, rural businesses, farmers, workers, and families may have to continue to suffer because of an out of touch Government not keeping pace with the investment needed in an economy which is growing and changing by the day.
With the bank holiday still fresh in the mind, we look back at the highlights, the history, and memories of Strokestown’s new Halloween Harvest Festival.
On Saturday, the children picked their pumpkins and decorated them in the community hall. Over 300 pumpkins found new homes, all looking well, painted, and some pumpkins even ended up with hair. There was also some children’s theatre performed by the new local theatre group; Enchanted Croi Theatre.
When the theatre was over, the crowd moved down to Bawn Street, to do so they walked down along Church Street and did lots of trick-or-treating along the way, on the specially made sweet stalls made by some local volunteers. On Bawn Street, the Town Team had erected a new marquee to cater for the children. There were games, treats, and music by a local Irish music group. The whole crowd was entertained by the musicians on the festival stage trailer. As laughter rang out through-out the air from the marquee, the adults enjoyed a free cup of tea or coffee, and of course; barmbrack with a ring. It was a pity that all the fun and games were cut short by darkness on a cold autumn evening, but Sunday was yet to be enjoyed.
Sunday started frosty and cold but the gods provided a beautiful day, which made the golden straw glisten in the sunshine before it was bailed on the street, ready for threshing. As the marquee filled up with the youth again, the mobile tea room was busy. The Mid Roscommon Vintage Club showed off their beautiful old cars, tractors, and motorcycles. There was a through back to 1946, with a tin-smith showing his magic; making tin rose petals, ornaments, coal shuttles, and all kinds of wares from sheets of tin.
Everyone was being entertained by the various music acts on the music trailer with a fantastic performance from the Owen Kennedy Country Band. The boys were there with the 1946 Fordson Major powered by a six-cylinder Perkins engine, which was driving the old fashioned 1950’s threshing machine. As the three-man crew got her going, grown men stood in awe, and watched as the corn was fed through the machine. Watching the thresher operated on a pulley belt from the Major, the men compared their ages, and we discovered that those under the age of 42 years, had never seen the thresher move from farm to farm. So, those of us of a certain vintage loved to see it back in town and we hope the Harvest will be good again next year.
Every day, in all our lives, the cost of Insurance is spiralling out of control. There are three major problems in the system, as far as I can see. The number one problem I see is the government, number two is the greed driven by multinational insurance companies, and number three is certain swathes of the population gripped by injury (or not) compensation culture.
I’ll start with the government. Every government over the last thirty years have promised to take the insurance groups to heel but each time the industry is hauled in to account for the high cost of insurance, they put forward the extortionist costs of the legal system in Ireland, and the number and value of claims increasing.
Secondly, the insurance companies never open up the books to show the losses and profits each year, like some other service providers. So, please Mr. Varadkar, bring forward legislation to change what is happening to our 18 to 25-year old, first time drivers, who are being quoted between four and six-and-half thousand euros per year for insurance.
Third on my list are the 3,000 whiplash cases in Ireland in the first six months of 2018, with an average claim of twenty thousand euro. In the UK the cap payable for this injury is four thousand pounds. The question must be asked, if in one year we can reach almost six thousand claims, could they all possibly be real?
Solicitors and their ilk explain that they must accept claims as valid, because a claimant will arrive, make a statement, produce a medical certificate from a doctor, and be willing to wait one to five years for compensation while paying for their own recovery. As far as I can gather, there has only been one case of fraud in such a case over the last fourteen years, in which a conviction has been secured, so, maybe judges, barristers, and solicitors should throw the book of quantum in the fire before our pubs, hotels, community halls, street festivals, and parades have to be curtailed because of the cost of public liability renewals.