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Council divided amid debate on long-awaited broadband plan

The National Broadband Plan was tentatively welcomed in Cork County Hall following an intense debate among councillors.

Fine Gael councillor John Paul O’Shea brought a motion to the council welcoming the adoption of the Government plan to roll out high-speed broadband to all parts of the country.

Fianna Fáil councillor Seamus McGrath labelled the motion as “very brave” to be taking credit for what he described as a “calamity”.

“It is years behind schedule and no doubt there will be many hiccups along the way. This broadband plan is a fiasco and it is very brave to be taking credit for it. The failures of today have to be acknowledged and accounted for and that is what we as a party are going to push for.”

Mr O’Shea said it was important to support the signing of the contract and the essential facilities it will bring. “Lots of people will benefit from this rollout. People are totally dependent on this plan becoming a reality.”

Green Party councillor Liam Quaide welcomed the plans to extend high-speed broadband. “For too long people and businesses in rural Ireland have been left behind by poor internet access. I think we must also, however, acknowledge the exorbitant cost of the scheme and the serious impact that this escalating cost will have on other capital projects.

“I think we should also express regret as a council that the broadband network will not be publicly owned after such a substantial investment by the Irish taxpayer, and after a recent Dáil motion calling for public ownership that the government has ignored.”

Fianna Fáil councillor Bernard Moynihan welcomed the project, but said he is contacted regularly by people offered opportunities to work from home but are not able to because of broadband.

“There is a huge amount of work to be done to give the areas that I represent the same opportunities as the main towns. We have a huge problem in maintaining and fighting for rural Ireland and I would say this Government is the worse for looking after rural Ireland. They are disseminating rural communities,” he said.

Fine Gael councillor Marie O’Sullivan said the project was vital in that many multinational companies now offer employees the option to work from home, which required high-speed broadband.

This was not the sentiment of all council members, with Fianna Fáil councillor Gearóid Murphy saying on the record that welcoming it is the last thing the council should be doing. “It is costing €3bn,” he said.

“I acknowledge the demand for broadband in rural areas, but the scheme is not without controversy in relation to cost, etc. I wonder what the privatisation will eventually cost the taxpayer?”

Fianna Fáil councillor James O’Connor chimed in to restate three things: “The State won’t own it, it will take three times longer than originally planned and it will cost six times as much, welcome that.

Fianna Fáil councillor Frank O’Flynn said while broadband was welcome, he questioned the timeline and asked why it was taking so long.

“Third world countries have broadband and why is it taking so long? Have we got a timeframe? When is it going to start? And when is it going to finish?

“We are fed up of announcements, we want action and we want it now.”

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