Micheál Martin: is he stumbling towards oblivion?

Micheál Martin these days has all the signs of a political dead man walking.  His limp conclusion to that Claire Byrne Show was viewed with weary resignation by more than just Pat McArt and me.  But if he could pull off one big life-changing coup, who knows? Fianna Fáil itself came back from the near-dead – why not Micheál?

An article in today’s Irish Times suggests at least the possibility of resuscitation.

“Guaranteeing superfast broadband and providing grants and tax breaks for people who want to live in small towns and villages are among the main planks of the Government’s plan to reverse generations of depopulation and decline in rural Ireland.”

,It’s a nifty idea. Dublin is bloated to wheezing obesity; so give people a new life where they don’t have to endure the daily commute horror, houses are half-price, people know each other, the surrounding countryside is green and appealing.  Tens of thousands now work from home and firms have declared their support for it post-Covid (less expense on office space), and the government is thinking of weighing in with financial incentives. Could Ireland be on the brink of a social transformation once Covid-19 is finally booted out of our lives?

Don’t bet on it. People living in Dublin love the country, but setting up house there is another matter entirely. They’d have to take their children out of their schools and away from their friends, they’d have to leave behind relatives and the social network they’ve built up over a lifetime, they’d have to accept a life sentence in what many of them would see as culchieland. Remember when the Dublin government tried shifting departments out of Dublin? Hundreds of civil servants howled their protest.

I sincerely hope I’m wrong. It would be wonderful to see small towns and villages, now dying, revived and rejuvenated. It would be great to see an end to bumper-to-bumper purgatory every morning and evening. It would be great to see Dublin return to its civilized, elegant self as expensive overcrowding and ghastly housing developments are no longer required.

“The Government’s vision is for a rural Ireland which is integral to our national economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing and development,” Micheál Martin has declared.

There are just two things that make it unlikely the dream will be realised.

“Asked why there were no costs attached to the plan, Minister for Rural Development Heather Humphreys said it was an overarching strategy that was setting out opportunities.”  In other words, we don’t know how much it’d cost and we’ve no plans to find out.

“Asked when the 400 broadband hubs and co-working spaces would be delivered, she said no specific dates had been established as yet.” In other words, we don’t know when.

Great plan: no costs worked out, no timetable for implementation.

Like I said, Micheál Martin is a dead man walking.

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