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High quality broadband for all parts of rural Ireland a right

Fianna Fáil’s Councillor, John Paul Feeley has called for urgent action on the role-out of high quality broadband in all parts of the country.

“The Government’s ultimate aim should be to get fibre optic cables into every home in towns, cities and villages. If every house can have electricity, why can’t they be served by a high speed broadband service?

“People in rural Ireland are being treated as second class citizens. I want the Communications Minister to intervene and cut through European bureaucracy to ensure that people the length and breadth of Ireland get the services they deserve. Funding can be allocated to upgrade of the network through the Rural Development Programme

“It’s vitally important that people living in isolated areas have proper access to high speed broadband so that they can keep in touch with family and friends in an ever increasing technology based. Across the region people trying to do the basic interaction with Government Departments, banks and other agencies as well as staying in touch with friends and family around the world depends on high quality broadband. We presently have a hotch-potch service that in many parts is unreliable. Urgent action is needed so that people are not left behind.’

No immediate progress on Shannon Navigation at Dowra

Following a meeting with Dawn Livingstone Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland and her senior official , Fianna Fáil Councillor, John Paul Feeley has expressed his disappointment that the proposal to extend the Shannon Navigation north of Lough Allen towards Dowra will not progress until there is further funding provided by the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation, Dr. Leo Vardkar TD.

The meeting, arranged on foot of a motion raised at Cavan County Council by Cllr. Feeley was also attended by Ger Finn, Deputy County Manager.

Amongst those in attendance on behalf of Waterways Ireland were Nigel Russell, Director of Technical Services, Dr. Paula Treacy, Senior Environmental Officer. The Northern Regional Manager and the Director of Civil Engineering was also present.

Setting out the history of the project which was initially submitted to Leitrim County Council for planning n 2007 which was subsequently granted but overturned on appeal to An Bord Pleanala. Waterways Ireland confirmed that the work done by Leitrim County Council to improve road access to the site and amendment of the Leitrim County Development Plan had addressed some of the grounds for refusal. They further confirmed that they had commissioned a range of studies into the ecology, biology, archaeology and geology of the site which would address the remaining concerns and provide the basis for a further application for planning if funding were to become available.

‘Firstly, the blocking of the initial application by a small number of objectors prevented a project proceeding that would have made a significant overall contribution to the Lough Allen catchment and to the village of Dowra. However we have to now move on. We had a productive and frank meeting wherein I set out the reasons why I and the local community believe this is a vital project for the future of the area and can be a spur to tourism and economic development and link the Shannon Navigation to the first village on the River and to the hugely significant Cavan Burren and the UNESCO Geopark.

Councillor Feeley noted that the initial justification for the proposal remained in that Lough Allen lacked a destination to entice boats from Acres Lake to make the journey through the three locks to Lough Allen and the safety issues also remained.

‘Officials from Waterways Ireland accept that the justification for the extension remains. They set out that the project would also cost in the region of € 1.5 to € 1.8 million with a significant cost in terms of bringing the proposal back to planning. In addition they outlined significant ongoing maintenance costs. The CEO noted that she had little or no capital funding available to her and that her operational budget had been cut by about 30% in recent years. I accept the realities in which we all operate but emphasised that this was a project that must be kept on the Agenda. It remains on the Waterways Ireland Capital Plan but now requires Ministerial Directive and I call on Minister Vardkar to act.’

Waterways Ireland confirmed that they are anxious to increase numbers on Lough Allen and are hoping to develop canoe routes around the lake and also are seeking options to develop a slipway on the northern part of the lake.

‘The constructive proposal from Waterways Ireland will entice more users on to the lake which will, in turn improve the business case for the extension of the Navigation to Dowra. It will also assist local canoe hire businesses. I have already spoken to Cllr. Mary Bohan in terms of seeking Leitrim County Council assistance in the development of a slipway on the northern part of the lake to boost casual use of Lough Allen by boat-users, something that Waterways Ireland see as also improving the business case for my proposal.’

Concluding, Councillor Feeley emphasised that he would keep the issue very much on the agenda into the future.

He also took the opportunity, together with the Deputy County Manager to raise the proposals to re-open the Ulster Canal and extend the Erne Navigation into Lough Oughter.

Cavan County Council adopt a ‘Pot-Hole’ Roads Programme

Fianna Fáil Councillor, John Paul Feeley has criticised the roads programme adopted for 2014 by Cavan County Council. Referring to the failure of Government to provide proper funding for the maintenance and improvement of local and regional roads and to provide specific funding for the Local Improvement Scheme, the West Cavan Councillor further criticised the decision of the Fine Gael Councillors to take a further € 260,000 from our Roads Budget to provide a limited Local Improvement Scheme.

‘The reality is that since 2008 the level of funding from Central Government for local and regional roads has fallen by about 47%. The Council’s own contribution has fallen by about 40% in the same period. This Government has abolished specific grants and restoration grants. The advice from our Engineers is that we have about half of the money we need to maintain the existing roads network. Everyone in the County will recognise that the there is a clear and obvious deterioration in our road surfaces. That is the background to the Roads Programme for 2014.’

Councillor Feeley complemented the Council Executive and the local engineers  and roads staff for their ongoing efforts. He stated that despite limited resources they continue to do good work and get value for money on behalf of the people of the county.

‘Good work will be done in County Cavan in 2014, the local area staff, the engineers and the Executive will make sure of that but we as Councillors, and in particular the Fine Gael Group have left them with less money to repair potholes, surface dress our roads, complete drainage, repair footpaths, maintain amenity areas and provide matching funding for Smarter Travel/Greenway Projects. That is the stark reality.’

Councillor Feeley noted the detailed discussion on the Local Improvement Scheme. He emphasised that he and all of his Fianna Fáil colleagues fully supported the Scheme and in so doing noted that the previous government provided almost € 400,000 in 2010 as a specific grant from central government but that the present Government has abolished the Scheme.

‘The LIS is a vital scheme, one that was always funded from central government. It is a disgrace and a shame that it has not being properly funded so that the almost 100 applicants in our own county can have their lanes done. We now have this gimmick of taking money from our public regional and local roads to fund minuscule number of lanes. It is a damning indictment of the Fine Gael Councillors that they and their Oireachtas Representatives have failed to secure funding from Government for the LIS, they say its important, let Minister Hogan and Varadkar and this Government put their money where their mouth is and fund it, rather than making a bad situation on our local and regional roads worse.’

Fine Gael have forced Cavan County Council to introduce a ‘pro-pothole’ roads programme in 2014 and that is a sad situation concluded Feeley.

Cavan County Council issue planning approval for development at Blacklion Enterprise Centre

Cavan County Council issue planning approval for development at Blacklion Enterprise Centre

John Paul Feeley has welcomed the issue of planning approval to Cavan County Enterprise Board to complete substantial work at Blacklion Enterprise Centre.  The works will in early course proceed to tender with a view to completion by the middle of 2014.

‘Every opportunity to stimulate economic activity in the region must be welcomed. Cavan County Enterprise Board under the direction of Vincent Reynolds as CEO has been to the fore in taking every opportunity for funding from whatever source to have the infrastructure in place to facilitate development. This project is yet another example and I am delighted to see the plans go through planning and hope that it will proceed to construction in the near future.’

The project known as  ‘Blacklion Rural Business Park’ is  one of 26 projects in counties Cavan, Fermanagh and Leitrim being developed under the Harnessing Natural Resources Project, funded under the Rural Development Theme of the Interreg 4A Programme managed by the EU Special Programmes Body.

The project involves the provision of infrastructure necessary to establish a small cross border rural business park incorporating six fully serviced sites at Blacklion, to include provision of access road, water mains, sewerage facilities, electricity services (to include public lighting), telecoms/ broadband. The project will also involve the removal of soil and other material to create stable foundations. It is estimated that the total investment under the project will be in the region of €200,000.

‘The project is just one of a number that has brought significant improvement to the region, in all of the counties involved projects are being implemented that should stimulate job creation in the long-term and result in further investments. As a member of the Cavan CEB, I know the work that Vincent Reynolds and Project Manager, Margaret McEvoy have put into this project with the full support of Jack Keyes, County Manager, as Chairman of the CEB and the other Board Members.’

The objective is to provide fully serviced sites to facilitate the establishment of small businesses, which will be marketed to entrepreneurs and promoters of existing enterprises in the Cavan/Fermanagh region. The ultimate aim is to support enterprise and job creation, through the utilisation of an existing valuable resource in an attractive village setting, situated along a national primary route.

Cavan County Enterprise Board is the lead partner for the project, with other partners being Cavan , Fermanagh and Leitrim Councils, Coillte Teoranta, Cavan County Enterprise Fund, Inland Fisheries Ireland, and Swanlinbar Development Association.

Concluding, Councillor Feeley welcomed the close cooperation between the various state agencies involved, north and south in attracting this funding the region.