Move to provide taxi vouchers to rural pensioners resisted
Michael Ring has called for rural pensioners in isolated areas to receive free taxi transport as part of the free travel scheme available to pensioners of 66 years or over. The Minister for Social and Family Affairs, however, has said that there is not enough money available to extend the free travel to areas where there is no existing service. Michael Ring pressing the point asked the Minister if she accepted that we now have a different attitude to taxis with thousands of people starting to use taxis in the past 10 years. Minister Coughlan replied that when Deputy Ring was on 'this side' of the house he can find the money. "I will deliver" was his reply.
The exchange does have a certain ironic touch to it. On the one hand Michael Ring is on a continuous campaign to allow people to live out there on their own in isolated rural houses - the ribbon development or single house out in the middle of nowhere. And we have built 20,000 of these per year over the past few years. In 30 to 50 years time how will the new generation of pensioners get to town to collect their pensions? People are living longer and hopefully our longevity will extend even further as we shun smoking, reduce our fatty food intake and begin to take a bit more exercise. But what is the future for the 80 and 90 year-old folks living in the haciendas on the hills miles from anywhere? It is unlikely that there will be a postal service to the door. It is unlikely that they will have broadband communications. And even if they do they won't be able to order their groceries online because the Tescos and Aldis - or whatever multinational food stores are in town at that point - won't deliver. Can you imagine them being prepared to go exploring the rural hinterland of Mayo in order to deliver to Ribbonville or your particular isolated townland? These octogenarians and nonogenarians will be lucky to have rural electricity when deregulation takes hold and the economic reality of maintaining the supply becomes apparent. So are free taxis the answer? To answer with the Irish penchant for making two positives a negative - yeah! right! Plan for the future now folks by deciding to organise rural communities into real communities which have a physical reality reflected in the way houses are laid out in relation to required services. Houses in real communities have nearby local services, they will have utilities - electricity, gas, wastewater treatment, grocery deliveries, postal services, broadband, nearby shops, bus services, employment opportunities within an easy commute. Real community feelings will follow. Otherwise we need lots of nursing homes to house the poor fools that thought they were immortal when they put in the bay windows 40 or 50 years before.
Military barracks downgrading
Mayo County councillors expressed their displeasure at the downgrading of Castlebar Barracks for FCA summer camps. The Minister for Defence had confirmed to Jim Higgins, TD that this years FCA summer camp would be moved to Mullingar apparently due to the poor state of repair of the Castlebar barracks. Some €140,000 would be required to allow this year's camp to proceed in Castlebar with facilities up to modern health and safety standards. Councillors bemoaned the loss of some €500,000 to the town's economy - revenue generated by the summer camp. There was also concern over the jobs of the 15 full-time army jobs in Mayo.
While significant moneys appear to have been spent over the past few years on Castlebar Barracks no guarantee appeared to be given to say that this was just a temporary measure for 2003 and that once all re-wiring and plumbing necessary was completed the normal summer camp would resume. The way these things go it looks like the death knell for FCA summer camps in Castlebar. The closure has struck up a lot of nostalgia for the old days and a few participants have scanned their old summer camp photos and uploaded them to the old photos section here on Castlebar.ie.
Castlebar Town Council has approved the traffic plan estimated to cost some €4.3M. The report produced for the town by consultant Transportation Planning Ltd. was presented to the council by Mr Alan Bailes. The report suggestions include two-way traffic on Linenhall and Tucker Streets and also Chapel street. Pedestrianisation should be considered in the short term for Castle Street and Shamble Street and in the longer term for Main Street or Market Square, and Duke Street and Ellison Street. Pay parking, another multi-storey car park and access from Barracks Bridge to Castle Street car park are also included in the report. All the councillors welcomed the report.
They welcomed the report but does that mean they agree that Main Street should be pedestrianised and double yellow lines be strictly enforced all over town? The devil is in the detail. We saw the fight over the Market Square when the traders decided that they didn't like the fact that they themselves would have to park elsewhere or some such. There will be blood spilt over this one yet.