Carol Nolan TD

Rural Life


As a proud rural citizen and a member of the Rural Independent Group, I consistently draw political attention to the myriad of challenges that are faced by my constituents in Laois-Offaly. Rural Ireland has been long neglected by this Government particularly in terms of job creation and service provision.

Addressing these challenges must become a matter of urgency, and I will continue to fight tirelessly on behalf of my constituents to ensure their voices are heard and needs are met.

I have been contacted by many frustrated constituents and farming families in Laois-Offaly who are unable to carry out their work online because of lack of quality, high-speed broadband. Businesses such as cattle marts have also been badly affected by poor broadband speeds. Despite almost a decade of talk about a national broadband plan, there has been relatively little action. Indeed we have been informed that many thousands of rural homes are to be left waiting until Christmas 2026 before they can access high-speed broadband. This is completely unacceptable. Rural broadband is a necessity, not a luxury, and the Government urgently needs to prioritise its proper, effective and efficient roll-out.
Lack of access to and availability of essential services is negatively impacting rural life. The closure of post offices in rural Ireland, lack of mental health supports and the lack of adequate resources for Gardaí stationed in rural areas are among some of the various issues I have campaigned on. Rural schools have also been disadvantaged for too long and I have called for staffing schedules and teacher allocations in rural schools to be revised. I have also engaged with Bus Éireann, the Department of Education and the Department of Transport in relation to the difficulty faced by parents in rural areas in accessing school bus services for their children. There is also a chronic shortage of GPs in Laois-Offaly, and I have petitioned for an urgent stakeholder forum to be convened to ensure access to such essential services. The heavy cost of nursing home care is also an issue that is unfairly affecting farming families. I have called frequently on the Government to address the fair deal scheme by removing discrimination against small businesses and farming families, and to introduce a reduced charge on the farm or business assets.
Depopulation in rural regions is still a major problem. I have petitioned for CLÁR funding (which funds small-scale infrastructural project in certain rural areas that have seen significant depopulation) for rural areas such as Ballycumber, Co. Offaly. I have also called for existing eligibility criteria for the CLÁR Programme to be revised to ensure more rural communities have access to supports under this scheme. One of the major factors contributing to depopulation is the challenges faced by people, and particularly young couples, who want to live in rural communities. Those who want to build homes on their family’s land are often being denied that opportunity. I have petitioned the Government tirelessly in relation to the publication of new rural planning guidelines. I will continue to campaign to ensure that people have the absolute right to build a house on their own land and remain in their own community and parish.
The decision of Bord na Móna to end peat harvesting and production hugely affected midland communities, especially those involved in the horticulture sector. Yet we are currently having to import horticultural peat from Japan and import lignite briquettes from Germany. This importation, which is extremely damaging to the environment and results in high carbon emissions, is completely counterproductive to the so-called just transition process. I have been highly critical of the failure of Government to provide basic assurances that persons with turbary rights possessing folio numbers for bogland will have their rights to cut, carry away, prepare and store turf upheld. Rural people deserve better than this and their rights must be protected. I have also called for turf cutting as a heritage activity to be examined so that we can protect this sector and the people who work in it. Moreover any rewetting of peatlands must be accompanied by written agreements that these activities will not adversely affect landowners.
The Government’s proposal to outlaw the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030 needs to be urgently re-examined. Whatever planet the Government are living on, it is not planet earth, because they seem completely oblivious to the impact this measure will have on rural Ireland. There is a complete lack of confidence in the Government’s ability to successfully roll out a nationwide line of electric vehicle charging points by 2030. Many people in rural Ireland have to travel long distances; do not have the option of affordable or frequent public transport services to access their destinations; and would face enormous challenges with an electric car due to an absence of charging points. The Government simply does not seem to understand how rural Ireland works. I will continue to campaign determinedly on behalf of my rural constituents on this and related issues.