TD Michael Fitzmaurice has hit out at Taoiseach for what he calls a lack of understanding and arrogance.
Leo Varadkar made comments in Ballymahon on Friday last about improved broadband services for rural Ireland which he said would make up for the closure of banks in rural areas.
The news has been met with criticism, with Michael Fitzmaurice issuing comments of his own on the situation. Mr. Fitzmaurice said the Taosieachs remarks showed his lack of understanding and arrogance.
"The comments from Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in Ballymahon on Friday when he said that an improved broadband service will make up for the loss of banking services in rural areas shows breathtaking arrogance and a total lack of understanding of rural Ireland",said Michael.
He continued by questioning whether the Taoiseach realises that there is a vast majority of elderly people living in these areas, who have never owned a computer and cannot use the internet. He said improving broadband would have no effect on their lives whatsoever.
"The Taoiseach reckons that improved broadband will make up for the loss of banking services in rural areas. I'd ask the Taoiseach does he realise that there is a large cohort of mainly elderly people who have never owned a laptop, ipad or computer in their lives? Improved broadband makes no difference to them at all.”, he said.
Before adding, “What these people want is to be able to go into their local bank and talk to an actual person to do their business. Instead the banks are either closing branches down or forcing people to go online and in many cases elderly people do not know what to do and are confused and worried."
The Independent TD then pointed to the past bail out of these banks by the Irish people and said it would be a better option for the Taoiseach to get these banks to provide a proper service rather than dismissing fears of the public.
"Remember that these banks were bailed out by the Irish people after their actions helped to bankrupt the economy and now this is how they are treating their customers. It would be more in the Taoiseach's line to rein in these banks and tell them to provide a proper service rather than dismissing the fears and concerns of many people in rural areas.”, he added.
He continued by expressing his interest in hearing what Minister for Rural Affairs, Michael Ring, has to say on the matter.
“I am also interested to hear the comments on this matter from Rural Affairs Minister Michael Ring. Surely he does not agree with the run down of banking services in rural areas.”
“An improved broadband service will be welcomed by those who are able to use it but for many it means absolutely nothing" he concluded.
According to the Central Statistics office, 87% of Irish households reported having internet access in their homes last year. This means the remaining 13% are left without, that's 615,290 people in total. Though It must be said that 38% (233,810) of those who don't have it don't need it, whilst some would be too young.
This still leaves 381,480 people without internet, whether they can use it or not. Of all the people who reported to having no internet access, 40% say they cannot use it.