I recently spoke in the Seanad on the potential and benefits of remote working to the Western regions and acknowledged the important role played by the Western Development Commission and Údarás na Gaeltachta.  The roll out of high-speed broadband, facilitated by State Aid is also vital in this strategy.

Labhair mé sa Seanad le déanaí ar na féidearthachtaí agus na buntáistí a bhaineann le cianoibre do réigiúin an Iarthair agus luaigh mé an ról tábhachtach atá ag Coimisiún Forbartha an Iarthair agus Údarás na Gaeltachta. Leathnú amach leathanbhanda ardluais, stiúrtha ag Státchabhair atá ríthábhachtach sa straitéis seo freisin.

I am sharing time with Senator Dolan. I welcome the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy English. I thank Senator Currie for her work on this motion.

Balanced regional development is something Fine Gael absolutely believes in. We believe it is good for the regions, as well as being good for Dublin and the east coast of Ireland. Infrastructure is necessary for this to happen. This has traditionally meant road, rail, water and waste water. High-speed broadband is now to the fore in this regard and is central to it. Fine Gael has been to the fore in this debate. We prioritised State investment to ensure all homes, businesses and farms will be connected to high-speed broadband. This has now started and we have budgeted to ensure it will be completed. This will allow and encourage remote working.

The onset of Covid-19 has shown what can be done from home or remotely in local hubs. This has been and has shown a positive impact on the lives of people. We can see more family time, rest time, social time and exercise time, as well as less commuting and lower transport costs. It may not be for everyone, but it should be possible for those who wish to avail of it. It may not always be a case of five days per week working at home or remotely, but it could be two, three or four days depending on circumstances. Some days may be still required back at base. To be clear, working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in an office should not mean working any longer at home. Working from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. can still be 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at home. High-speed broadband is absolutely vital for this to happen. I believe the potential is immense.

That is why Fine Gael has been to the fore in ensuring that all parts of our country, every townland, will be connected to high-speed broadband. As others have said, it is not just about the home, hubs are to the fore in this regard as well. I acknowledge the work of the Western Development Commission on the promotion and development of hubs within the western region. Freisin, tar éis an obair atá déanta ag Údarás na Gaeltachta le blianta anuas ó thaobh an ghréasáin dhigitigh, Gteic. Tá obair den scoth déanta acu trasna na nGaeltachta agus na n-oileán agus pleananna acu chun áiseanna le ceangal ardluais a chur ar fáil trasna na Gaeltachta. Tá sé fíorthábhachtach poist a chruthú agus daoine agus an daonra a choimeád sa Ghaeltacht agus ar na noileáin cois cósta. The pre-Covid work of Udarás na Gaeltachta. with its strategy for a network of digital hubs across its area of responsibility, has been immense.

I commend the motion and acknowledge Senator Currie’s work and belief in the positives of remote working.