With the local elections less than five months away, Cllr. Aengus O’Rourke notes that four major national issues continue to dominate the public mindset, similar to those that prevailed on the canvass in 2014.
“I started canvassing in recent weeks and as I expected the big four topics when speaking with the voting public are housing, water, the HSE and broadband. Clearly, these are national issues that the Government have failed to tackle in recent years and in particular since 2011. While canvassing in 2014, these were also the very issues occupying peoples minds,” Cllr. O’Rourke emphasised.
The Government’s failure to tackle the big ticket items is having a profound impact on each and every house in Athlone, in one way or another.
“Not a lot has changed, in fact the the only change is that these particular issues have gone from bad to worse. Athlone, a large town and ‘regional growth centre’, bizarrely does not have a secure supply of fresh drinking water to meet the growing needs of its people or industries, hence the regular (now weekly ) water outages right across the town.
“The local authority housing list continues to spiral out of control. More people are joining the list than we have the ability to house, with the list growing daily. So, clearly, it is fair to say that the State has failed and continues to fail people in need of social housing. Despite the Government acknowledging that we are in the midst of a housing emergency some time ago, nothing meaningful has emerged from Government to deal with the crisis. Not even a spark, no innovative ideas, no ambitious housing development plans. just words, nothing that will make a difference to the provision of housing, either social or private,” the Councillor commented.
The Leas Cathaoirleach views the present health situation in similar veine, expressing his immense dissatisfaction with the number of people on hospital waiting lists awaiting medical treatment.
“The total number of people on waiting lists to be treated, or seen by a doctor, now stands at over 707,000, the highest number ever recorded. Even more shockingly, over 10,300 Irish children are on waiting lists for potential life changing treatments, with 3,500 children waiting to see an orthopaedic surgeon for conditions such as scoliosis. All of this, despite the obscene amounts of tax payers money being poured into the HSE every year. In fact, Ireland now spends one third more, per head of population, than the average, across 35 member countries of the OECD in 2018,” Cllr. O’Rourke noted.
The fair and affordable provision of broadband is a perennially topical subject as the ballot casting looms in May.
“Broadband, an essential commodity in any home or business, rural or urban, still faces an uncertain future as the National Broadband Plan flounders from one crisis to another, while the Government continually pushes out it’s delivery deadline time and time again.
“People are angry at the Government’s lack of progress in these crucial areas of responsibility. Every house in Athlone is affected by at least one if not more of these big four crisis issues. More needs to be done,” Cllr. O’Rourke reiterated.
Concluding, the local businessman stated the he will ensure that his national colleagues within the Fianna Fail party redouble their efforts and put greater pressure on the Taoiseach and his Ministers to demand action where it is most needed.