During a debate on rural communities and remoteness this week in Parliament, Ian Paisley the MP for North Antrim spoke about his constituents in Rathlin and how much more needs to be done to ensure the development of the island.
The debate, which was focussing on those remote areas of the UK, was to stimulate the need directly from within government about where and why investment should be made.
In speaking Paisley said: “I represent a constituency that also includes the inhabited island of Rathlin. Nothing could be more remote than living in an island, off an island, off an island. Those people on Rathlin know what remoteness really means.
“They have to travel by boat to get to their mainland in Ulster. It is critical that we address the needs of that community. When rural post offices or a bank close in Ballycastle or Bushmills, it has an even bigger impact on a place such as Rathlin. Whenever fuel costs go up, the knock-on effect in Rathlin is twice as big as it is on the mainland.
“Whenever we speak about rural communities we must understand that there is a level of remoteness that is doubly remote and we must take that on board whenever we address this issue.
“Broadband does not operate adequately in areas such as Rathlin Island. The people of Rathlin who are already remote feel the sudden impact of living on that island, off an island, off an island.
“Whilst in Rathlin last week, my constituents raised with me the issue of a GP coming to the island. The GP comes over once a week by boat to see his patients, and when he finds that the computer does not work, he cannot order the prescription from the mainland of Ulster. What happens next? We must ensure that the issue of broadband is properly addressed for our rural communities because it makes a difference. It allows young entrepreneurs who live in remote areas to create businesses. It enables our tourism industry to flourish and our community to be driven forward.
“I leave one thought with the Minister: rural proofing should be a golden thread running through all policy.”
“After Paisley’s speech the Shadow Minister for Food and Farming, Huw Irranca Davies congratulated him especially for pointing out Rathlin Island to the Parliament in Westminster:
“I congratulate all the Members who have made speeches and interventions... I particularly want to mention the hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley), who introduced a new concept to the parliamentary lexicon: an island off an island off an island. That is an extreme example of rurality.”
The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, Richard Benyon also congratulated Paisley on his speech,
“The hon. Member for North Antrim (Ian Paisley) rightly referred to rural proofing. That is a subject for a debate in itself and is something we are taking seriously in our cross-Government role of ensuring that policies are not just considered within the beltway and that the impact on rural areas is understood.”