‘Reluctance of some people to cry out for help’ in rural areas one of ‘major problems’

“Mental health is going to be a massive issue after this crisis has passed; rural isolation has been a major problem for many years,” according to Sinn Féin TD Martin Browne.

The deputy has raised grave concerns over the impact of Covid-19.

Speaking in the Dáil this week, he said: “There have always been people, especially in rural Ireland, who have found themselves isolated for one reason or another.

“This has increased in recent times due to the pandemic and the need to fight the virus.”

Deputy Browne said that there “are so many problems in rural Ireland, but I do not have time to list them all”.

“Poverty and lack of transport in rural areas and the reluctance of some people to cry out for help are serious issues, as is the closure of rural post offices,” he said.

On the latter, plenty of excuses have been given, but we all know that when people go missing, this is noticed at the local post office and alarm bells ring straight away.

“In larger urban areas, Martin Browne could be missing for six months and nobody would even care. These are the types of issues that are worrying people in rural areas.

“People are being cut off from their own communities because of the post office closures. Mental health is going to be a massive issue after this crisis has passed. Money must be pumped in quickly.”

The deputy called on Joe O’Brien, minister of state at the Department of Rural and Community Development to ensure services are delivered for people going into “what will be a tough and frightening winter for many”.

Budget 2021 must be ‘rural proofed’

Meanwhile, the Irish Rural Link is calling for the recovery from Covid-19 to be “regionally balanced and inclusive of everyone”.

The national network had a virtual meeting this week with the Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe.

Also on the agenda was discussing the move to decarbonise the country – and the Irish Rural Link is continuing to call for a ‘just transition’ approach to this to “ensure that no more households are pushed into fuel and energy poverty and those who are already experiencing or at risk of fuel poverty are lifted out of it”.

The organisation explained:

“While some of the measures currently in place such as increasing fuel allowance and warmer homes grants may compensate the increase in fuel, the fact remains that these households still need to heat their homes with fossil fuels and/or home heating oil.

“We are therefore calling on the establishment of a fund based on grants and low or no interest loans designed to assist all households who wish to convert their homes to sustainable heating systems.”