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Rural broadband: Aoibheann (12) takes Taoiseach to task over internet access

A Mayo schoolgirl has tackled the Taoiseach on the lack of broadband in rural areas.

Aoibheann Mangan (12), from Hollymount near Claremorris, doorstepped Leo Varadkar today after he launched InspireFest 2019, a two-day festival exploring the future of science, technology and creativity in Ireland.

At the launch, the Taoiseach spoke about how he wanted Ireland to be “ahead of the curve” when it comes to technology development in Ireland’s future.

Aoibheann Mangan told Mr Varadkar that she has been going to a local Tesco car park to access WiFi until recently.

She said accessing broadband in rural Ireland is a big problem and asked how much longer people will have to wait for a proper broadband service.

“It’s not fair that people in Dublin get access to everything because they can get on the internet. Everyone should have those opportunities,” she said.

The Taoiseach said he wished national broadband could happen faster, and told Aoibheann he feared the political opposition could derail the broadband plan.

“I wish we could do things quicker. But my fear is the opposition and some other political people will stop the contract being signed and then it’s back to square one.

“I know how important broadband is, particularly with so many educational resources online. Kids in rural Ireland should have the same ability to download information as kids in Dublin,” he told her.

He said if the contract is signed work could start before the end of the year, meaning in the first year 10,000 homes, business and schools could be connected through 300 hotspots around the country.

“In the second year and every year after that between 100,000 and 150,000 could be be connected which still means it will take six or seven years to do it,” said the Taoiseach.

“I wish we could do it quicker but the experts and the people who work in the business tell us that is as quickly as it can be done,” he added.

Aoibheann Mangan is a campaigner for rural broadband.

“I’m trying to do this for everyone  because deserves an equal opportunity. People over here in Dublin get a good opportunity – they have great internet, whereas back home before I got the internet I had to sit outside Tesco’s carpark to get the internet which wasn’t fair because that was ages away from my home,” she explained.

“Once I got the private broadband I was able to stay at home and I have so many opportunities. I want everyone to have that opportunity,” Aoibheann added.

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