Minister Heather Humphreys logged in via a secure highspeed broadband hub on a West Cork island to attend yesterday’s cabinet meeting.
As it happens, she has perfectly synchronised her demonstration of remote working on islands with the main theme in the Summer Edition of Changing Ireland – out this week.

Minister Humphreys said that even a year ago such a notion would have been considered “far-fetched”, but the minister – who currently has responsibility for three departments – was able to avail of a secure and speedy connection from Bere Island to take part in cabinet discussions.

The Minister for Rural and Community Development (also responsible for Social Protection and temporarily for Justice) is visiting new rural development projects as part of a nationwide tour to promote the government’s action plan for rural development – ‘Our Rural Future’.

The broadband hub on Bere Island is one of hundreds of facilities opening across the country that provide highspeed quality broadband, allowing people to work and study from remote locations.

A key part of Our Rural Future, which sets out the Government’s vision for rural Ireland over the next five years, is developing Ireland’s first ever nationwide Hub network.

In a press statement issued after the cabinet meeting, the Minister said:

“Over a year ago, the idea of attending a meeting of Cabinet from such a remote location like Bere Island would have been seen as far-fetched. But remote working is now a reality the length and breadth of the country, including on our offshore islands.”

While not every island has a hub (some are a room in a community centre, others are larger scale) the potential for working in previously very rural and isolated areas is growing.

The Department provided a list yesterday of islands that have hubs.

In Connemara, Lettermore and Lettermullen islands (both are accessible by bridge) now have hubs.

The scale of the challenge is evident in nearby Carna where with ordinary household internet it can take 2 hours to upload 17 megabytes. Logging in for ‘Changing Ireland’ on Tuesday evening, July 27th, on the Vodafone network – that was the best speed available at the time. However, as Laoise Neylon has found the potential is real and is changing island life (read her report here) and as outlined in a further interview here.

Remarking on being able to log into a cabinet meeting from an island, Minister Humphreys said, “I was really pleased to avail of the excellent and secure facilities here on Bere Island.

“These facilities allow local people to avail of online services without the need to travel to the mainland.

“They also allow young people to study within their own community and are an important facility for visitors like me today.

“There are now twelve broadband facilities like the one in Bere Island in islands off the coast of Kerry, Galway, Donegal, Cork and Mayo.

“The digital connectivity they provide give us all choices about where we live and how we work,” she said. The Minister recently announced over €8.8 million in funding for 117 remote working projects across the country.

“This support provided through Our Rural Future, along with other initiatives such as the National Broadband Plan and the Remote Working Strategy, will help to breathe new life into rural areas and islands.”

Minister Humphreys added: “Our Rural Future commits to the development of a national network of 400 quality remote working hubs nationwide over the next 5 years. Connected Hubs which I launched in May, already has 121 hubs live and on board. People can visit and book a hot desk or remote working space for a day, a week, a month – whatever best suits their needs.”

Broadband Connection Points

Broadband Connection Points (BCPs) are generally community led initiatives and are key to delivering the digital future of rural Ireland and the islands. There are currently 203 BCPs live and operational.

Pilot projects at BCPs have begun to roll out, including remote working supports, e-health projects, arts & culture initiatives, and education & training opportunities.

The platform offers a suite of booking, hub management and e-commerce applications to members of the Network. The Network also facilitates the sharing of innovation, experience and best practices across the community. These supports serve to maximise benefit to member hubs, hub clients, employers, local communities and the wider economy.