9 August 2001 Edition

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Phone home Mary

The bids for Eircom's fixed line business might be increasing, but at the same time the cost cutting has already begun. Eircom are proposing to close 700 of their 8,300 payphones in the 26 Counties.

Eircom claim it costs between £1,500 and £2,000 a year to maintain each phone and that the income from some phones is very low. Some generate as little as £5 a week. Public Enterprise minister Mary O'Rourke has intervened and vetoed the Eircom plans, citing their obligation to provide a universal service.

Sinn Féin's Mayo representative, Vincent Wood, has welcomed O Rourke's intervention but also pointed out that the closures were an outcome of O'Rourke's privatisation of Eircom in the first place.

``The minister must now acknowledge that this will have a profoundly negative impact on rural Ireland - particularly west of the Shannon - where the large multinational communications companies do not envisage making money,'' said Wood.

``The key point remains that the elected representatives of the people through the government must have a strategic input into vital services. This government's ideologically-driven rush to deregulate these services is mistaken and if they are really serious about balanced regional development, they should return to the drawing board.''

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