Case study: 'Retailers are being killed by online shopping'
GORT in Co Galway has been among countless towns across the country hit by the recession.
In less than a decade, it has lost 400 jobs and one in eight of its population. A thriving Brazilian community once over 1,400 residents has dropped back to under 400.
The vacant shops along the main street tell the story, as businesses moved out of the town centre. Local Fianna Fail councillor Gerry Finnerty, who is also in the Gort Chamber of Commerce, is worried.
"People in retail are finding it very, very difficult, online shopping is killing them altogether," he says.
"The main street is empty as the big shops and outlets move outside the town."
As many as one in five residents who worked in construction have lost their jobs, with further losses in the local beef plant.
"Gort was hit disproportionately by the crisis," says Professor Cathal O'Donoghue from Teagasc. "The beef plant closed and construction fell away."
Mr Finnerty is part of a newly established group, Burren Lowlands, which hopes to get local businesses in Galway and Clare to work together to fight the downturn.
"We need to . . . think of ways to get the message across that these towns are great places to live in and do business in," he added.
Sarah Harty, who owns the Gallery Cafe in town, has been significantly affected by the recession.
"This year I have relocated to a smaller premises. I had 16 staff in 2010, now I have eight. A lot of businesses have closed in the last three years, so that is a natural knock-on effect for my lunch trade.
"Yet I think now the Gort community is coming together strongly and a lot of positive creativity is starting to happen in 2014," she added.