Tuesday 27 June 2017

Special report: 'The Celtic Tiger galloped past us' - People in rural Ireland share stories of their struggles

Christy McLaughlin (28) - 'Year after year, boom or no boom, not much is changing'
Christy McLaughlin (28) - 'Year after year, boom or no boom, not much is changing'
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

When 80-year-old Desmond Nolan hears about the "boom being back," a wave of anger overcomes him.

Living 12 miles outside Galway city with his wife, who was last year diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, he says they have not heard "head nor tale" of this famous boom.

In a letter penned to Independent.ie, Mr Nolan wrote: "The Celtic Tiger galloped past us. For the last two years all we hear from the Government is about this magnificent recovery. The banks are making profits; the gardai got a big salary increase; the TDs got a salary increase. We hear of management personnel in Irish Water being paid bonuses...while all the time our pensions have not been restored to pre 2012 level."

The retired secondary school teacher is not the only person in rural Ireland who feels he has been left behind.

Independent.ie spoke to people from all walks of life who wanted to highlight the plight of their areas.

Christy McLaughlin (28) from Carndonagh, Co Donegal - 'Not a rant, not bitter; just concerned'

We might as well be from 'the north' because the blood supply seems to be cut off the further North West you go.

There’s not many of them up there, how much noise can they make? Well not enough it seems because year after year, boom or no boom, not much is changing.

Christy McLaughlin says many people his age are left with no option but to leave the hills of Donegal
Christy McLaughlin says many people his age are left with no option but to leave the hills of Donegal

Young aspiring graduates are still leaving, construction workers being appreciated elsewhere, healthcare workers are being offered the balanced lifestyle and salary they deserve. Just not in Ireland, and certainly not in Donegal.

'The Donegal Cancer Bus', a fantastic service solely sustained through local donations and no funding still makes the sometimes nine hour round trip to Galway on a daily basis for cancer sufferers to get the post radiation treatments might now get a small breather from the four year workload with thanks to the new cancer centre at Altnagelvin hospital in Derry.

Motorways come to a grinding halt, train stations are non-existent, and Bus Eireann's new and unsurprising proposal of axing the Dublin to Derry bus service is just another blow to the likes of myself looking to somehow find a path home from Dublin to Carndonagh, pain free.

Almost three years ago I made the move to Dublin for a sustainable career path, most available jobs point towards the capital naturally enough.

My father in the construction business commutes to Canada for six weeks at a time. An older sister and her husband just home from a two year stint in Toronto, a younger brother still living in the same city and a younger sister seeming more and more likely to hit the departures lounge pretty soon too, all leaving behind a loving mother in a house all alone.

And that’s just under one roof.

I’m sure many houses are the same, with a big percentage of close friends all choosing a life outside Donegal for a decent wage and career path, Dublin if you’re lucky. The concoction of having the lowest average earnings in the country and having online access (just about!) to attractive posts elsewhere, it’s a no brainer.

I could go on, not a rant, not bitter; just concerned.

Desmond Nolan (80) from Orbsen, Annaghdown, Co Galway - 'I'm paying for living twice'

Every day we pick up the paper, somebody is getting a rise, somebody is getting a promotion.

Last year, I paid out €1,761.36 for the pension levy and the USC. This year I will pay out €990.48.

Since I retired I have not got a pension increase to the best of my knowledge. No thought was given to the fact as people get older, their health deteriorates, giving rise to consultant fees and other associated health costs.

I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. In January 2016, I had a stroke and I had a stent put in my heart. My wife has Parkinson's disease.

We have six children and from 1998-2012, our pension was nice. I don't drink or smoke so don't go too wild, but I feel like we are paying for living twice now.

Main street, Enniscorthy
Main street, Enniscorthy

I won't live much longer. I can get by, but what's the point of us paying these charges at our age?

We are twelve miles out from Galway city so we have to pay for a car; we have to have a car, there is no other way out of the place. How else are we going to get to the doctor? The bus doesn’t come this way. If I want to get a bus now, I have to walk four miles.

The Government has forgotten about us because we are a small group.

If I was 20 years younger, I would be out there marching to the Dáil.

It just makes me so upset, and angry.

Dermot Kavanagh, business owner in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford - 'We are fighting hard'

We are not seeing the growth that Dublin and the major cities are seeing, but the town is trying to remain positive.

Our town is changing. There is a change coming about in the type of shops people want.

We would like to see more manufacturing businesses brought in to help create some jobs in the area. 

The last ten years have been tough on everyone, but our business has begun to grow again.

However, it's the rates that are killing everyone.

Thousands of euro each year is being spent on rates and it's turning people off starting their own businesses.

Rates used to cover everything; rubbish, water etc. but now they don't cover any of that.

Now there's a new bypass coming in, and I'm hoping it's going to have a positive impact, rather than a negative one.

Anonymous business owner whose store closed down -'The Government is doing nothing to help the little man'

Going back ten or 15 years ago, everyone came here, the town was booming.

We are struggling to compete with the large retailers. They can afford the big rates.

Our rates were almost €10,000, and then they went and pedestrianised the main street so that also had a big impact on business.

Nothing is being done to help us. It doesn't pay to own your own business in rural Ireland any more.

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