Monday 26 September 2016

And still no-one is shouting stop as rural Ireland struggles

Published 24/04/2015 | 02:30

The numbers out of a job tend to be much higher in the countryside than in more built-up areas, where employers want to locate
The numbers out of a job tend to be much higher in the countryside than in more built-up areas, where employers want to locate

Rural Ireland is under enormous economic pressure.

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Towns and villages outside the main cities are already reeling from the closure of bank branches, the threats to bus routes, the closure of garda stations and pubs shutting.

Here are some of the key issues facing communities outside the bigger urban areas. They explain why economic recovery is not being felt "down the country".

Unemployment

The numbers out of a job tend to be much higher in the countryside than in more built-up areas, where employers want to locate.

The downturn saw the numbers on the dole surge by 192pc in rural areas. There was also a spike in the numbers unemployed in cities and large towns, but not to the same extent.

A lack of jobs is a key reason why economic recovery in less populous areas is lagging behind the growth of Dublin.

Emigration

There is an interesting bronze statue in the main street of Kiltimagh, Co Mayo, of a man with a small suitcase. He looks sad and is striding forward, leaving the area.

The statue is dedicated to the sons and daughters of the town who were forced to emigrate in the 1950s. The late, John Healy, from nearby Charlestown wrote No-One Shouted Stop: Death of an Irish Town in 1968.

The book chronicles the blight of emigration. Almost 50 years on emigration is still a major drag on the vigour, ingenuity and life of rural Ireland.

Young people who want a job face a stark choice of heading to Dublin, London, New York, or even further afield.

Broadband

Some 30pc of the population has inadequate broadband, according to official figures. This is mainly concentrated outside the larger cities and towns.

This means around 1.32 million people do not have access to sufficiently-fast internet connections.

That is not just an issue for downloading music, it is also a key reason why people cannot start a business, or locate a firm, outside an urban area.

In a developed economy high-speed broadband is now an essential commodity. There are various plans to roll out high-speed broadband, but this will take time.

Infrastructure

Access to airports, good quality roads, transport and accommodation are key issues holding back rural development.

The continued improvement in road networks outside the greater Dublin area should be prioritised, as a well-functioning road network is essential for the economic growth of rural Ireland, the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas has argued.

Better rail and air services are also needed, but given the still-recovering nature of the Exchequer finances, investment in these areas seems unlikely at the moment.

Training and skills

One of the cornerstones to job creation is the quality and availability of opportunities to re-skill, re-train and acquire the capacity to develop businesses that will create jobs.

This is particularly important for jobs where rural areas have key advantages, such as farming and agri-business, tourism and services.

Some rural residents simply just don't have the means to access education and training.

Irish Independent

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