Thursday 5 December 2019

Figures show rural dwellers face longer treks to everyday services

Letterkenny Garda Station
Letterkenny Garda Station

Seán McCárthaigh

Almost a third of the population is living 10km or more from the nearest permanently manned Garda station.

New figures published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) on how far people need to travel to access a range of everyday services highlight how almost 1.43 million people - or 30pc of the population - live at least 10km from the closest Garda station operating on a 24-hour basis.

People living in Dublin city have the shortest average distance to travel to their nearest 24-hour Garda station at just 1.5km, compared to the national average of 8km.

The longest distance to a 24-hour Garda station is faced by people in Donegal, where the average distance is 19.3km.

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The findings are likely to raise further concerns about the issue of rural crime and Garda visibility outside urban centres, which came into focus following the closure of almost 140 stations, predominately in rural areas, between 2013 and 2014.

Although 97.5pc of people live within 10km of any Garda station, many are only open for a small number of hours on a daily basis, with some closed fully on Sundays.

The report, 'Measuring Distance to Everyday Services', provides the first-ever comprehensive insight into the accessibility of emergency services and other important everyday facilities, such as schools, public transport stops, post offices, libraries and banks.

The CSO figures show public transport, supermarkets or convenience stores and outdoor sports facilities are the most accessible services for most people, with over half of the population living within 1km of each.

The most inaccessible service on a comparative basis is a maternity hospital with people living on average over 22km away from one. More than 45pc of the population lives at least 20km from their nearest maternity hospital.

In medical emergencies, people in Monaghan, Roscommon and Clare face an average journey of at least 40km to access an adult emergency hospital or maternity hospital.

Around 5pc of the population lives more than 50km from the nearest adult emergency hospital. On average, people live 5.5km from the nearest fire station, ranging from 2.2km in Dublin city to 10.9km in Co Galway.

Overall, the CSO figures show that rural dwellers face an average distance to most everyday services that is at least three times longer compared to their urban counterparts.

The rate was about seven times longer for accessing supermarkets, pharmacies and GP surgeries.

In particular, people living in the west and north-west face the longest journeys to access a range of essential and common services.

"The results shows that people in the counties of Galway, Donegal, Mayo, Leitrim and Roscommon had higher average distances to most everyday services when compared against other counties," said CSO statistician Dermot Corcoran.

The figures show only 1.5pc of the population - around 70,000 people - lives more than 10km from the nearest post office.

For transport, a bus stop is the closest public transport option for most people.

Irish Independent

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