Saturday 24 February 2018

Rural Ireland must act to protect its own future

IN a way, we all pay lip service to the idea of rural Ireland – even the people who live there. We hark back 46 years to John Healy's famous book 'Nobody Shouted Stop', a book few people have read, but everybody knows about because it touches a nerve for anyone with rural roots.

It was a prophesy that hasn't yet been fulfilled, but realistically Irish towns, villages and their rural hinterland have never before been under such threat. And it isn't just the closure of the post office, the garda station, the shop and, in some cases, the pub, nor the disappearance of sports teams, although all of these are adding to the sense of rural isolation that is almost palpable.

As these pillars of the local community fold, one by one, it is not only young people, but whole families who are uprooting themselves and moving within the city boundaries. An analysis of census data shows that rural communities have been decimated since the start of the recession, yet the national population was increasing during the same period. Far-flung destinations have their attraction but it is more likely that what people are attracted to are the bright lights of the nearest big city.

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