Reviving ‘The Island’ and its hinterland is a real possibility. This was very apparent from the energy of those who sat, listened and engaged with panellists at Saturday night’s Rural Revival Conference in the River Island Hotel.
By Kate McSweeney
After all attendees were welcomed by Cllr. Toiréasa Ferris, Uachtarán Shinn Féin, Mary Lou McDonald gave an impassioned speech on the possibility of a vibrant rural ireland.
She spoke of the glaringly obvious imbalances that exist within our small island at present, traffic chaos and serious housing shortages in Dublin while Rural Ireland faces land isolation and the constant migration of its younger generation.
Isolated and Abandoned
“The government focus on market solutions has created a housing crisis in cities and job crisis in rural Ireland. All of this has left communities in rural Ireland isolated and abandoned.
The solution is simple, invest in services and infrastructure to balance development and jobs growth across the island. The voice of rural Ireland needs to be heard, needs to be listened to and needs to be represented in Government.”
Cuts to the Forefront
Of course the subject of service cuts was also to the forefront:
“This government has closed post offices and Garda stations. They have cut bus routes and failed to deliver broadband. They have cut hospital beds and presided over a shortage of nurses and doctors. Successive Irish Governments have abandoned rural Ireland.
“Their vision is of a prosperous elite, big cities and a trickle down of wealth. A trickle that runs dry before it reaches rural Ireland,” said Ms. McDonald.
Range of Backgrounds
The panel discussions were very informative discussing a range of issues from immigrants to agriculture. Panelists included were from a wide range of backgrounds with locals: John Reidy of The Maine Valley Post, Michael John Kearney of the Castleisland Chamber Alliance and Cordal resident, Maura Walsh all adding their valuable contributions as to how Castleisland and its surrounding area can be rejuvenated.
We took inspiration from the story of Kiltyclogher in Co. Leitrim which resident Joe Sheerin made the journey down to Castleisland to tell us.
“Kiltyclogher National School numbers could have gone as low as 11 students in September and would have closed by the end of October 2017. In July the village came together and launched a nationwide ‘KiltyLive’ campaign and in six weeks successfully brought seven families from around Ireland to live in Kiltyclogher. On the 1st September 25 children attended the school,” said Mr. Sheerin.
Tomás Hayes, head of the local enterprise spoke of how his native Cromane went about rejuvenation and tackled the issue of declining school numbers by opening a community preschool which acted as a feeder for the local national school.
He also spoke of the ease at which inspiration can be gleaned:
Commitment and Energy
“We had each child in the school draw a picture of what they would like in the village,” – A step each community group looking for a way forward could take right away.
Cllr. Toiréasa Ferris brought proceedings to a close by looking on the positive points that came out of the evening – namely that close on 200 people were left with a wealth of knowledge that, given the right commitment and energy, we could indeed see a Rural Revival.
Kate McSweeney has been selected by the Castleisland Sinn Féin Cumann to contest the May 2019 Local Elections in the Castleisland Local Election Area.
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