‘Since Fine Gael elected in 2011 Donegal has experienced the highest rate of population decline in the country.’
‘Government has not offered any support to rural areas to address rural population decrease.’
Sligo News File.
Some 7,000 people have left Donegal owing to the absence of work in the county.
Disputing claims made by Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring about a drop in unemployment, local TD Thomas Pringle told the Dail that the fall in the jobless figures for Donegal was attributable to the vast exodus of people from the area.
He said, “In the space of six years, since Fine Gael was elected in 2011, Donegal has experienced the highest rate of population decline in the country, at -1.5%, while every other county bar Sligo and Mayo experienced a population increase. The Minister’s county, therefore, experienced a population decrease. This is because the Government has not offered any support to rural areas to address rural population decline.
“People from Donegal said Pringle, “have gone to Dublin, London, New York and Australia.”
“Rural population decline is both a symptom and cause of the retreat of rural services, including post offices, Garda stations and general practitioners and most recently the retreat of private sector services, which has left towns such as Ardara with no banking facilities at all. This is all under the Minister’s watch.
“The root cause of rural population decline is Government policy prioritising urban areas to the detriment of rural towns, privatising essential networks, such as the post office network, and centralising front-line services, such as the Garda force.”
“The Minister should be careful with the figures he has announced. Population figures have fallen because of emigration rather than on foot of anything he – or the Government – has done. That is the problem we have in Donegal.”
Pringle said he had carried out a “business survey” of small towns in the county in recent weeks to which there was “a great response from a wide range of businesses in Ardagh, Donegal town, Ballybofey and other places. They have a sense that no help is being accorded to them in terms of keeping services going. They have identified the withdrawal of services as being the key factor and referred to the post offices, banks and Garda stations that have been closed.
“The Minister has to reverse that trend, which is the only way he can protect those towns,” said Pringle.
Ring said Donegal had received the third highest amount of funding from his department in 2017. “That was over €8.6 million more than my county received. The local improvement scheme, LIS, was allocated €3.3 million, CLÁR was allocated €589,000, and the town and village renewal scheme was allocated €1.15 million. These are the programmes we are trying to put in place to create employment and to keep people living and working in rural Ireland.”
He said that under the national development plan, “the Government has committed to establishing a new rural regeneration and development fund, which will provide an additional €1 billion over the next ten years to support rural renewal and reduce population decline in rural towns and villages.”
In another reference to Donegal, Ring said he noted from recent statistics that “the number of children aged under 15 years increased between 2011 and 2016.”