Clare People Article August 2019

In search of a breath of life for Rural Areas…

(It is with great sadness that I learnt of the closure of the Clare People Offices on Tuesday of this week.  Many thanks to the staff and team of the paper for the outstanding news service provided for the people of Clare since 2005.  Best wishes to the team for their future and keep up the great work! + Fintan)


What a fantastic Summer it has been for Clare, despite the hurlers making an early exit from the championship.  There have been so many positive events!  The publicity for Shannon and West Clare during the visit of the President of the United States.  The outstanding success of the Irish Open golf in Lahinch.  Another great week in Miltown Malbay for the world famous Willie Clancy Summer School.  The Munster Fleadhimmediately after that in Ennis.  The announcement of the Ryder Cup just on our doorstep for 2026, another great boost.


Clare has a wealth of treasures to offer in many locations; Scattery Island, The Burren, Ailwee Caves, Loop Head, Cliffs of Moher, Bridges of Ross, Holy Island, Inis Cealtra, Bunratty, to name but a few.  Very few counties have such beauty, variety, almost an embarrassment of riches.  Clare really has something special with all of the above, along with the warm hospitality, the unique interest and talent in traditional music and not to mention sport.  Plenty to shout about!


Investing time, energy, resources into further effort to continue to promote and facilitate people to avail of such worthwhile attractions seems so obvious.   In doing so, it will attract many people to visit in greater numbers, thereby providing jobs and employment for local people in the area and for them to flourish and thrive in situ.


Rural communities in many places, but especially in Clare are a bit like the corncrake.  They are at  risk of becoming an endangered species!  For quite a time there has been a steady trickle away, a haemorrhaging of young people from country areas to the urban settings and many going further afield, abroad.


While enjoying the experience of the annual Confirmation season of the diocese annually, I note with sadness being informed of the declining numbers of young people.  Many rural places have just a handful of children where once were many more.  I fear for the long term effect this will have, with the gradual demise of rural communities!


There is a beautiful and unique quality to rural living that is hard to describe.  In the three years I have lived in Clare I have experienced so much of what is positive in these rural communities, in Agricultural shows, Drama Festivals, Apostolic Work Displays, Community Games Events, Religious Outdoor Events, Walking Clubs, Day Care Centres and other show case events for what the great countryside has to offer.  The quality of human relationship and friendship and knowing each other is something to behold!


And then, the sad reality of the situation that is so often reported in the local news, the threat of closure of industries like Moneypoint, the decline of business in Shannon Airport, the drop of tourist numbers in some of the traditional holiday spots, less and less opting for working the land.


Rural areas are also hurting as a result of the gradual stripping of services, Post Offices, Garda Stations, Parochial Houses, Rural GP Services, local GAA  teams struggling to field teams and more.


As the ancient proverb says instead of cursing the darkness, why not light a candle!  So, what can be done?  How can we arrest this decline?


Ní neart go cur le chéileas the phrase goes, there is strength in togetherness.  Ongoing dialogue and planning between interested parties; public representatives, civic authorities, local committees, community minded people to find a way forward and plan seems the way to go.


Harnesing the potential of products like The Wild Atlantic Way, marketing strategies for events like the Ryder Cup, campaigning to get events like the golf back to Lahinch, the Fleadhto Ennis, encouraging more success in Tidy Towns.  I am so aware of the efforts of many already in this area, but can there ever be enough done?


Hard choices, affirmative option for the small community, positive discrimination towards rural living, increase in services, the availability of better broadband, infrastructure and communication, educational facilities will improve and encourage the promotion of rural life and for it to be sustainable.


Otherwise – rural areas will become like and old house no longer lived in, with the crows flying in and out through the empty windows…