A GALWAY county councillor will continue to raise what he describes as the “death of rural communities” at local authority level.
At the most recent council meeting, Councillor Gerry Finnerty tabled a motion stating that “in County Galway many villages and towns are losing business day by day. Pubs, shops, service stations, restaurants are all closing. Jobs have been lost and on top of that there is a real threat to Garda stations, post offices and schools. Would Galway County Council consider contacting various groups for whom we are led to believe are fighting rural decline e.g. the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) etc along with the various Government Departments who are responsible for rural Ireland and have a Special Council meeting to debate this crisis before we lose all our villages and small towns.”
He says what he wants to achieve is a debate on the matter with a speaker from CEDRA invited to take part or give a presentation.
In a written response signed on behalf of Galway County secretary Michael Owens, the motion from Councillor Finnerty was ‘noted’.
“What I was looking for was a debate on this. When we did the small town study a couple of years ago and when the report on that was published last year, I actually forwarded a copy of that to CEDRA. They have had a number of meetings in Gort but these were maybe not as constructive as I would like, yet. I want to get those guys into the council, I want to see what they have to say, what they are made up of, do they read the reports, I know they have no money but I want to see what is their plan for dying towns going forward,” Councillor Finnerty outlined.
“I think the response I got is more negative than positive. I am not impressed by the answer I got. I will be raising it again and I hope that other councillors will take interest in this. I will follow up at next Thursday’s meeting and hopefully find out if we are to get a debate on it or what,” he added.
The Kilbeacanty resident said he raised the issue because “there seems to be a culture of anti rural. Everything seems to be dying out. It has been happening to smaller places for some time and now it is happening to larger towns too that are rural dependent.”
Councillor Finnerty said he believes that businesses like shops and hotels which had been getting daily deliveries of goods to date will see this decline.
“You have companies that do bread or fresh meat deliveries that are currently delivering their products daily around the country and I know that some of those companies are going to rationalise the number of vans on the road. When they do this it will mean a lot of those smaller towns will not get deliveries as often. It seems like the smaller businesses are trying to be weeded out with everything going to larger multinationals with centralised distribution centres. Hotels will be affected too if they get daily deliveries, I think these will become sparser.”
As well as businesses closing, local services are also diminishing in rural areas.
Cuts to public services, Councillor Finnerty believes, leads to depopulation, closure of businesses and further decreases in public services. He said it was too early to judge the impact of the recent change in Garda district but claimed “the first areas to be struck are the rural areas again. You feel like in rural areas you are becoming more irrelevant every day and you wonder what you can do to make the area more relevant.”
“Where do we start on this issue? We are facing the budget in the council next week. Already we see that there is a reduction in the amount of money allocated for local roads. If we can’t keep even the roads in reasonable order and keep the hedges cut, there is nothing to attract people to stay in these local areas,” he said.
“There is nothing as far as I can see being driven by any Government, now or in the past, to rejuvenate rural areas. It is cut after cut after cut,” councillor Finnerty concluded.