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Fr Harry Bohan. Photograph by John Kelly

Economic imbalance ‘driver of deprivation’ in Clare

IN light of the Pobal Deprivation Index findings, Sixmilebridge parish priest, sociologist and rural Ireland campaigner Fr Harry Bohan has highlighted the economic imbalance in Clare, with peripheral regions left out of the development and job creation loop.

The index, which was based on the 2016 Census, found that parts of Ennis, Kilrush, Kilkee and Ennistymon were areas of particular deprivation, while areas considered ‘disadvantaged’ included Sixmilebridge and Shannon.

Lack of employment is an issue in all of these areas, with Kilrush Independent councillor Ian Lynch claiming that Clare Minister of State Pat Breen has failed to bring any jobs to West Clare, in his role as minister for jobs.

“Ennis is to Clare what Dublin is to Ireland. I talked to a man from West Clare last week and he told me that, between three parishes in West Clare, there will be 12 children combined in infant class. The populations of West, East and North Clare have been stripped. The villages are absolutely destroyed,” remarked Fr Bohan.

He pointed out that in his own parish of Sixmilebridge, there are 540 children attending primary school. “There is a total imbalance between that and schools in West and East Clare. The implications are enormous for family life and businesses there. There has been no attempt to plan development. If talk could save and develop rural Ireland, it would have been developed long ago. All we get is talk but no attempt to look at the reality.

“Rural Ireland means families, communities and it means the GAA. It astonishes me that an organisation like the GAA hasn’t spoken out on this, with all its influence, when the GAA is looking at three parishes to put one underage team together. The whole concept of the GAA is based on the local parish, not the local region,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, Councillor Lynch said the lack of job creation in Kilrush is a significant factor in parts of the town being described as “deprived”.

He argued, “We’re getting no input or commitment from our TDs to try and get jobs back here. We’re relying on small businesses, who are still struggling, to keep going. What’s really annoying about this is that last week’s Pobal report is exactly the same as the last one in 2011. There has been no effort made. What has changed?

“We hear the talk coming up to election time. We have our Minister for Jobs in Deputy Pat Breen but we’re not seeing jobs in West Clare. It all comes down to the lack of jobs. It’s grand to have job announcements in Limerick, Shannon and Galway but, if you are unemployed in West Clare, you can’t afford those jobs. There is no job-friendly public transport and you have no way of getting from Kilrush to Ennis or Limerick,” he said.

However, Councillor Lynch feels there are signs that Kilrush can progress economically in the coming years. “For the first time, Kilrush is being described as a tourism destination, having won the European Eden award. That alone has put us on a good footing. We can create our own future but we need the investment in simple things, like broadband and the road network to Ennis,” he stressed.

On a broader note, Fr Bohan feels that the housing situation nationally will have serious knock-on effects in the years ahead. “There are three basic necessities in life – food, clothing and shelter. Shelter, in the form of housing, became a commodity for trading and that has left huge numbers homeless or not able to cope with the rental situation. You can’t have serious development without a major social input. We drifted on as if the whole key were jobs, jobs, jobs.

“They are important but we haven’t touched on the damage that has been done to the settlement pattern in Ireland,” he concluded.

Peter O’Connell

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