Deprived Donegal presents inconvenient truth: two Irelands exist in one Republic
Donegal’s position as the country’s most deprived rural area comes as no surprise to MacAoidh: “In February I will have been 17 years with the Donegal Local Development Company and in those 17 years I have never seen Donegal come in any kind of socio-economic deprivation statistics other than in last place . . . If you are consistently on the floor that tells you can never get up.
“What you wind up with is young people leaving in massive emigration, industrial-strength quantities. And you end up with an aged, overdependent and often under-educated population.”
MacAoidh says the sense the county has been left behind by successive governments has caused anger and frustration among the population.
“The fact of the matter is development is strategically driven from the highest level . . . it is well known in development circles that, for generations, there has been a Dublin-Galway line. There are two Ireland’s in the Republic, there are two very specific Irelands – north of that line and south of that line.”
MacAoidh says that, while some examples of foreign direct investment, such as the Fruit of the Loom factory in Buncrana (which has since closed) did come to the county, he adds that “they didn’t exist in any strategic and numerical scale as it did south of the Dublin-Galway line”.
The county lacks the level of direct investment required to develop a stable rural population.
“That is what incentives are about and I honestly don’t believe that enough effort was made . . . and I’m pessimistic for the future – not because of the local development actors in Donegal, those people are Trojan workers.
“I am pessimistic because it will now be harder to get that focus and concentrated support in Donegal in the next decade.
“If there is balanced development, investment in Donegal, I don’t see why we would fail while others have succeeded. There is no inherent difference . . . If we got the same fair shake that the south of the Galway-Dublin line got during the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, I don’t think we would have made any worse of a job than anyone else has. And we might have actually done better.”
MacAoidh rejects those who accuse Donegal of whinging or putting on the poor mouth.
“If it is based on absolute hard fact, that you didn’t get a fair deal, then forget calling it a whinge, let’s just recognise that you didn’t get a fair deal.”