Kerry report highlights rising emigration and rural depopulation
Not for the first time the twin issues of emigration and rural depopulation have been highlighted at a county convention, with Kerry chairman Patrick O’Sullivan citing the example of Coláiste Na Sceilge, who just three years ago won an All-Ireland colleges football title.
“In the past few years the number of students attending Coláiste Na Sceilge has fallen dramatically,” said O’Sullivan, “an indication of the serious affect rural depopulation is having in south Kerry.
“Players transferring to overseas clubs since the downturn in the economy have also affected clubs in rural areas to such an extent that many fear they will be unable to field teams unless some radical solutions are found.
“We in Kerry GAA will do whatever is necessary to help clubs but we must work together with Munster Council, and the association at national level, to ensure that rural Ireland is supported, and not neglected.
“It is our hope that there will be a satisfactory outcome to this problem so that our clubs can plan for the future confident that those in power at the highest level of the association are working on their behalf.”
O’Sullivan highlighted other problems, including “financial management, the standard of football and hurling played in our club competitions from under age to adult, our coaching structures, providing a much needed support back-up to our club officers, maintaining our county grounds and facilities and providing a centre of excellence for our intercounty teams and development squads”.
But “rural depopulation”, he said, “is going to be the most challenging issue facing the future viability of many clubs throughout the county but particularly in south Kerry . . . Emigration, school closures and planning restrictions are the major factors identified as the difficulties currently experienced by many rural-based clubs.
“During the past few weeks, the rural depopulation committee held four information nights on employment and enterprise for all clubs in Kerry. Club secretaries, club chairpersons and county board delegates were invited to attend these meetings that were addressed by guest speakers from the local development associations who gave presentations giving information on jobs and employment opportunities available in Kerry.
“I welcome Pat Spillane’s appointment to chair a government task force on Rural Ireland . . . ,” O’Sullivan added.