Connemara village writes its own positive obituary

Loch Con Aortha residents say they have given up hope of being saved as population plummets

The residents of a Connemara village believe that neither Minister for Rural Development Michael Ring nor any of his colleagues have the will to save it, and it is time to record its obituary in the most positive way.

The community of Loch Con Aortha, which is famed for good poitín, has initiated a bilingual website that records its rich heritage through details of its placenames and the stories behind them.

Locations of poitín stills, malt kilns, causeways and other landmarks are mapped, along with the history of the area dating back to AD 400.

The area is some 64 km (40 miles) west of Galway city, near Cill Chiaráin and in the barony of Ballynahinch.


Film-maker and television producer Seán Ó Cualáin has worked for the past two years with Loch Con Aortha resident Seosamh Ó Suilleabháin on the project, recording folklore such as the links with Mordán, king of the ghosts – after whom a hill, Cnoc Mordáin, is named.

The project tracks the relentless impact of emigration: the village’s population now stands at just 50, and only 20 of these are under 65. The area had 90 residents in 2004.

Land is worthless

Mr Ó Suilleabháin is a returned emigrant, from England, and remembers that there were 90-100 pupils in his primary school, which has been closed since the 1970s.

He says that EU habitat directives have made land virtually worthless, as it cannot be worked without specific permissions, while the area also lacks essential services such as high-speed broadband.

"If there had been more local consultation on EU directives, we would feel less hurt about it,"he says. "There was never equality of treatment from Brussels for areas like this, which now find it hard to fight for services when the population keeps falling.

“We don’t have any famous people – no footballers – but we appreciate our little patch, “Mr Ó Cualáin says. “We are not saying we are better than anywhere else, but if these placenames are not recorded they will be forgotten.”

“If we can’t save the village, we hope to save its heritage,”he says.

Former Galway county councillor Seosamh Ó Cuaig says that there is a need for a group of politicians to run on a rural platform.

He says the seriousness of the issue was highlighted when former Fine Gael councillor Paddy McGuinness resigned in April from the post of chairman of the Western Development Commission in protest over Government inaction.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times