Jobs for women proposed to stop population decline


THE ISLANDS:THE PROBLEM of declining population on islands led one minister to suggest a need to provide well-paid jobs for “females of marriageable age” to reverse the trend.

The declining and ageing population with a lack of women of marriageable age is identified as one factor that may lead to the eventual depopulation of the inhabited non-Gaeltacht islands of the west coast, a 1978 report revealed.

The minister for economic planning and development Martin O’Donoghue sought approval to “create female-employing projects on the islands, since without these the population structure is in danger due to the migration of marriageable age women in the islands”, a memorandum for the government states.

He wanted to attract part-time vocational teachers to the islands by paying an additional one-third to their hourly rates.

The memo said the minister for public service George Colley objected to teachers being paid one-third more as this could lead to a claim by full-time teachers. However, it said he would allow 25p per hour extra to be paid which was the same as the island allowance for full time teachers.

But Mr O’Donoguhe said an extra 25 pence per hour was “unlikely to provide the necessary incentive to induce teachers to the island” and because it involved a few teachers, the wage increase would not have repercussions.

There were 30 inhabited islands discussed in the memo, seven in Co Clare; four in Co Galway; two in Co Kerry; nine in Co Mayo, two in Co Sligo and six in Co Cork.

A 1976 survey of the islands by the Central Development Committee identified rapid depopulation of most of these islands. On Dursey island, there were no women of marriageable age in 1971 (population less than 40).

“It should also be noted that the options for marriage might be even less than this since some of the males and females of marriageable age might be closely related,” the survey notes.

Nine islands with a sufficient number of marriageable age men and women to sustain a population were identified. There were seven islands with a population of less than 30 but at least one young family and five islands without any young family on them.

Of the 30 islands listed as inhabited in 1976, 13 were no longer inhabited by 2006 according to census records: Co Clare – Coney, Canon, Inishloe, Inishmacowney, Inishmore, Saints and Scattery; Co Galway – Eddy, Turbot; Co Kerry – Beginish, Dinish; Co Mayo – Annagh and Taggart.

It is unwise to make substantial investments where the population “was going to migrate to the mainland in any event” a civil servant at the Taoiseach’s department wrote in 1978.

Mr O’Donoghue recommended that electricity should be made available on Clare, Inisturk, Inisbofin and Dursey islands and they should be charged no more than on the mainland. Electricity was twice as expensive on the islands as the mainland.