Thousands of people marched through the streets of Tipperary town on Saturday to protest over the area experiencing “decades of neglect”.
Organisers of the #March4Tipp protest said the town was an “unemployment blackspot” with more than five times the national rate of unemployment.
Padraig Culbert, one of the organisers, said up to 5,000 people marched past a number of derelict buildings and closed shops on the town’s Main Street. He said 22 retail outlets sat empty in the town, with one business closed in recent weeks after being open for 40 years.
“We have small children here from the primary schools. We have parents, mothers, fathers, grandparents, workers, doctors, solicitors, drivers, farmers, all different but united by one thing, we’re united by this place, this is where we’re from,” Mr Culbert said in a speech during the protest.
“We wouldn’t all be here today if we were not desperately proud of our place. But that pride also brings an anger when we see what’s happened to our place.
“How many of us in recent memory can remember shopping and doing business in premises up and down this street that are closed now?”
Participants said they wanted action from the Government and local representatives on rates, business retail plans, parking charges and for Deis (Delivering Equality in Schools) status to be granted for primary schools in the town.
“Deis is aimed at places where there is significant disadvantage. Our town is at the top end of the official scale of deprivation and disadvantage,” Mr Culbert said.
The Deis scheme provides extra resources, such as additional teachers and home-school liaison officers, to more than 800 disadvantaged schools across the STate.
Mr Culbert said the last factory in the town had closed about 15 years ago, and none had opened since. He also said the group was calling for a bypass of the town as locals felt heavy traffic contributed to shoppers avoiding its centre.
Dr Iver Hanrahan, who took part in the march, said he had worked as a GP for 13 years in Tipperary town and had seen the effects of socioeconomic deprivation on local people’s mental and physical health.
“Since the recession I’ve witnessed very definite deterioration in health status of local population. A huge amount of adverse mental health can be directly related to social factors including depression with unemployment and much of the physical health issues can be indirectly linked,” he said.
“If the objective of the march is successful and businesses in the town are reopened and employment created, there would be a definite knock on health benefit indirectly.”