Decline Of The West
Sir, - I wish to congratulate President McAleese on her excellent interview on TV3 on its opening day, particularly the part of her interview relating to the "Celtic Tiger" and the need to ensure that the weaker sections of our society are targeted for development.
Within the past month a survey of the Tuam Archdiocese, which stretches from south Roscommon to north Mayo, showed that the vast majority of parishes had suffered badly from depopulation. The same is true for most parts of Connacht with the exception of Galway city and its environs, Castlebar, Sligo and possibly a few other large towns.
Here in the parish where I live, which is only nine miles from Ballinasloe, the so-called Celtic Tiger has had no positive effect. We are still awaiting a proper water supply, we do not have a sewerage system, the construction of new houses has stopped for years. Our young people are leaving every year, never to return, our church is half-empty on Sundays and the numbers attending our national school, of which I am principal teacher, has dropped from 143 in 1987 to 76, with further falls envisaged in the next few years. Part of the lure of urban areas for young people has come from the provision of large numbers of town houses and apartments in those towns which were favoured with Urban Renewal Schemes. Parts of large towns and cities were chosen for renewal schemes because of their rundown state and the lack of development in them.
In my village 27 houses are occupied by one or more people, three houses are occupied part-time as holiday homes and an incredible 15 houses are permanently empty - a third of the houses in our village. Can you imagine the political outcry there would be if 33 per cent of all houses in any large town or city were permanently empty? If large urban areas needed renewal schemes with huge tax incentives for investors to stimulate economic activity, surely small, weak, neglected, rural villages and towns urgently require at least similar treatment to get them moving again. A request for inclusion in such a scheme last year through our local TDs to the Minister for Finance, Mr Charlie McCreevy, fell on deaf ears.
The small towns and villages of east Galway are probably the most neglected in the country. I wish again to inform Mr McCreevy that we need a Rural Renewal Scheme; we want our community to grow and to prosper and he is holding one of the keys. And to those people who are objecting to the proposal that the lesser developed parts of our country be given Objective One Status for Structural Funding, I say lay off. The more powerful and more prosperous east and south of the country have had it good for long enough. It's time to give the less developed and less prosperous areas a chance to catch up. - Yours, etc.,