Finding routes to rural renewal


Sir, – Further to the excellent letters yesterday from two other Donegal dwellers about the long, slow death of rural Ireland, politicians should consider what has happened to communities in England’s countryside.

I should say “former communities” because they hardly exist. The villages of England have all but vanished as living entities after a lengthy process of urbanisation in which bigness was seen as an economic and bureaucratic virtue.

So small local schools vanished, along with cottage hospitals. Soon after, the casual community meeting places – the post offices and shops – were closed. Other key services, such as transport, were removed. And then, of course, the people went. Many of the houses are still there, refurbished into charming and overpriced holiday homes for city folk who visit occasionally. Some are lived in by retired people who grumble about the need to travel so far for their daily bread.

This social vandalism occurred in England almost by accident, but we do not need to follow suit. There is still a chance to prevent it happening here if we adopt sensible policies.

But, I wonder, is there the political will to ensure that rural Ireland is saved from its neighbour’s fate? – Yours, etc,


Ballyarr House,


Co Donegal.

Sir, – On the recommendation of readers of The Irish Times, which voted Mayo the best place to “go wild” in Ireland, we are just back from a short family holiday in Mayo. It is a super county to visit, with exceptionally warm and friendly people, wonderful scenery and lots to do. In our short time there, we enjoyed visiting the Céide fields, the sea stack and blow-hole at Downpatrick and great walks at Erris Head and Ceathrú Thaidhg. We all loved the excitement of “coasteering” at Erris Head.

To finish, we cycled the greenway from Newport to Achill and we wondered why there are not more cycling greenways, in stunning west Cork, for example, where you take your life in your hands to cycle the roads.

Last year, we all enjoyed a short holiday in Donegal, taking in more lovely scenery and great walks.

So what’s there to complain about, you may ask. The roads to both counties are poor and so are a real disincentive to people to visit. Furthermore, very few of the roads within these counties deserve to be called national roads. Have your readers ever driven the N59 from Belmullet to Newport?

These counties need and deserve more tourists and for this to happen they need better roads. The Wild Atlantic Way is an inspired initiative and will help, although more meaningful signposting is needed. However, for Mayo and Donegal to really benefit, better roads are a must. – Yours, etc,


St Lawrence Road,


Dublin 3.