This is the final series of articles, the Conclusion, in the Change in the West of Ireland collection.
The collection is made up of five series as follows:
- Introduction: Uniqueness, interdependence, uneven development and change in the West of Ireland
Conclusion: a changing rural Ireland
Is rural Ireland closing down?
It is thirty years on from the writing and filming of geography course materials for Open University students about uniqueness and interdependence in the West of Ireland. Since 1983 rural Ireland has continued to evolve, with layers being added, removed and changed, making and remaking its uniqueness while also being affected by ongoing interactions with the wider world and its cycles of boom and bust.
As you read this article, consider the previous examples from Southwest Donegal and Northeast Mayo. To what extent do the issues of the 1980s still remain relevant today as rural Ireland continues to experience far-reaching change with fears for its demise?
In 1983, when the Open University geography course was being prepared, there were 2,300 post offices in Ireland. Today, there are about 1,100. Seen as a hub of the community, the loss of rural post offices signals a deep malaise at the heart of rural Ireland.
Similarly, many rural pubs, hit by drink-driving laws and availability of cheap alcohol in supermarkets, have closed, leading to increased isolation. In 2010, the Vintners Federation of Ireland calculated that 1,500 pubs had closed in the previous five years, with 20,000 jobs being lost in the period from June 2006.
Between 2013 and 2015, 95 Garda (police) stations were closed, while more than 130 bank branches shut their doors between 2008 and 2015. In these cases, as with pubs and shops, which can no longer compete with out-of-town retail centres, the closures have been concentrated in rural villages and towns, leaching their life blood.
Doochary, Co Donegal. Garda station (pink building) finally closed in 2012 and is now a private house. The post office closed in 2008 though the local shop is still open. The post office in the next village of Lettermacaward was saved thanks to a public outcry.
Read Inishowen News article.
Increasingly, rural dwellers must travel greater distances to reach necessary services, yet at the same time the rural transport network is under threat, increasing reliance on private cars. In Spring 2015, dismay was expressed when Bus Éireann, the national bus company, announced its intention to drop or substantially reduce about 100 services across the country. The effect would be to leave one in five rural communities with no direct bus service at all.
Read Independent.ie article.
These changes have significant impacts, from an economic and social perspective, with increasing isolation and loneliness being experienced in the more remote areas of rural Ireland.
Now move on to Rural life: broadband, employment and migration.
See all the articles in this series
See the other series in the Change in the West of Ireland collection
This article is part of a collection on the 'Uniqueness, Interdependence, Uneven Development and Change in the West of Ireland'. To find out more about the collection, a good place to start is the introduction, Change in the West of Ireland.