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Killala: the future

Updated Wednesday, 6th April 2016

Killala at a crossroads?

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Killala view from the harbour 2015 Creative commons image Icon Jenny Meegan under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license Killala from the harbour, 2015 In the nearly forty years since Asahi came to Killala, much has changed. According to the 2011 Census, the town of Killala had a population of 574, while the Community Action Plan 2015-2020 suggests that there are just over 1,400 people living in the wider Killala area. The plan summarises the vision and priorities for projects for the future area. This vision focuses on seven key areas: the economy; community facilities and services; town environment, tourism, sports facilities, community safety and employment. 

So new layers have been added to this unique location, an important element of which are the economic changes which have taken place, including the closure of the Asahi plant and subsequent developments.

Yet there is potential conflict between the new layers currently being laid down here at Killala, with the attractions of the area for tourism potentially being overshadowed, for example, by industry at the former Asahi site. As has already been noted, a previous attempt to establish an asbestos recycling plant in 2004 failed due to protests, while conditional permission was secured for a waste recycling plant in 2008. While hailed for its job creation potential, which would ‘bring us back to the Asahi days again’, others have been critical of the biomass-fired power station, questioning the sustainability of importing some of the fuel for the plant and the relatively high cost of producing energy there. 

The importance of the area’s natural heritage and wildlife is another part of Killala’s uniqueness as can be seen in The Draft Killala Nature and Wildlife Plan 2014-17, a community based biodiversity plan. 

The original case study of Northeast Mayo provided a snapshot of the area at a particular point in time, but it is important to recognise that each unique place is constantly evolving and both adding and removing layers. This updated material has taken the story forwards, but there are many possible futures for Killala and its hinterland, depending on factors relating to its uniqueness as well as on its dependence on decisions made elsewhere at a variety of scales. As Justin Sammon says in this audio clip, in 2015, ‘Killala is at a crossroads’.

Philip O'Sullivan and Justin Sammon in Killala Creative commons image Icon Jenny Meegan for Justin Salmon photo under Creative Commons BY-NC-SA 4.0 license Philip O'Sullivan chats to Justin Sammon

Transcript: Killala is at a crossroads…

PHILIP O’SULLIVAN It is fascinating, this chapter I suppose looked at Killala as a case study, as an example of uniqueness of place thirty years ago. So in some ways where is Killala maybe now and where do you think it is going to be in maybe, five, ten, thirty years’ time in the future?

JUSTIN SAMMON Killala now, is like a lot of rural Ireland towns, it is at a crossroads, it could demise or it could with a bit of work come forward …


Activity: Recap this section

Having studied this section on Northeast Mayo, consider the construction and reconstruction of the local uniqueness and interdependencies. Think in terms of how the historical layers have been constructed and, have in turn combined with the previous layer to produce a modified, yet new set of social relations.

  • What elements and processes have been involved?
  • Did you anticipate these outcomes based on what you saw and your knowledge of how Ireland has changed in the past 30 years?


Now move on to read the next section, Conclusion: A changing rural Ireland.


See all the articles in this series

See all the 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. 

References for this section

  • O’Cearbhaill, D. (1982) ‘Development through self-help; the achievements of the Killala Community’, in Sewel, J. and O’Cearbhaill, D. (eds) (1982) Co-operation and community development, Social Sciences Research Centre, University College Galway.

  • Ó Cinnéide, M.S. and Keane, M.J. (1980) Resource survey of the Killala area, Social Sciences Research Centre, University College, Galway.


This material draws from Open University programmes and a course based on the work of Pat Jess.

  • Photo of sign outside Asahi 1983:
    Jess, Pat. (1985) ‘ Unit 17 Local Change in the West of Ireland’ page 22, in The Open University (1985) D205 Changing Britain, Changing World: geographical perspectives, Block 5 ‘The Changing Face of the British Isles’, Milton Keynes, The Open University Press. 

  • Aerial photos of the Asahi site:
    The Crampton Digital Archive, University College Dublin.





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