Priests in Ireland claim that rural communities are suffering from a lack of social and economic investment, The Irish Catholic reported this summer.

Parishes in Ireland are being crippled by a lack of employment, according to the recently-retired Bishop of Elphin Dr Christopher Jones.

“There’s essentially no employment and there’s a decline in employment potentiality in all of the rural towns,” said Bishop Jones.

He said that the major focus is on cities such as Dublin, Cork and Galway. “That’s important, but the only thing that will bring life back to rural towns is jobs.

“I mean both economic and social life,” he said.

Dr Jones said having a Taoiseach from Mayo and other minsters from the area means “they must know exactly what’s happening in rural Ireland and the rural west” but it has not changed policy.

Many rural people “have lost heart, and nobody is giving them any heart” says Dingle-based Fr Pádraig Ó Fiannachta.

The parish Priest of Kilcar, Co. Donegal, Fr Edward Gallagher told the Irish Catholic: “Rural Ireland is dying on its feet.” 

“The population in rural parishes is declining. In my parish 50 houses have closed in the last seven years… any child here in secondary school, if they go off to university, it’s seldom they return because the jobs are not here for them,” he said.

Fr Gallagher said that rural communities are being stripped of vital services. “One of the causes of decline in rural Ireland is that post offices, garda stations and medical dispensaries have closed down.”

“Money is not being spent in rural Ireland, it is being spent in the cities,” he said.

Fr Harry Bohan, based in Co. Clare, said a “bureaucratic approach to development concerned with growth” is to blame.

“The measures that were being applied to rural Ireland and especially the West of Ireland were half measures, and the result is we have serious damage done to life across Ireland. Villages are dying around the West of Ireland and services have been closed,” he said.

He says the heart has been taken out of rural Ireland “and when you take the heart out of a place you take the spirit and soul as well. That must be one of the great election issues for next year before it is too late.”

Bishop Jones said that while local politicians are doing their “utmost” to promote economic development in rural Ireland, “there’s no indication that the Government is doing anything to create employment.”

*Originally published in August 2015. 

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