Census figures showing that Clifden is the fastest growing town in Connacht provide further strong evidence that a purpose-built facility is needed as a matter of urgency to cater for the educational needs of North Connemara, that is according to Fine Gael Galway West TD Seán Kyne, who is calling on the Minister of Education to re-evaluate his department’s plans for education provision in the area.
This latest push for a school to be provided in Clifden comes after the surprising decision by the Department of Education not to include Clifden Community School in the Five Year School Building Programme. In March of this year, Minister Ruairi Quinn announced that a total of 23 new schools, a mix of primary and post-primary, are to be built in Galway over the next five years. However, Clifden residents and local representatives were left shocked and devastated by the exclusion of a new school for their area despite a campaign that has been fought tirelessly for more than 20 years.
The Central Statistics Office (CSO ) recently published a series of Census 2011 reports outlining details of the population by geographic area and showing that Clifden is not only the fastest growing town in Galway but also in Connacht. The figures show that between 2006 and 2011 Clifden experienced a population growth of 37.3 per cent. The census figures for Clifden and other areas in North Connemara show that Clifden has 2,613 residents while in Rinnvyle it is 1,330, Ballynakill 593, Bencorr/Derrycunlagh/Derrylea 561, Bunowen 460, Cloch na Rón 459, Sillerna 441, Cleggan 263, and in Errislannan 229 residents, bringing to 6,949 the number of people residing in the immediate catchment area for the Clifden school.
Deputy Kyne said this week that the population growth in Clifden and its surrounding areas is evidence that “it meets the criteria which has underpinned the Five Year School Builiding Programme - namely that investment be targeted on areas experiencing population growth to ensure a school place exists for every child in the country”.
“I am concerned by the apparent disconnection between the Department of Education’s figures and those now being published by the experienced statisticians of the Central Statistics Office and I have written to Minister Quinn in relation to this.
Deputy Kyne continued: “I fail to see how the department can project enrolments for 405 pupils for September 2017 and 402 pupils for September 2023 based on the figures available through Census 2011. Given that the thrust of the Five Year Building Programme is based on demographic changes and increasing demand, Census 2011 provides compelling evidence of strong population growth in the Clifden area and therefore demonstrates an undeniable need for a new, purpose-built facility to cater for the educational needs of North Connemara.”
The census 2011 figures also showed that the population of County Galway is mainly rural with 45.9 per cent of people living in Galway city and other urban areas of the county. Tuam has been given the title of the largest town in the county with 8,242 residents. The figures also show that more than 16,500 usual Galway residents moved in the year to April 2011, with most of these (12,362 ) moving elsewhere within the county. A total of 747 of the 6,794 Galway households who moved in the year preceding the census bought their new home with a mortgage or loan, while 5,561 rented their accommodation.