Neglected Achill struggles to survive

McNamara says Government wants just rare birds and plants living there

A Mayo County Councillor has expressed deep concerns for the future of his native Achill Island, asserting that the Green agenda, CAP policies and government neglect, will see it turn into a habitat for rare birds and plants in 15 years - with no people.

In an impassioned address to the AGM of the Westport-Belmullet Municipal District on Friday last, Cllr Paul McNamara stated: “In my area you are an hour before you get to an urban town and you see today, with the price of fuel and travel, it is becoming harder and harder for people to settle in these areas.

“My area has been starved of funding by present and past governments. We had a thriving fishing industry one time, a co-op that employed 5-6 people all year round, that went around and picked up all the fish - working two lorries - one for the markets and one for the boats that could not come in to the market, and then that took fish to Dublin. Today, the birds are flying through that co-op.

“We have 10-12 piers in Achill, the co-op and that industry is completely gone; yet in some parts of Cork and the south coast of Ireland, fishing is still a major industry. I am fighting for funding for those piers, for ladders, pedestrian access, and have got nothing.

“We are serviced by a regional and a local road, both provided with less funding than any national road, and we also suffered the latest 33% roads funding cut. Where does that leave a place like Achill? What future has it? This week Bunacurry is another national school closed, the third in Achill in five years. One of our secondary schools also closed in the last 10 years, yet the Government, local or national, do nothing for us.

“They tell us we have a great tourism industry - but we don’t even have eight weeks of this year’s season left. Places like Achill won’t survive on eight weeks of income. How have we got to this situation, of simply neglect from Dublin? The East coast thrives yet the basics of infrastructure have not been provided in our area.

“Our farming Minister is supporting wildlife in places like the Burren and Achill, investing money to save rare birds and plants; that’s what they want in these areas.

“I don’t support the Cap programmes or what they want us to do in areas like Achill. Minister Ryan is trying to push a Green programme on us; he wants us to have an electric car and it takes an hour to get to the nearest hospital. Planning permissions and restrictions are imposed, telling us in a place like Achill, that any house going in must have no chimney.

“Where will Achill be in 25 years? What services will be left? We had an opportunity for people to move from east to west but our infrastructure let us down. We haven’t got broadband connection in those areas.

“The rural rural divide is getting bigger and bigger. Everyone around here knows what the salmon industry was once to this area - now it is all gone and the people gone with it. What will survive in these areas if people don’t change?”

Cllr McNamara added that any political leader who visited Mayo in the last five years hadn’t come to Achill. “Michael Martin came as far as Castlebar, Leo Varadkar or Minister McConville didn’t come down during their visit to Mayo either, yet we can all talk about blue flag beaches.

“We need to stand up and say, who is going to be here in 15 years and what are they going to survive on, because the programmes I see coming down the road from Government are set to turn us into a place that is a drive-thru of wild parks, where all the rare birds and plants in Ireland will be - because there won’t be any people.”

 

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