Ireland’s Neglected North West
When it comes to government funding and investment, the north west of Ireland has always come dead last. Many people thought this would change with the announcement of the Wild Atlantic Way, the initiative designed to attract tourists and revitalise those counties in dire need of support. Despite its success over the last four years, businesses in the region are still struggling. The main reason for this is the governement’s failure to provide the north west with proper transport infrastructure.
Last year, Fianna Fáil TD for Sligo Liam Marc MacSharry spoke of this neglect:
“We have known for a number of years since the Census for 2006-2011 that the north west of the country has suffered badly from people moving away from our counties in pursuit of jobs and broader opportunities.”
The frustration of those living in the north west has inspired several groups to emerge, which are commited to pushing their agenda for the revitilisation and regeneration of the area.
One such group, Revive Northwest, has spent the last few years educating the public about the lack of governement intervention in the region. Speaking about the non-existence of a motorway connecting Sligo, Anthony Gray, the group’s organiser, said:
“We have one of the most brutal stretches of road, a 14km stretch from Collooney Roundabout to Castlebaldwin, which has taken many lives. It’s issues like that which hold back the region.”
“If you were able to drive from Galway to Sligo in an hour instead of two because of the roads, more people would come.”
The north west has been crying out for decent transport infrastructure for decades, with improved access to both Galway and Dublin regarded as crucial for the region’s survival.
To get a better idea of where this urgency comes from, take a look at the maps below.
With the exception of Sligo’s direct rail line to Dublin, the images clearly show just how ostricized the north west, particularly Donegal, really is. Attempts have been made in the past to provide infrastructure to the region, but the wrong type of government intervention has hindered these plans time and again.
For example, earlier this year, it was revealed that Leo Varadkar, during his time as Minister for Transport, dropped plans for west coast transport projects from the EU Trans-European Networks (Ten-T) funding programme. After obtaining Freedom of Information documentation, Kealan Flynn from Galway was able to bring Varadkar’s chicanery to light and estimates the decision deprived the north west of €1 billion infrastructure stimulus investment and approximately 17,500 jobs.
With no immediate plan in development, the north west’s talented workers will continue to emigrate, thusly contributing to the prosperity of other, better invested areas.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
At present, there are several ways we can eradicate this problem. However, they all rely on connectivity.
The first is coworking spaces, which have become increasingly popular around the world over the last fifteen years. Coworking spaces provide excellent internet connection for workers as well as a place that is convenient for them to perform their duties. By emulating the success of the Ludgate Hub in Skibbereen, coworking spaces give towns and villages a fighting chance to prosper, no matter their location.
And then there’s Smart Villages.* Similar to coworking spaces, Smart Villages are the product of community-driven campaigns which seek to upgrade their internet connection, allowing those residents who have emigrated or commute each day to come home. By developing Smart Villages, new business models will emerge, helping existing businesses to connect, integrate and cooperate better with urban-based businesses.
Internet access has become a universally accepted human right, yet here we are, a first world nation, still struggling to provide it to towns and villages across the country. By investing in countrywide connectivity, we can bring our diaspora and their jobs back home.
*Be sure to check back in tomorrow for more information on Smart Villages.
If you would like to know more about SmartWorking,