Rural towns with fewer than 10,000 inhabitants have seen the highest jumps in unemployment and emigration since the downturn, according to a Teagasc expert.
Prof Cathal O’Donoghue, Teagasc’s head of rural economy and development, said: “Small and medium-sized towns have been affected to a greater extent by the economic downturn, with unemployment increasing by 193% in towns under 10,000 inhabitants, compared with 115% in cities and 150% nationally.”
In a presentation to Galway County Council, Prof O’Donoghue cited Gort as a prime example of a rural town which has endured losses, but which also has great potential for recovery.
Gort was just outside the top 10% in 2006 and 2002, but it is now in the bottom 10% in the country. The town lost 350 jobs and 15% of its working population during the crisis.
Gort’s decline is due to its over-reliance on construction prior to the crash, its unsustainable increase in economic activity over a short period, and its rapid population and housing rise prior to 2006.
Gort is at the centre point of a high education axis that follows the road between Limerick and Galway, making it a rural area with high human capital. It has good road, rail and airport links as well as close proximity to major tourism assets such as the Burren, Coole Park, Galway Bay and Lough Derg. Geologically, the town forms part of the Burren lowlands. It also has a significant cultural heritage as a central location in the Celtic revival movement at the turn of the last century.
Teagasc is working with community leaders in Gort and the Burren lowlands of south Galway and north Clare as part of its Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas.
The study also cited many towns benefiting from Galway city’s economic strength. Clarinbridge, Barna, Carnmore, Clifden, Craughwell and Oranmore are all in the top 10% of towns nationally, based on the Teagasc expert’s measures.
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