Report reveals towns worst hit by recession and shows poverty rates double that in cities

Ireland’s towns are bearing the brunt of the economic downturn, with poverty rates double that in the cities.

Report reveals towns worst hit by recession and shows poverty rates double that in cities

They are also suffering more from unemployment and population loss, and the proportion of households where nobody has a job is one in three compared to one in five in the cities.

The struggles in provincial towns — home to 1.5m people — are revealed in a research project by Teagasc that looks at 302 towns and rural districts with populations or more than 1,500.

It says Bearna, Co Galway, is the town coping best with the recession, while Bunclody-Carrickduff, spanning Wexford and Carlow, fares worst.

Cork has four of the top 10 best performing towns and, together with Sligo, has the largest number of highly ranked towns. But even within counties there are variations. Kildare, for example, has two towns in the top 10 but also two in the bottom 10.

In general, towns further away from cities struggle more, but towns on the very outer edge of city commuter belts have also been hit hard.

Dr David Meredith, the report’s co-author, cautioned against expecting a one-size-fits-all solution, pointing out that some towns had been in long-term decline and needed different approaches from those hit recently.

“These are places that have witnessed long-term economic structural change so they’ve seen the closure of industries, the closure of factories over a very long period of time,” he said.

“During the boom the people that would have worked in those industries generally got recruited into working in the construction industry, but when the construction industry collapsed we saw the full effect of long-term economic change.

“So it isn’t just the most recent economic crisis that we are looking at here for some of these towns. They have been struggling for some time and the boom effectively masked a lot of the challenges in those places.”

Common difficulties among the towns include the vicious circle of unemployment curtailing spending, which causes local shops to suffer, which results in more job losses.

Another common concern is the “hollowing out” of towns, with people and shops moving to the edges while town centres decline.

Co-author Professor Cathal O’Donoghue said the report flagged serious issues: “One of the reasons for concern is the impact of the crisis in these areas but also the general lack of focus in national policy in relation to these towns.”

He urged communities to get involved in identifying opportunities for their own areas and said local authorities — which lose their town councils next month — faced challenges in leading the charge against decline as they were having to switch from a regulatory role to a development one.

“If you’re moving from a function where you’re doing housing or waste or whatever regulatory things, there is a different mindset. It’s more risk-taking; it’s more solution-finding than management function; and that will be a challenge for local authorities,” Prof O’Donoghue said.

The 20 strongest areas

1. Bearna, Co Galway

2. Rathmore, Co Kerry

3. Balraheen, Co Kildare

4. Bantry, Co Cork

5. Whitechurch, Co Cork

6. Kilcoole, Co Wicklow

7. Ovens, Co Cork

8. Clarinbridge, Co Galway

9. Celbridge, Co Kildare

10. Dromore, Co Cork

11. Glin, Co Kerry

12. Carnmore, Co Galway

13. Carrigtwohill, Co Cork

14. Collooney, Co Sligo

15. Ightermurragh, Co Cork

16. Oranmore, Co Galway

17. Straffan, Co Kildare

18. Craughwell, Co Galway

19. Carrick, Co Wexford

20. Caldragh, Co Longford

The 20 weakest areas

1. Bunclody-Carrickduff, Co Wexford

2. Robertstown, Co Kildare

3. Rathkeale, Co Limerick

4. Carrick-on-Suir, Co Tipperary

5. Abbeyfeale, Co Limerick

6. Banagher, co Offaly

7. Gort, Co Galway

8. Castlelost, Co Westmeath

9. Kilcommon, Co Tipperary

10. Carbury, Co Kildare

11. Oldcastle, Co Meath

12. Ballyshannon, Co Donegal

13. Cross Roads, Co Donegal

14. Castlecomer, Co Kilkenny

15. Ballaghaderreen, Co Roscommon

16.Ballina, Co Mayo

17. Letterkenny, Co Donegal

18. New Ross, Co Wexford

19. Lifford, Co Donegal

20. Ballybunion, Co Kerry

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