Almost a third of the more than 90 townlands in the South Kerry Gaeltacht are now uninhabited, with poor access to services one of the main reasons people are leaving the area.
Most people leave Iveragh for work in Cork, Dublin and Limerick, and bigger towns in Kerry, rather than heading abroad, a survey attached to a new Údarás na Gaeltachta survival plan has revealed.
More than half of the region's 1,800 population still speak Irish – but young people are leaving, creating a potential disaster for the future of the language and the area itself.
Many of those who left had degrees and left for work of a type not available locally.
However, the survey revealed that quality of life is also important when people are making decisions about where to live, project manager Kathleen Breathnach said.
We found in the survey quality of life is even as important as being able to make a living. Having a safe place for children and so on. But there must be medical services.
Mapa Bóthair d’athbheochan Ghaeltacht Uíbh Ráthach, the plan by Údarás for the revitalisation of Iveragh, comes on foot of a series of surveys undertaken by academics in Ireland and abroad.
These found almost a third of the more than 90 townlands in the area are now uninhabited and “the key factor is proximity to basic services”.
Those townlands nearest Waterville and its services are the least likely to be deserted.
Today, a three-year blueprint aimed at safeguarding the future of the Iveragh was unveiled by 25 stakeholders, mostly state agencies, which will become a template for saving other Gaeltacht areas.
It sets out 35 objectives and 100 specific measures including that 10 new families are attracted into the area and that 20 houses be made available for purchase or long term lease at a reasonable price.
Some 145 new, full-time jobs are to be created – half supported by Údarás na Gaeltachta - in new private and public enterprise space, and the remainder by other agencies.
Among the targets are a new innovation and digital hub to be developed in Baile an Sceilg, alternative farm enterprises by Teagasc, and the immediate restoration of services lost in the past decade - the Irish Language College, 24-hour Garda presence in Cahersiveen and a 24-hour helicopter emergency transfer service.
Tax subsidies are to be looked at as a way of attracting people to live in Iveragh so the population can increase by around 200.
The Iveragh plan is part of a €1.7m aid for the language across the Gaeltacht areas this year and was launched by Minister of State for the Irish Language, the Gaeltacht and the Islands, Seán Kyne.