Many young adults are being forced to leave rural areas in North and Mid-Cork due to a lack of jobs, proper broadband, public transport and outreach education.
These are some of the key findings in a survey of people, aged 16 to 35, living in the Duhallow and Lee Valley regions, which are contained in a 177-page report launched by Co. Cork-based registered charity and regional support organisation IRD Duhallow.
Dr Brendan O'Keeffe started the survey work in 2019 with 862 people from three cohorts. These included second-level students and young adults.
“Young people want to stay in their area, but if they have to go, they want to be able to return at some stage and they need the ingredients to exercise that choice,” Dr O'Keeffe said.
“They need better public transport, community facilities, housing and more blue and white collar employment,” he said, adding that the lack of employment opportunities is a particular issue for young women.
Many young adults also highlighted difficulties with attaining mortgages or planning permission, as well as finding affordable childcare. Surprisingly for such rural areas, just 6% of males, and no females, indicated they'd like a career in farming.
Dr O'Keeffe was critical of the top-heavy 'bureaucratic' paperwork burden put on community and voluntary groups in the region.
“They are doing great work here, but they are spending far too much time filling in forms. This time could be better devoted to helping younger people,” Dr O'Keeffe said.
Duhallow IRD chief executive Maura Walsh said the report had to be acted upon on a number of levels.
She said her organisation was preparing to set up youth forums in each of the parishes within its jurisdiction and in turn each would elect two representatives to sit on IRD Duhallow's Youth & Education Working Group.
Ms Walsh said IRD Duhallow was also engaging with Foróige and Macra na Feirme to ensure that any studies they carry out nationally are broken down into electoral district areas, so they can get a grasp of what is happening in the IRD's sphere of influence and react accordingly.
She said there's a major need to provide outreach education hubs in such areas, especially “for life-long learning”.
Ms Walsh said:
She said that up to seven years ago IRD Duhallow was in charge of the Local Link rural bus services in its area, which accounted for roughly 64,000 trips per year with routes which were not provided by the national carrier, Bus Éireann.
The service was then centralised on a countywide basis, with the Cork headquarters transferred to Bantry. Ms Walsh maintained that “was hugely detrimental” to her region as services there were curtailed as a result.
“We shouldn't have such services centralised on a county basis. Duhallow is three times the size of Co. Leitrim. There are four counties in Ireland which are smaller than our region. Services need to be organised and managed at a more local level,” Ms Walsh said.