Cork County Council plans to establish a special Rural Affairs Committee amid concern over rural decay in rural communities in Central and North Cork.
The call for the establishment came from Fine Gael councillor John O’Sullivan. “We have communities out there that are struggling to put out GAA teams because young people are leaving in droves,” said Mr O’Sullivan. “We need to adapt to help them, otherwise they will go below critical mass.”
He added that with the Cork city boundary extension, the county council would become a more rural-focused local authority. Independent councillor Danny Collins also backed the plan, saying that many rural businesses were struggling.
“We have to come up with ideas to improve our areas, especially for tourism. There are no young people joining voluntary groups in rural areas because they’re not there anymore.” Fine Gael councillor Mary Hegarty said it was important that the committee focused on employment creation in rural areas and Fianna Fáil councillor Bernard Moynihan said that, in his area of north-west Cork, there was no tourism to rely on, using the village of Knocknagree as an example.
The village has no post office, no shop, no petrol station and has seen its school population reduced by over 50% since the 1970s. His party colleague, Frank O’Flynn, said villages were dying and young people could not build in their own areas because planning permission regulations are too restrictive.
“There are a whole rake of villages where there are no shop, no post office, no creamery or pub,” Mr Moynihan said. The Fine Gael leader on the county council, Kevin Murphy, said the committee “would have to have finance and power otherwise it will be only a talking shop.”