WEST Cork’s islands could be in danger of becoming retirement resorts and being entirely depopulated without meaningful Government action.
Speaking in the run-up to election day, the Sherkin Island Development Society (SIDS) say their community is facing the same challenges as other rural communities.
That includes a shortage of affordable housing, difficulties in accessing education, poor transport links and complications when trying to access basic services.
Aisling Moran, development officer for Sherkin, Heir and Long Islands said: ‘By definition being surrounded by water acerbates these problems and also makes island communities uniquely vulnerable. In some cases, islands are in danger of becoming retirement/holiday resorts or being totally depopulated in any meaningful sense. The national housing crisis requires the building of many thousands of houses in cities and towns across the country but in the case of an island like Sherkin, two or three affordable or social houses could mean the viability of the whole community. The smallest of changes to transport or communication links can make a huge difference at minimal cost.’
She added: ‘We were looking forward with keen interest to what the different candidates had to say about the islands and their future during this campaign and obviously we listened particularly closely to specific thoughts on Sherkin and its neighbouring islands. I have personally enjoyed working closely with ministers, deputies and councillors in relation to issues on all the islands and have been particularly appreciative of their support in our efforts to maintain the Bachelor of Arts in Visual Arts course, school transport and education issues in recent years. However we go into the new decade facing many challenges, some new some old but all equally important in keeping Sherkin and the other West Cork islands literally afloat. Hopefully, the recent inter-departmental islands initiative launched by Minister Sean Kyne and the Department of Culture Heritage and the Gaeltacht will bear some tangible fruit.’
Jez Youell, chairman of SIDS added: ‘As a recent immigrant to Ireland and Sherkin Island, I was amazed at the uniqueness and diversity of Ireland’s offshore islands. In my role as chairman of SIDS I have met many politicians from different parties who really get this but what we need to see now is meaningful action in support of island communities.
‘In many cases it is a lack of will rather than a lack of cash that is the crucial factor.’