A group of 22 transition year students from Scoil Phobail Bheara has reached the national finals of the Young Social Innovator.
The YSI is a year-long programme for transition year students and the Castletownbere school is the only school in all of West Cork to have reached this year’s final for its fascinating project on rural regeneration.
The project entitled Want the Best? Come West! involved research that was conducted over an eight-month period and established some interesting social and economic findings.
For their efforts, the group has been nominated for the Virgin Media Digital Innovator Award and on Monday, May 10th next some of the students will be pitching the project to a panel of seven judges.
YSI guide, teacher, and chaplain, Marie Murphy, said the survey of more than 500 people clearly identified the demand for a digital hub in Beara.
The survey also revealed that many families have returned to their native Beara since the start of the pandemic because it offers a better quality of life and lower Covid-19 infection rates.
Although 71% of respondents were happy with the provision of broadband, 29% called for a higher speed network.
Of those surveyed, 93% made a conscious decision to make Beara their home, and 15% chose it for the purposes of cocooning.
A whopping 73% indicated that they would like to own a property on the Beara Peninsula, while 100% said they would like to remain in the area and not return to office-based employment.
The downside to the influx is that 72% of those interviewed found it difficult to find suitable accommodation, and have, as a result, had to meet rising rent costs.
But it has had a hugely positive impact too. According to Marie Murphy, ‘we are seeing a regeneration of our town and district.’
Looking to the future and possible solutions, she said, ‘The survey clearly shows there is huge potential to repurpose vacant properties and to offer incentives to people to refurbish derelict buildings.
‘Clearly, there is a great demand for suitable work and personal accommodation in the locality,’ she added.
‘It is our hope that the survey will form a blueprint for the future development of Beara and can be linked in to the Government’s Our Rural Future 2021 – 2025 programme.