When people like me highlight closures and the withdrawal of services locally, we are often accused of ‘talking down the county’. I have lived in this county all my life and been very proud to do so. However, as someone who has a responsibility to do so, I will always highlight problems that exist when they arise – and I make no apology for doing so.
I have to say that I am dismayed with the amount of services that have been withdrawn from our county in the past couple of years alone. Hardly a month goes by that there is not some announcement that will have a major negative effect on our community.
First there was the downgrading of Boyle Garda Station, then we had the disastrous closure (almost complete) of the Rosalie Unit in Castlerea. Some weeks ago it was announced that the Garda Divisional Headquarters would be moving from Roscommon Town to Castlebar, and there is a now a long-term threat (albeit due to mooted refurbishment work) to continued sittings at Roscommon Courthouse.
Earlier this month there was the devastating news that the Cuisle Centre in Donamon is to close with the loss of around 45 jobs, and this week we have confirmation from Bord na Mona that hundreds of jobs in the Midlands are to go as the ESB stops using peat altogether.
With the exception of the Bord na Mona jobs, all the other situations receive little national media coverage. They are however huge blows within our county. It’s ‘death by a thousand cuts’ and now is the time for our public representatives to shout stop. It seems like the loss of services here is a relentless trend.
Bit by bit, services are being taken away – and not being replaced – and it is happening under our noses. The fact is towns such as Roscommon, Boyle and Castlerea are commuter towns where the majority of people are getting into their cars and heading west or east to work every day.
Local people, including Cuisle staff, were due in the Dáil on Wednesday to protest at the decision of the Irish Wheelchair Association to close Cuisle, but believe me folks, like everything else in this country, if the political will was there Cuisle would remain open. If Cuisle was located in Minister Finian McGrath’s constituency, do you think it would be closing? I think you know the answer to that one.
The argument about the use of peat to generate electricity has been lost a long time ago but the fact remains that there are hundreds of people who have been in Bord na Mona for 30 and 40 years and who will never work again. The gaggle of ministers who visited the area on Monday say that the people in Bord na Mona can be re-trained so that they can retrofit houses. I will be amazed if that happens. They are also planning to ‘refurbish’ the bogs and turn them into tourist trails and parks. I’m not convinced by that either. A way of life for many people is coming to an end, it’s as simple as that.
The bottom line is that as the months go by, many services are being cut and employment is being reduced in rural Ireland, especially in the midlands. How many cuts are we going to have to withstand in this county and this region before people start to get very angry? There is a general election coming up in the next five or six months. Readers should remember that.