OPINION: Our objection to everything will sink Offaly and rural Ireland
Cenus 2016 results released earlier this year revealed that over 8,500 people are leaving Offaly to go to work in the mornings. More than one in ten Offaly people commute for over an hour, spending upwards of twenty hours in a car or on public transport just to make a living every week.
All the while, the latest figures available to us suggest that just over 5,000 people are still unemployed in Offaly, jobs are slow in coming, and IDA visits are all but non-existent in the county. Those are issues rooted in government policy resulting in thousands of jobs going to the urban centres.
Enda Kenny once found himself in trouble for labelling the people of Mayo potential All-Ireland champion whingers, but if there's going to be a final, Offaly might well give the green and red a run for their money for the terrible title.
For the reasons outlined above and the lack of serious investment in Offaly, perhaps we have reason to whinge, but our aversion to progress might be doing us no favours. We, like many other rural communities, appear to be serial objectors to things that might bring some life, industry and much-needed hope to our county.
The planning permission for that house down the road; a hotel; that social housing plan; a new youth centre - all things we cry out for but for some reason don't want when it comes to the crunch. Unsightly, not the right spot for it, a waste of money, not in my backyard - all the type of objections levelled at such developments that sees them move on, bringing the people involved elsewhere.
That's a real shame for rural Ireland because we need all the help we can get. That 'not in my backyard mentality' seriously diminishes our prospects. Even when it's nowhere near anyone's backyard, 'it adversely impacts on the aesthetics of the countryside.'
Although the examples above are hypothetical, they represent the broader reality of why projects like these fall apart. We all want these things, but just 'not too close to my house, maybe a little further down the road,' and so the cycle continues until we get to the end of the road and we still have nothing.
The effects of all of this is the outward migration of people and money from rural areas, towns and villages, because there is nothing for young people to strive toward. Yes, the lack of industry such as factories or tech plants in many parts of Offaly is lamentable, but there's a lot more we can be doing to help ourselves without really doing much at all.
If the first reaction is to object to ideas, then we will stunt our economy. It's already happening. Whether its windfarms or campsites, or even a primary care centre, people only support the idea of the jobs they might bring in theory. Ideas and a drive to create something from nothing in rural Ireland is something to celebrate, not glibly object to. So the solution? Do nothing - simply stop objecting.
Without enterprising people, there are no enterprising ideas, and in the absence of those principles, rural Ireland dies a slow death with cycles of high unemployment and low economic activity.
These things go hand in hand and the sooner a lot of people in rural Ireland realise that, the sooner we can start catching up with the rest of the country. Open arms are what we need, not hands raised in objection.
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