Young people must be supported to live in rural Ireland, says Saoirse McHugh

Re-invigorating rural communities will mean creating affordable housing and public transport so that young people are able to live, get around and enjoy their lives, according to Saoirse McHugh, independent candidate for the Midlands North West in the upcoming European election.

Speaking to the Galway Advertiser, she said we hear a lot about towns and villages emptying out across Ireland, young people moving to cities or overseas.

“The solution is often to try to create more jobs but jobs alone won’t cut it unless there’s affordable housing and transport options available to people.”

She cited her own experiences on Achill island and called for communities to be proactive in their approach.

“It’s sad to see schools closing and young people leaving year after year, but in most cases there’s no available houses to rent and the only choice is to live at home, which can add it’s own pressure.”

Research by Rural Link revealed that 62% of young people in rural Ireland live at home with their family and cite private transport as their biggest expense, something Ms McHugh believes has to change.

“Ireland is still the most expensive country in the EU to tax and insure a car and it’s just astronomical for young people. Add to this the cost and availability of public transport and you can see how hard it is made. Young people want to be able move around, get to work or college and see their friends, if they can’t do that they’ll soon get fed up and want to leave.”

While Saoirse acknowledges there has been some progress on public transport in recent years, she says it doesn’t go far enough and must be part of a wholesale plan. “Employment, housing and transport must go hand in hand if we are to have a quality of life for young people in rural areas. There’s a lot the EU can do on transport and housing policy to facilitate and fund this and I think it would also be great to see communities lead the process, identify their particular housing opportunities and transport needs and guide the policy makers. We hear a lot about the death of rural Ireland from certain politicians but they never seem to mention the things that are really hurting us.”


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