Islanders urge Government to reverse cut in core funding

Grant addresses ‘social exclusion and isolation’

Áine Ryan

FUTURE sustainability of non-Gaeltacht islands has been threatened by the scheduled withdrawal of core Government funding at the end of the year which means the closure of five Community Development offices around the coastline. Tomorrow (Wednesday) Cómdhail Oileáin na hÉireann – the islands federation – is set to hold a Press Conference in Dublin to urge Minister Alan Kelly to reverse his department’s draconian decision to stop the annual grant of €600,000.

Island communities off Mayo, and around the coastline, designated as non-Gaeltacht, are grappling with the major Government funding withdrawal and their representatives are calling on the minister to continue ‘to provide core funding under an Islands Development Programme that will save these vital services on the islands’.

They argue that the ‘threatened Community Development Offices deliver a wide range of supports and services on the islands addressing disadvantage, social exclusion, and isolation and provide hubs of social, economic and community activity on these islands since 1994 when the first Islands Development Programme was initiated’.

The islands at the centre of the funding crisis include the Mayo islands of Inishturk and Clare Island, along with Galway’s Inishbofin and Cork’s Bere, Sherkin, Dursey, Whiddy, Long and Heir Islands. The five Island Community Development Companies are managed by local voluntary committees which, through their community offices, employ staff that deliver an important range of frontline services across the nine islands.

‘Disastrous effects’
Inishturk’s Development Manager, Mary Catherine Heanue said: “The Management Committees of the Island Community Development Companies believe that the termination in core funding will have disastrous short, medium and long-term effects on the island communities they represent and all of the work that has been done over the years along with the training of volunteers and staff, the building of local capacity, the creation of networks and contacts will all be lost and the Islands will never recover.”

“Great work has been done among the non–Gaeltacht Islands and it will now all go to waste when the funding is withdrawn,” she added.
Meanwhile, Clare Island’s former Community Co-ordinator, Michelle O’Mahoney, said: “The islands are key economic drivers in their respective regions and are a major draw for tourism in Ireland. They are of added importance as a symbol of and link to the promotion of the Wild Atlantic Way which relies on the Island connection to create a complete experience of the West.

“The inhabited islands off the Irish coast are a unique reservoir of arts, culture, identity and heritage. They are home to living, breathing communities and the government has a duty to ensure that these communities remain viable and vibrant.”

Established in the mid-1990s the Island Development Programme ensured equality between Gaeltacht and non-Gaeltacht islands.