Nearly two decades ago I left the west. I was lucky to get a place in college in Dublin but many of my counterparts got out altogether. There were no jobs - emigration or migration was the only option. Many have never come home.
When I finished college things had not improved greatly either. So off I went too - I had been conditioned to emigrate. But emigration didn’t work out and I returned to Ireland. By that stage I could stay - our politicians had begun to sort our economic basket case.
In September I moved out of the capital with my family. However, since moving west I have seen the reality of what people outside Dublin have been been putting up with for years.
It is clear that the country is out of balance. Mayo and other western counties are getting the crumbs of the newly found wealth – albeit bigger crumbs than ever before.
Arguably, the M50 in Dublin is the country’s most important road. But, because it was not planned properly it is too small and now the Government has to spend €10 billion to widen it.
In my first couple of weeks in Mayo I had the pleasure of staying in Cong, but this meant driving up and down to Westport.
What a road! In some spots it was like being on a roller coaster – in other spots it is sinking. Sharp turns are common, it is narrow and in some parts it is extremely dangerous.
Some might say; ‘so what, isn’t it only a country road’. But this road has huge potential commercially and every other way. The road is the most direct route to Galway from Westport. Its development is also critical to the growth of Ballinrobe and south Mayo.
As a tourist route it could bring people from Galway city into the heart of Mayo. But in its current state few coach drivers or tourists would be enthusiastic about travelling the Cong to Westport road.
Knock airport is looking for more than €30 million from the Government. A new lighting system for the runway will eliminate the fog problem that dogs the airport.
Europe says Knock can have the money and there is €65 million in the pot for the six regional airports.
Knock’s future could be guaranteed at the stroke of a Minister’s pen but the Government has decided to recruit consultants to advise how to divvy up the €65 million.
But, the Government has plenty of money to spend on airports having just sold Aer Lingus. However, it is clearly obvious where that money is going – the new terminal at where else but…Dublin airport which will cost a massive €600 million.
The controversy in Bellanboy might also be a smokescreen.County Mayo has no network to distribute the gas to homes and industry. It is quite obvious that the big cities will gobble up most of the supplies.
Bord Gáis is considering whether it would be ‘economically viable’ to pipe gas into towns in Mayo. Does this mean that if enough money cannot be made then gas will not be distributed?
Whatever happens, most people in Mayo will never get gas. It will never be economically viable for Bord Gáis or any other company to pipe gas into rural areas.
As with Knock, consultants have been hired to examine the possibility of a gas-fired power station. This, once again, sounds hollow and resembles a stalling tactic to avoid saying no.
If we accept that Dublin is the key then the links with the city should be strong. There should be a good road from Mayo and every other county to the capital. However from Mullingar to the west, the N5 deteriorates to a point where it is just ‘a windy country road’ more suited to tractors than cars and lorries.
Mayo is at a crossroads. There are other people like myself and my family who want to set up home outside Dublin. Without commitment from the Government, Mayo will not have a sustainable future and some other generation could be ravaged by emigration.