SINN Féin councillor and Mayo constituency candidate Gerry Murray has warned that the ongoing meltdown of local shops and businesses in small towns and villages around Mayo and throughout the country will develop into a ‘Ghost Town Ireland’ scenario if steps are not taken immediately to address the situation.
The Charlestown man says this has now become a huge issue in rural towns. “This debate is already under way in many countries over the last ten years, and currently a Sustainable Communities Bill is going through the House of Commons in London. The bill deals with the rapid decline of rural towns in Britain and was prompted by a report called ‘Ghost Town Britain’.
“It is ironic that at a time of ‘an economic boom’ our small towns and villages are facing their greatest economic and social crisis. Economic globalisation is the main source of this crisis and it is now impacting on our small towns in the same manner that it has impacted on farming over the last ten years.”
Cllr Murray is calling on central and local government to put in place a social and economic strategy for the county’s small towns and villages. The objective of such a strategy would be to achieve balanced commercial development right across the county and to reverse the current trend where 80 per cent of all commercial activity is now taking place in the larger urban areas.
“In recent years, the service and retail sectors in our smaller towns have come under extreme pressure from the large multiples who are far more competitive and offer a greater choice to the consumer. This presents huge challenges for our smaller towns and hard choices in terms of the commercial strategy that is now needed to ensure that our small towns and villages survive as sustainable communities into the future.
“Though consumers themselves lament the loss of local shops, they are caught in a vicious circle where choice and price, work and travel patterns, brands and advertising, all conspire to undermine the desire for vibrant local towns and villages. No individual consumer feels they can reverse this trend, despite feeling a sense of loss as long-established local shops, pubs, post offices, banks and other services disappear one by one from our once vibrant rural towns.
“People can join in the debate by visiting ‘Ghost Town Ireland’ at www.mayosinnfein.com to see the impact that economic globalisation is having on small towns all over the world and some of the proposed strategies that might yet reverse their decline.”