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The Gaeltacht Under Threat
- The Gaeltacht Under Threat
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I watched the news last night and saw the latest planning fiasco in the ring peninsula of Waterford. Liam Clancy was on giving his views and a superb very short ironic poem to the state of things.
This is Irish doing this, no immigrants to blame; Irish selling the land and Irish buying them, often Dubs as second (maybe third) homes
This has as ye can see being going on a while now
Cultures clash over Ring Gaeltacht ‘bad planning’
27 June 2001
FROM THE SOUTH EAST
Reports by Chris Dooley
- Locals feel plan threatens future of Ring
- Ring 18-house development is opposed
- Report says Gaeltacht funding insufficient
Locals feel plan threatens future of Ring
The survival of one of Ireland's smallest gaeltachtaí is threatened by potential over development, concerned locals will tell the Minister of State for the Gaeltacht, Ms Mary Coughlan, at a meeting today.
An area action plan which aims to preserve the Irish language and protect the visual and cultural amenities of Ring is to be voted on in September by Waterford County Council.
Members of a recently-formed lobby group which meets the Minister today claim the plan, drawn up for the council by CAAS (environmental services), opens the door to housing estates in a hitherto un spoilt rural area.
Opinion is sharply divided as other residents say the CAAS plan has got the correct balance between allowing limited development and protecting the local environment. A decision on the plan was due to be taken next month,
but the deadline for submissions from the public has been put back to July 27th.
Everyone agrees that demand for housing in Ring has dramatically increased and, with traditional local industries in decline, the Irish language is under pressure. The CAAS plan, based in part on the 1999 Waterford county development plan, proposes to concentrate development in four areas, three
of them - Maoil an Choirnigh, Baile na nGall and Helvick - in Ring, and the other in the neighbouring Old Parish, which is also part of the Gaeltacht.
Housing densities of up to eight units per acre are proposed, but on most of the zoned land only three would be allowed. A number of residents fear, however, that even this density will lead to housing estates and the "suburbanisation" of Ring as an extension of Dungarvan.
They claim planning permission recently granted for an 18-house development on a six-acre site at Baile Uí Raghallaigh, overlooking Dungarvan Bay, will set a precedent for similar schemes unless it is overturned by An Bord
Ms Paula Uí Uallacháin, one of a number of local residents who objected to the development, is also a member of Gaeltacht i mBaol (Gaeltacht in Danger), a recently established community group which meets Ms Coughlan today. "I've no wish to live here if I can't live my life through Irish and I feel as if part of my life is going to be ripped away from me," she says.
The group stresses it is not against outsiders moving in to Ring - Ms Uí Uallacháin herself moved there in the 1970s - but she says the Gaeltacht would not survive large numbers of English-speakers moving in to newly built housing estates.
Supporters of the proposed action plan, however, say three houses per acre will not result in estates. Indeed the CAAS plan specifically states that the rural nature of Ring and Old Parish must be maintained.
Contacted by The Irish Times, however, several people in favour of the action plan declined to put their views on record, saying the debate ran its course when the first draft of the plan was published last year. One of them, Mr Micheál Ó Faoláin, chairman of Comhairle Pobail na Rinne, said local people had been invited to send submissions to the council at a public meeting organised by the comhairle pobail last year.
As a land-owner with an interest in developing his own land, he had not chaired the meeting. The council's senior planner, Mr Denis McCarthy, had attended and everyone had had a chance to make their views known. A Labour councillor, Fiachra Ó Céilleachair , who is an elected member of Údar´ as na Gaeltachta, is highly critical of the action plan and not only
on grounds of potential over development. While housing estates could be built in the areas zoned for development, he says, there are "over-the-top restrictions" on people living outside these areas.
The action plan proposes that residential developments outside the zoned areas should be subject to a "rural, essential, family-housing need policy", restricting eligibility to relations of the land-owner, people who work in the area or people from the area who wish to return home to live on
Mr Ó Céilleachair wants a continuation of single-site, small-scale
development subject to the normal planning conditions. A in the Dungarvan electoral area, however, support the CAAS plan. One of them, Ms Nuala Ryan of Fianna Fáil, said three houses per acre was a satisfactory compromise. Initially it had been proposed to restrict development to one house per acre and a number of local people had complained that this was too
restrictive. In her view three could not be considered high density.
Ring 18-house development is opposed
Objectors to an 18-house development in the Ring Gaeltacht, which was granted planning permission this month, claim it will lead to the destruction of the rural fabric of the area.
Local residents who opposed the development at Baile Uí Raghallaigh plan to appeal the decision to An Bord Pleanála. Cllr Fiachra Ó Céilleachair (Labour) says he will also be lodging an appeal.
He told The Irish Times that two developers wanted to build similarly sized "housing estates" at three other locations in Ring and, once one had been passed, it would be impossible to prevent others.
Mr Mick Ó hUallachá in, who lives adjacent to the Baile Uí Raghallaigh site, claimed the Gaeltacht itself was under threat. "Once you allow housing estates to go up that's the end of the rural community and it's also the end of the Gaeltacht," he said.
The developer, Mr Seán Halpin from Waterford, has disputed the assertions of objectors, including Mr Ó hUallacháin and his wife, Paula. In correspondence with Waterford County Council, Mr Halpin's architect, Mr Muiris Ó Criostóir, said the design was in keeping with the traditions of the area.
The development was low-density and would not obstruct the "magnificent views" of Dungarvan Bay for pedestrians in the area, he added.
The 18 houses on six acres match the density of three houses per acre proposed in a draft action area plan to be voted on by Waterford County Council in September.
Although the plan has not been adopted yet, Mr Ó Criostóir said all aspects of the draft were taken into account. Permission for the development was granted by the council on June 13th.
Report says Gaeltacht funding insufficient
Government funding has been "totally insufficient" in dealing with the infrastructural deficit in the Gaeltacht areas, according to a consultancy report on the future of Ring and Old Parish.
The report by CAAS (Environmental Services) says Gaeltacht areas face an uncertain future despite the economic boom. Its proposals on future housing development in the Ring and Old Parish Gaeltacht have divided opinion in the local community, but housing is just one issue addressed by the document, published as a draft area action plan.
While population levels in the Gaeltacht areas increased from 83,000 in 1991 to 86,000 five years later, they still lag behind the rest of the State in terms of economic and infrastructural development, the plan says.
It says the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands operates a number of schemes in the Gaeltacht and the Government has made additional money available for these schemes in recent years.
The report says, however, that this sum is insufficient to deal with the infrastructural deficit in the Gaeltacht, and continual endeavours are made to identify opportunities to address it. Ring Gaeltacht, it points out, does not have Objective 1 status for EU funding purposes and faces a number of threats.
These include rising land and house prices which could drive people from an area which has a population of just 1,500, about two-thirds of whom live in Ring and the rest in the neighbouring Old Parish. A decline in the number of Irish speakers and an increase in non-Irish speakers could lead to a loss of its Gaeltacht designation, the action plan warns.
On the other hand the Ring Gaeltacht has one of the most popular and respected Irish colleges in Coláiste na Rinne, a good socio-economic mix and a community determination to preserve the Irish language.
The plan sets out community objectives, suggested by locals at an open day last year, including the protection of the area's rural character and archaeological heritage; increased measures to prevent littering, polluting and dumping; and the exercising of "strict control" over residential developments.
Road capacity, visual amenity, the provision of housing for local people and the maintenance of an Irish-speaking population should be regarded.
It proposes the funneling of developments into four areas and the restriction of density to three houses per acre. Some locals argue that even this level will destroy the rural fabric of the area. They say Ring does not have the water, road and sewerage services to support it.
There are concerns about the pressure and quality of water supply, while the road network is "generally poor" and not capable of catering for large-scale development.
The Department of the Environment and Local Government has, however, approved a major investment scheme in sewage treatment for the Dungarvan area which will cover the areas of Ring earmarked for development.
Locals argue their heritage is at stake over housing developments on the horizon, writes John Murphy.“BEFORE my very eyes I am watching our Gaeltacht being destroyed by huge and ugly housing developments that have no relevance to the environmental beauty and cultural heritage of the area.”
The words of Eibhlis Ni Dhonncha, a schoolteacher at Meanscoil San Nioclas in the heart of the country’s smallest Gaeltacht in Ring, Co Waterford, where the community is up in arms over what they claim is the bad planning strategy of Waterford County Council.
Last night parishioners met to voice their concerns about the situation, and tomorrow many will march through Dungarvan to the council headquarters to highlight a situation which they claim will lead to the demise of the Gaeltacht.
In recent years there has been a spate of housing developments throughout the tiny Gaeltacht.
However, a decision to give the planning go-ahead for 12 two-storey houses on a 2.1 hectare site at Cnocán an Paoraigh towering high over Dungarvan Bay is regarded as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”.
Despite concerted objections, the development is under way.
“The three- and five-bedroomed detached houses are described as two-storey, but they also have a basement, so in effect they are three storey and are towering over the picturesque landscape,” Ms Ni Dhonncha said.
They cost €500,000 and that, according to her, rules out the possibility of any young local people acquiring them.
“They will be bought by people from outside the Gaeltacht with little or no Irish, and it is these kind of developments that are tearing the very soul out of our parish,” she said.
“I was born and reared in this Gaeltacht, my heart is here, and I now have a two-year-old daughter who is being raised through the Irish language. My fear is there will be no Gaeltacht for her when she grows up because of what is happening.”
Siobhain Mhic Craith fears they will lose for their children what she inherited.
“Our problem is with the planners at Waterford County Council who have put very bad strategies in place and are allowing this present planning mayhem to continue in our Gaeltacht,” she said.
“They are expecting us to self-regulate planning by objecting to applications submitted by our neighbours and our families. It is causing great disharmony in the parish, a divide and conquer situation.”
She said the water supply is inadequate and no one has water after 6pm most days.
“We have no showers, no washing machine use, and yet they continue to build more houses.”
Concerns about what is happening aren’t confined to the adult population.
Ailbhe Nic Dhonncha and Neasa Ni Mhurchadha are students at Meanscoil San Nioclas and they describe the development as “disgusting”.
“The Gaeltacht is changing for the worse,” Ms Ni Mhurchadha said.
“I can’t imagine what it will be like in 20 years if things continue as they are.”
“There is no future for the young people of the Gaeltacht,” Ms Ni Dhonncha added.
An invitation is being extended to the Minister for the Gaeltacht, Eamonn Ó Cuiv, to visit Ring.
“We want him to see first hand the decimation taking place here,” Ms Ni Dhonncha said.
Do ye know what the Gaeltacht is, where they are around Ireland
I mentioned as a mind thought provoking reference about Belfast being the largest Gaeltacht, that is just my analogy to correct ignorance in another extreme, but of course it is not a real living Gaeltacht.
learning to speak Irish through formal or personalized education is very different than being raised in a Irish speaking community. A totally different mindset (imo one that is linked but gone pure forever in a straight connection to just what was thirty years ago, if not just because kids watch english speaking tv, cartoons and films, so ye can now only recreate.)
It is the last of the Irish ironies that the most poor Irish, and those who held our culture undisturbed for centuries in isolated (almost unknown pockets of ancient culture up until the 19th century) scattered isolation on the atlantic coastal fringe, are targetted as the place to live by those with money to spare.
It was never a coincidence the land the Irish were allowed to live on in relative peace and freewill, was the very toughest to live on, almost impossible to make a living for a family out of, isolated peninsulas and Glens, but it is a sad cruel twist of coincidence they just happen to be surviving all that time among Irelands most wild beautiful scenic views.
Now eyed by the developers!
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