*Fr Harry Bohan. Photograph: Eamon Ward
A leading Clare sociologist has warned that the lack of regional development in Ireland is fracturing “the concept of society” within the country.
Fr. Harry Bohan addressed Monday’s meeting of Clare County Council where he called for the committed leadership, vision and co-operation that was evident in the establishment of Shannon Airport to be reignited. He felt Sixmilebridge’s very own Brendan O’Regan epitomised the sense of “strong local leadership” that is needed. “Brendan O’Regan never stopped going around, if there was someone outside digging a hole at the Airport he would go out and get their views, that was the leadership shown”.
Recently announced hubs by the Government aimed at creating jobs are “not even related to regional development.” the Feakle native declared. “Job creation is not possible without services such as hospital, medical services, housing, broadband but even more basic, water and sewerage schemes. And it won’t happen without a return to a concept called Sense of Place, understanding and valuing concepts such as family and community.
“There are no more local and vital units in society than these two and the challenges to parents, parenting and neighbourliness was never greater. In other words, economic development on its own cannot work. In fact a country then becomes an economy only and we lose the concept of society”.
In his memoir, Swimming Upstream, the former Clare senior hurling manager warned Foreign Direct Investment is enabling multinationals “to export our young people from the towns and villages into these cities”. When such companies “get fed up, they move on” hurting the population of rural communities.
On Monday, the Sixmilebridge and Kilmurry Parish Priest encouraged a new slogan “community with unity” for future West of Ireland initiatives. He warned that present urbanisation “could be renamed Dublinisation. The growth of Dublin has gone completely out of control. It’s now described as a tale of two cities”.
Re-evaluating values is a step, Fr Harry urged people to take as he noted the focus had shifted from economic development is being geared more on financial benefit as opposed to personal development. “We are now a culture in confusion because we are the first generation to have reached what economic and material growth can provide to a developed country. Isn’t it odd that our economic growth depends on producing more things that we don’t want and cannot produce some of our basic needs such as housing for all our children and health services for our sick. And isn’t it odd that some of our brightest doctors and nurses are leaving this country, and that at a time of full employment crime and drugs are now becoming major destructive forces for people and communities.
“It seems to me that the day is not far off when we will come to realise we have been creating an economy but not developing a society. And in so doing that the economic problem will take a back seat where it belongs and the heart and head will be occupied or preoccupied by our real problems. The problems of life and living”.
He concluded by urging councillors to apply leadership, practical vision and networks to return to the “people need people society, that was at the very heart of what Shannon was about. The human need will always come to the surface again. We now know the price of everything and the value of nothing”.