THERE are growing fears of a ‘lost generation’ as thousands of local people, particularly the young, have emigrated over the last five years sparking concerns that communities are facing dwindling numbers of under 30s.
While the official figures suggest that almost 1,600 have emigrated since 2006, many believe that the true figure is over double that.
The startling numbers of people who have moved away from Fermanagh in search of employment, a better lifestyle or alternative reasons has left a gaping hole in our communities and local sporting clubs.
Government statistics sugget that the number of people deciding to move abroad has increased tenfold in as little as two years.
Figures released by the Department of Finance and Personnel show that in 2005 just 38 people emigrated but this figure rose by over one thousand people during the following four years.
However, these figures does not include local people who have migrated to other parts of Ireland or Britain for work or university, meaning the true number of people leaving Fermanagh to live elsewhere is significantly higher.
Compared to other district areas in the North, Fermanagh has suffered some of the highest emigration numbers with a total of 1,532 people moving away since 2006.
It is thought that thousands more have left Fermanagh and have settled in other areas with many opting to live in England, particularly London, where there are more job opportunities.
Fermanagh GAA has suffered some of the biggest blows to its club membership in recent years. Players making up almost three teams have left local communities to move abroad.
But Fermanagh County Secretary Tom Boyle believes that the number of club members who have transferred to international teams does not represent the true number of young people abroad.
He said: “What we have in our system is the amount of young people who are participating in GAA games outside Fermanagh and have asked for a transfer and those numbers have been fairly steady over the last few years.
“But we also have quite a lot of young people leaving communities who do not participate in GAA games. So there’s no figures for those people as we only have the numbers who have asked to be transferred.
“Over two and a half teams of players have left the county in recent years. But a lot of clubs can still, to a large extent, field two teams. The biggest impact is felt on reserve teams and some clubs have found it difficult to put these together.
“There are some teams here that have been hit badly. We have to remember that people leave during the summer months and go to America but they come back into the system again in September or October and they would be included in the transfer figures.
“The biggest emigration would be to Britain, particularly London, for work. A lot of well-known players would be looking to join a club in Britain.”
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