‘Very fabric of life here under threat from emigration’

Fr Jimmy McPhillips    RMGFH16

Fr Jimmy McPhillips RMGFH16

Parish priest Fr Jimmy McPhillips warns that the drift of young people away from rural Fermanagh is having serious consequences for communities here.
“It’s only two years since I arrived into the parish of Botha, a parish that has 560 families on record.
But, these families are older than the average family because many of their youth have emigrated, for. instead of moving into the workforce, many are moving out of the country.
Job opportunities are scarce in rural Fermanagh and there is no major employer in this parish of Botha.
From doctors to farmers, teachers to accountants, construction workers to nurses, engineers, plumbers, plasterers, surveyors, the 20-somethings have departed this parish in very large numbers, and all in search of employment and a better future.
The very fabric of our parish is now under threat, and the impact upon family life is destructive.
Their absence is missed greatly. Our church attendance is a visible sign of that, and we have lost the social and cultural vibrancy of our parish, for every rural parish depends upon these young people to settle within their own communities, to keep on the family farm, to have the children attend the local schools and for the local shops to be supported.
In the parish of Botha we now have a more elderly population, many of them carrying on farming work far beyond their years, now chatting to their sons and daughters through Skype, and you can see the sadness in their eyes as they speak about their son or daughter in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the US.
We have very few new homes being built within the parish. Our GAA club have lost a significant number of players over the past decade, both male and female, and the impact that that has upon the survival of any club.
We have a main street in Derrygonnelly with shops and homes now lying empty, for sale now for many years – with no takers.
At the weekends, whatever pubs are now open, it’s obvious who is now missing. We have a significant fall in our birth rate, and falling numbers in our primary schools and the subsequent knock-on effects of that, in the loss of teachers, the larger class numbers and the absence of classroom assistance and supports.
And all of this because our 20-30’s parishioners are no longer there. What choice did they have? Work for next to nothing, draw the dole, watch your qualifications become redundant, go grey with stress?
And, sadly, those who left at 20 are now nearing 30.
If life is better abroad, it’s going to be harder for them to return. I understand that, they are integrated, happy and successful. And, now, they have to settle for connecting with their families and our parish through social media, connecting with our parish church for baptisms, weddings and funerals through our church services live streaming.”




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The Fermanagh Herald is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 28 Belmore Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, BT74 6AA