DESPITE having the word town in their names and a combined population of just over 3,500, both Irvinestown and Fivemiletown have been demoted to village status.
That’s according to the most recent statistics designating towns, settlements and villages published in 2015 by the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (Nisra).
Last month there was uproar in Crossmaglen in south Armagh, which has a population of 1,608, at plans by Newry, Mourne and Down District Council to change its status from a town to a village.
Irvinestown and Fivemiletown, with populations of 2,264 and 1,243 respectively, have already suffered that fate and now officially fall into the village category.
As the host town of the annual Lady of the Lake and Truck Festivals, Irvinestown also boasts two primary schools, a secondary school, five churches, two banks, a library and is home to the Bawnacre Centre.
Jenny Irvine from Arc Healthy Living Centre says Irvinestown is proud of its village status: “Small is beautiful and I don’t think that bigger necessarily means better. For a relatively small place, Irvinestown makes a massive impact on visitors. People also have a high enough regard for this community not to get too hung up on what it’s called. Maybe we might have to consider Irvinesvillage in the future.
“The only issue is the retention of services in rural areas when you’re trying to compete with others on a population basis. However there has been a significant population increase in the most recent census due to the developments in and around the fringes of Irvinestown which all helps when it comes to sustaining schools and businesses.”
It’s a similar fate for Fivemiletown which also has two primary schools and secondary school as well as ten places of worship, a bakery and bank.
Michael Callaghan from Fivemiletown Chamber of Commerce adds: “We have to accept that we are not that big and only a village. We are a town by name but that’s about the height of it. Despite this Fivemiletown is thriving with very few vacant commercial premises along the Main Street and is still very much open for business. Regardless of the name and size, we will always compete with the best of them.”
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Posted: 6:30 pm January 29, 2018