Census reveals drain of young people from Co. Fermanagh

WHILE religious and national identity figures have been the main takeaway from the Census NI results, the population of Fermanagh’s young and old has caused concern.
Cllr John McClaughry, who represents the Erne North ward, says the figures of the amount of children under the age of 14 and adults over the age of 65 represents a worrying trend.
The results only show a slight increase of those under-14 with 2021 showing 23,236 children of that age living in the Fermanagh & Omagh District Council area as opposed to 23,186 in 2011.
Figures for those aged between 15 to 39 dropped from 37,519 in 2011 to 33,921 while statistics for those aged 65+ went up from 15,939 to 21,437.
Cllr McClaughry, pictured below, states the figures show that the area is losing its young who in turn are leaving a growing ageing population behind.
He said: “The worrying thing is the population drop of under-14s in the Fermanagh and Omagh Council area with the figures for those over 65 years of age increasing.
“That’s a worry given the percentages of young people that have already left this area. We’re going to be left here with an ageing population who aren’t naturally active.
“How we are going to maintain all the services in the county with that demographic will be difficult in the future. Because in the long-term that’s how those who decide what services we hold on to.
“Given how services are right now, this is a concern. For myself, given that I’m closer to 65 than 14, it’s worrying for the likes of me because how long will I be financially active before falling into that category as well?
“With regards to our young people, how many times to you hear of young people bound for Australia, America or Canada having these ‘wakes’ for leaving?
“It’s become a social event now to have a wake for people leaving because it is assumed that they’re not going to come back.”
On the issue of identity, Cllr McClaughry says that while the gap between those identifying as British or Irish has narrowed, the emergence of a new Northern Irish identity has gained ground.
He added: “The figures show that a newer identity of being Northern Irish seems to be coming out. People are saying they’re Northern Irish as that’s how they see themselves or even as being both British and Irish.
“My daughter is at university in England and has come across people identifying as English, Scottish, Welsh and even Yorkshire or Lancashire.
“She herself identifies as being from Northern Ireland as geographically, that’s where she’s from. She sees it differently to my age group – I, for example, would identify as British.
“I think we are moving away from being one religion and therefore because of that, your politics must follow your religion.
“We have seen a massive change in what politics have been in my lifetime. For example, a Pride event (celebrating LGBT rights) would have had loads of people protesting.
“While you still have a number of those people protesting, you don’t have the numbers you would have had forty or fifty years ago.
“So we’re obviously changing and I suppose, as a party, we the UUP have to adapt to encompass all the needs of all the people we hope to represent.”

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