A model for how a rural area can thrive

What's best for the west

HEALTH CHECK  With the right facilities and supports, Éamon Ó Cuív feels rural communities can thrive. He cites the presence of the primary care centre in Corr na Móna, which he is pictured opening in 2009, as a case in point. Pic: Ray Ryan

Case study: Corr na Móna

Edwin McGreal

Éamon Ó Cuív came to Corr na Móna in 1974 and at the time there were four schools in the area.
Fast-forward 46 years and the four schools in Clonbur, Cloughbrack, Corr na Móna and Maam all remain open with the same number of teachers. It is now, says Ó Cuív, a successful rural area from a socio-economic point of view.
It has, in many ways, went against the grain of rural decline. How?
Ó Cuív sites the presence of a strong employer, the ECC Teo timber mills, in the area which came about through the local Gaeltachta development co-operative, as something which facilitated high levels of direct and indirect employment in the area. Something which has allowed so many families to remain in the area.
Ó Cuív argues strongly for a more proactive State approach to rural Ireland which he says can lead to more success stories like Corr na Móna and surrounds.
“The co-op was meant to be in Tourmakeady but it ended up being in Corr na Móna. If you add the timber mill and all the ancillary employment I started but other people did an awful lot more work for, there’s probably 300 jobs easily.
“What happened was because there was 300 jobs, it meant more teachers. Because there was more teachers there were more houses and because there were more houses, other people were able to do all the little jobs around the houses and farms and so on. So everyone benefited.”
Along with a state focus, Ó Cuív feels two things are vital on a local level – a positive outlook and a little bit of luck.
“I think key to it is not to focus too much on the disadvantages of the area. When I went out, maybe it was the outsider view of the world, but when I went down to Corr na Móna I didn’t make little of what I thought could be rectified, like the planning, like the infrastructure.
“I used to always say give me those things and we will make this the greatest place to live in Ireland out of those things. And for those of us lucky to live there, it is a fantastic place to live.
“If you say this place is always going to be dependent and never going to function properly, you will not thrive. We were proud, we are proud of where we live.
“People are always looking for the big win. The big knockout blow fast. I’ve learned to take it step by step. From little acorns mighty oaks can grow.
“Some communities think everything is going to happen with a big bang, rather than over time.
“With a lot of luck and trial and error, and mistakes, look how it turned out for us. But the one thing I learned is you make a lot of your own luck too, if you try hard enough.”
There can, says Ó Cuív, be many more Corr na Móna’s if proactive steps are taken to encourage people to live in rural Ireland and if rural communities grasp the nettle too.

This case study appeared in this week’s issue of The Mayo News as part of our ongoing What’s Best for the West series which is examining opportunities and challenges for the west of Ireland.