Closing Schools, closing Communities

Today I’ll be moving away from my regular theme for these blogs as I could not let pass what I read in the insightful blog written by Seán Cottrell

As a foreigner in Ireland, one of the things I came to appreciate and value in this country, is how the rural villages are very important communities, full of life and strength. It is a completely different picture from what you can find in Portugal, where long ago they started to slowly die. People moved to the coastal cities or other countries, leaving only the elderly behind.

Although from Lisbon myself, both my parents are from small villages in the north of Portugal. I always remember when I was young, the time when they closed the primary school in my grandparent’s village. For them, it was the time when the village officially died, when they realized the village had no future. This was a scene repeated in dozens of Portuguese villages. The big difference between Ireland and Portugal is that in the case of my country this was the end point. The villages were already getting desertified; young adults were already leaving them as they didn’t foresee any opportunities or reasons to stay.  The causes for this are several and not of the scope of this blog. Nonetheless, the lack of investment in agriculture, due to our agreements when entering the European Union, is argued as a relevant one.

The closing of schools was therefore inevitable in my country, as there were already very few children (or even none) in these villages. In the case of Ireland these villages are still strong communities and it seems nonsensical that these schools are closing. Even the economic argument is not a very strong one as Seán Cottrell states.

The current economic times are leading both of our countries to a spiral of austerity measures. Some of them are inevitable; some of them are fair and necessary.  Nonetheless, all of them need to be carefully thought, and the threat of the end of the euro cannot lead us to accept every one of them as inevitable…

I think is important to start listening to top economists, as Nouriel Roubini, that are warning the government of the danger of successive cuts:

“Austerity is going to lead to even more recession because raising taxes and capping government spending at a time of deep recession is always a bad idea.”

I hope that rural communities in Ireland continue strong. From what I am starting to understand of Ireland, as the years that I live here go by, I see that these communities are a big part of what makes Ireland’s identity.  In the West of Ireland, where I live, this is very visible. It is good to see that people are not just accepting the closing of schools as a given fact, and are trying to fight these measures.

I hope their voices get heard…

View all blogs by Diogo Gomes


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