Achill is a favourite holiday destination but when the winter comes and the tourists have gone there are harsh realities for the population of the island.

There is a long tradition of emigration from Achill Island off the Mayo coast. Efforts are now being made by Islanders to stem a mass exodus as the island faces growing population decline.

Locals are now seeking government support to provide incentives for the Islanders to stay on the island.

While many tourists flock to Achill Island over the summer months, what is life on the island like during the winter months? The island is largely dependent on tourism over the summer months, but there is little or no work for the islanders outside of this and emigration has become the norm for most families on the island. Migration is accepted as a part of life.


Farming on Achill is something of a joke because the land is so poor. A cow and a calf and an acre or so of spuds makes a farmer on the island.


There's hardly a single family on the island that doesn't have sons, daughters or a father in England. In Dooagh, there are sixty families, 172 children. Every single father is working in England, predominantly on construction sites.

It's the women who save the turf, look after the stock, do the men's work.

Some women see their husbands for just a fortnight in the year, and families are growing up not knowing what it is to have a whole family.  

In a way, it's a form of divorce forced on them by circumstance.


School teacher John McNamara had an absentee father from the age of eight, having been forced to emigrate for work. John describes how his mother had to "work like a slave" while "the head of the family" was away in England. 

The irony is that island life would not have survived at all were it not for emigrant remittances or "money from England". 

In an effort to put an end to this tide of emigration, the Achill Anti-Emigration Organisation has been set up and led by school teacher John McNamara. The organsiation is a parent body with representatives in each village on the island who are tasked with devising an action plan to keep the Islanders on the Achill. They are seeking the support of the government in playing their part to keep the island alive. 

Cathal O'Shannon meets returned emigrants on the island who describe how they struggle to make a living and survive. 

This episode of 'Newsbeat' was broadcast on 8 February 1968. The reporter is Cathal O'Shannon.