Island life on the western seaboard brings many challenges but with services in decline getting children to school on the mainland so they can have an education is especially testing.

With around five thousand people now living on the chain of islands on the western seaboard of Ireland, this special regional report for RTÉ News looks at the challenges of island life on the island of Inishbiggle. 

Tiny Innishbiggle is just a five-minute curragh dash across the Atlantic from the Mayo mainland. But it remains one of the country's most inaccessible and problematic islands.

The narrow channel which separates Inishbiggle from Achill is regarded as one of the most dangerous in Europe with turbulent tides making the boat trip a constant danger. 

With a population of just seventy, the number of inhabitants has halved in the last one hundred years. 

The island has no shop, no pub, and no school.

The schoolhouse closed down last year and now serves as a temporary Catholic church. There is, however, a Church of Ireland church. For the twenty families now living on the island, the future is uncertain. Timothy and Susan Calvey describe the dangers they face each day in trying to get their children to school on the mainland.

For them, the closure of the school came as a bombshell.

Timothy Calvey believes that there is nobody in the whole of Europe who needs to take such risks on a daily basis to get their children an education. In the last eight months, his own children have attended just two full weeks of school. 

Tommy Geoghegan of Inishbiggle Community Council is also outraged by the lack of education provision on the island. He describes the situation in the highlands of Scotland where even if there is only one student, they are entitled a teacher.  The closure of the school is just another reason for people to leave the island. 

In spite of the challenging conditions, several island families who emigrated to Britain in the seventies and eighties, are anxious to return to Inishbiggle. However, the lack of a school and links with the mainland are stumbling blocks in their decision. The island community council has pleaded with successive governments to give them a cable-car but so far their demands have fallen on deaf ears. Paddy Henry of the Community Council says that a cable-car would cost just £500,000, which he feels is a small price to pay to save the island community. However, he is sceptical of the outside view of the community saying

The community isn't worth it. We must be second class citizens.

An RTÉ News report broadcast on 24 May 1992. The reporter is Jim Fahy.