In Erris, County Mayo 70% of farmers receive unemployment benefit and the rest draw the old age pension.
In Erris, to say farmers cannot live without the dole is no exaggeration. Here the land holdings, mostly cutaway bog or just pain bog, are 10-20 acres in size. The farms are so partitioned it is hard to work them. According to the findings of the Agricultural Institute in west Donegal, the average cash income for farms is £16 per year. In Erris, it is probably less.
The supplement of the dole is one reason why the houses can remain open, the other is migration. One farmer admits,
Without the dole I could not be able to exist here, live here, at all, I'd have to stay away all the time.
A number of men go to England for work, without making it their personal home, leaving their wives and family behind. Bridget O'Malley thinks this is a terrible life for the wives who must run the farm and raise the children single-handedly. Another farmer echoes her sentiments.
I don't think it's right for any man to be away from his wife and children, for even any part of the year, it isn't fair.
This episode of ‘7 Days’ was broadcast on 7 May 1971. The reporter is Ted Nealon.