The population of south west Kerry continues to fall causing the decay of small rural communities.

It's just one of many regions that have seen homesteads whittled away by unemployment and poverty. The young leave because they see no choice and it's gone on for so long that some believe there's no hope of a reversal.

While politicians continue to make promises, there is little evidence of a coordinated government policy on rural development. Towns like Cahirciveen are not able to provide a decent standard of living for their young people who are forced to leave for economic reasons. The lack of transport, health and social services provides a further disincentive to stay. 

While the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) has attempted to attract industry to the area creating employment and an incentive to stay, factories now stand empty.

They're a herd of white elephants adding 40,000 square feet to the national reserve of empty factories.

The IDA now believes that small industry is more appropriate to the development of this rural area. 

Further job losses are due with the automation of a telephone exchange in Cahirciveen and the workers won't find it easy to find alternative employment locally. Mary McGill, supervisor at the exchange explains.

It means the loss of 33 jobs and this area cannot afford to lose any more jobs than what it has lost already.

To combat the challenge of finding employment in the region, local people have now formed an organisation to highlight areas of possible improvement, such as tourism, agriculture, forestry and fishing. A spokesman for the organisation comments,

There are beautiful beaches here. The scenery here is second to none.

There are glimmers of hope for the people of south west Kerry with the appointment of a county development officer who is optimistic about the future of the region. His task is to highlight areas of further development, such as Valentia harbour. 

An example of a small business that could encourage further development is that of Pat Curtin's new boatyard on Valentia Island. Valentia was also a one time exporter of slate and it is hoped to reopen the quarry, which has been closed since 1911. Farming is another area that is under-resourced in the area. Part-time farmer John O'Neill says that it not viable to survive from farming alone. 

What is needed is a national policy with adequate structures to develop agricultural resources, such as the thousands of underutilised acres of bog land and the approximate 25,000 acres suitable for forestry. The key to the development of the region seems to be in natural resources like agriculture, fishing, and forestry. However, what is needed is an effective coordinated policy. 

In the final part of this report, Colum Kenny meets some of the pupils at a vocational school who discuss the lack of opportunities and the inevitability of their departure from the region. However, some are more optimistic about the future of the region and believe that if people really want to stay, they can make it happen.

This episode of 'Ireland's Eye' was broadcast on 3 February 1982. The reporter is Colum Kenny.