Cape Clear must adapt to survive but what will change mean for the traditional way of life on the island?

The Gaeltacht Island of Cape Clear nine miles from Baltimore off the County Cork coast is battling for survival. Over a ten year period one fifth of its population has left for the mainland, Britain or the United States of America. The population has declined from 600 at turn of the 20th century to 200 in 1970.

Cape Clear is the only island off the south coast retaining Irish as it's language but by 1990, like the Blasket Islands, it could become deserted.

Keeping Cape Clear Irish in language and character and guarding its traditions is a priority for islanders such as the island's priest an tAthair Tomás Ó Murchú. He says people want a future but like the rest of the population they need, services, electricity, running water and jobs. For too long,

We have been the negroes of Ireland we have been the neglected people of Ireland, we have been the people who have got the short end of the stick we are the people who have been deprived of everything while the rest of the population have got what they needed.

The national school on the island is also in decline and children must leave to receive second level education. Those who depart rarely return, the primary school teacher Ciarán O Reagan being an exception to the trend. Other emigrants return to look after elderly family members.

District nurse Bean Uí Fhinn is originally from Leap in County Cork. She sees 70 patients a week on the island but does not have a dispensary and current hospital services are inadequate for isolated islanders.

Survival for the island means the twin issues of unemployment and emigration need to be tackled, but industrialisation will mean more visitors and cause decline of the Irish language.

For an tAthair Tomás Ó Murchú progress and protecting their traditional way of life is a balancing act, requiring a clear plan with government action rather than empty promises about safeguarding the Irish language.

This episode of '7 Days’ was broadcast on 2 June 1970. The reporter is Bill O’Herlihy.