DUNDALK’S POCKETS OF DEPRIVATION
High levels of poverty and unemployment
A stark picture of Dundalk’s black spots with high levels of poverty, unemployment, local education attainment and a high number of lone parents is revealed in the Pobal Deprivation Maps which were published last week.
Compiled on figures from the 2016 Census, the data reveals that parts of the town have entrenched problems which have not improved in the last ten years, despite the much lauded recovery after the recession.
The news that there are parts of Dundalk where over 70 per cent of men are unemployed, with 76 per cent lone parent families and where just 3 per cent of people have third level education, comes as no surprise to those with a finger on the pulse of what is happening in town, such as St Vincent de Paul and the Chamber of Commerce.
The maps also show a growth of areas of affluence to the south of the town, and telling highlight the 44.07 point gap in the deprivation index between the most disadvantaged and the most affluent areas.
THE stark contrast between the most disadvantaged and the most affluent areas of Dundalk and surrounding areas is highlighted in data published last week.
The latest national ‘deprivation index’, commissioned by the independent agency Pobal draws on 2016’s census data
The interactive maps allow people to see where the areas in the county where there is most deprivation.
The index scores areas using indicators such as unemployment rates, educational attainment, age dependency, housing tenure and lone-parent ratio.
It shows that some of the most persistent areas of deprivation which are classed as ‘very disadvantaged’ are in areas in Coxes Demesne, including Cedarwood Park, Oakland Park, as well Oldbridge, Fatima and Stranacary, as well as parts of Muirhevenamor including Aghameen Park, Doolargey Avenue, and Sliabh Foy Park.
These areas show high levels of unemployment among both men and women, a large percentage of lone parents, and very few with third level education.
In one part of Muirhevnamor, male unemployment stood at 70.37% and unemployment among females at 43.75% while just 8.22% of people there had third level education.
In an area of Coxes Demense, the number of lone parent families was 76%, with 55.5% of males unemployed and 41.94% female unemployment. Here just 5.84% had third level education,
There has been significant increase in the areas of affluence since the previous census in 2011.
The maps show that the areas classed as affluent all lie to the south of the town, principally in Blackrock and Haggardstown, as well as a pocket off the Dublin Road at Priorland and in Knockbridge. One part of Blackrock shows just 3.88% of males being unemployed while female unemployed was 7.08%. There was a high level of education with 54% having a third level education and just 4% having only attended primary school. Here the ratio of lone parents was just 10%.
The huge disparity between the entrenched poverty in certain areas of town and those newer swards of affluence is shown by the deprivation index assigned by Pobal, with the town’s most disadvantaged area scoring -27.02 while the most affluent scores 17.55 - a gap of 44.07.
Overall, Co Louth was classified as being marginally below average, although the countywide deprivation score showed a slight increase at -2.96 in 2016, compared to -3.53 in 2011 and -3.70 in 2011.
The grim picture of deprivation, unemployment black spots, low levels of education attainment and a high percentage of lone parents comes as no surprise to many working on the ground in Dundalk.
Kevin Mulligan, Area President, St Vincent de Paul, says that he is ‘not at all surprised’ at the findings.
‘We are not seeing any improvement at all. In fact things are getting worse with the rent increases which are making it very difficult for people.’
He says that people are facing increases of 20 to 25%, and that even those who get HAP allowances are struggling as they have to come up with more money to fill the gap between the allowance they receive and the actual rent.
‘We are now coming across cases where there will be different lots of tenants sharing a house, which is something new for Dundalk.’
‘While we don’t find people sleeping on the street, we do see a lot of families struggling. There is a new poor, where people are working on low wages.’
And he revealed that public servants who have come in on new levels of lower pay are included in this group.
‘We had a case recently where the spouse of a public servant had to see assistance to go back to education as they couldn’t afford the college fees yet didn’t qualify for a SUSI grant.’
He said that the SdVP Conferences covering areas such as Coxes Demesne and Muirhevnamor were under particular pressure to meet the demands of those seeking assistance.
‘ These are historic unemployment black spots where there are generations who wouldn’t have worked.’
Paddy Malone of Dundalk Chamber of Commerce says that the data confirms the case which they made for Dundalk to be upgraded in the Government’s Ireland 2040 National Planning Framework.
While welcoming the inclusion of M1 Corridor, to create ‘a liner city’ of Dundalk, Drogheda and Newry at Tier One in the draft plan, he points out that Dundalk has failed to reap the full benefits of Foreign Direct Investment.
He points out that to date most of the FDI companies which have located here have been in the call centre category with lower wages that those in the IT and pharmaceutical sectors.
‘While these are welcome, they are not gener- ating huge additional employment or giving the local economy the spin off it needs.’
He hopes that the inclusion of the MI Corridor in the revised Planning Framework will lead to more jobs being located in the region.
Acknowledging the ‘area of huge disadvantage’ which persist in Dundalk, he praises the role of O’Fiaich College and Dundalk Institute of Technology in helping people become the first members of their family to go to third level education. ‘We now have one of the highest levels of such graduates in the country which is a huge plus.’
He also called for a greater emphasis to be place on developing the tourism potential of the region, which he argues would provide jobs for people with lower education looking for flexible work. ‘ There is huge potential for tourism to benefit the region but it needs to be done on a cross-Border approach.’
A study by An Pobal has cast a light on areas of deprivation in Dundalk.