DUN­DALK’S POCK­ETS OF DE­PRI­VA­TION

High lev­els of poverty and un­em­ploy­ment

The Argus - - FRONT PAGE - BY MAR­GARET RODDY

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.

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