Sinn Féin TD and General Election candidate for Sligo/Leitrim/Sth Donegal and North Roscommon, Martin Kenny has said there is a severe lack of youth amenities in many rural parts of the constituency.
He said any incoming government must address this issue because rural isolation and youth mental health are linked issues and investment and support was required to tackle them.
Martin Kenny said.
“In some rural parts of my constituency the issue of isolation and a lack of outlets for young people has been raised on the doorsteps.
“The point has been made that, unless a boy or girl is involved in GAA, there is often nowhere to go.
“Parents are concerned about children who may spend a lot of time on their XBox or Playstation and what effect this may have on the development of social skills. From talking to people there is an amount of anxiety out there.
“Many parts of Leitrim, Roscommon, Sligo and South Donegal are rural with a scattered population. This can have an impact on how young people interact and engage with each other.
“Volunteers within the community do fantastic work for our young people. Without them, we’d be lost altogether.
“However, we can’t rely solely on the local GAA club to provide a social outlet to young people. We also can’t leave young people with the pub as the only other option.
“While the GAA and other sports clubs provide a valuable social outlet, what happens if you’re not into sport?
“There is often nowhere for teenagers to meet and socialise, whether cafés or youth clubs. There are few shops in many areas and no cinemas.
“Teenagers, in particular, need a place where they can be teenagers, a safe environment to socialise in.
“In many areas, young people have to travel 45 minutes to get to the nearest cinema or swimming pool. Of course, these issues are compounded by the lack of public transport in rural Ireland.
“This problem of isolation experienced by young people in rural Ireland can lead to depression and other, more serious problems.
“It is essential that rural Ireland is an attractive place for young people to live in. That is integral to the revitalisation of rural Ireland.
“We need action and measures to support as many young people as possible to live and thrive in our rural communities, villages and towns. This requires investment in youth services and amenities.
“Any new government must ensure a sufficient financial commitment to rural Ireland to allow the development of amenities and services so young people can remain in their local communities. This will be one of my priorities if re-elected.”