A ‘Census’ is a procedure for systematically recording information about any given population; while providing all governing bodies with a comprehensive pictures of the social and living conditions of its people. This in turn provides vital information necessary for all future planning. Here in Ireland, in more recent years, our Census is usually taken in any year which ends in 1 or 6. The last Census undertaken was 2011 with 2016 expected to be the next such event.
A Census however must also take into account the current prevailing issues being experienced by any country; issues such as war for example or other unplanned catastrophes, e.g. the census in Ireland planned for April 2001 was postponed until 2002, due to the then prevailing ‘Foot and Mouth’ epidemic.
Ireland has been conducting a census of its population since 1821. The first major census, using a household form, was the ‘Great Census of 1841’ and same was taken every 10 years prior to the year 1951, after which time they were undertaken at five yearly intervals.
It is of course necessary that the fieldwork involved in a such an operation be completed over a relatively short period of time and provide the essential tools to implement effective future policy, planning and decision making, e.g. supporting our Health Care needs through our Health Boards, our Regional Authorities, our Schools, our Heritage, our Migration Patterns, our required necessary New Development and most importantly identifying Employment Needs.
Same fieldwork undertaken should automatically indicate the number of births and deaths that have occurred. Indeed Article 16.2 of the Constitution (Bunreacht na hÉireann) lays down that the total membership of Dáil Éireann depends on the population as measured by a census (i.e. 1 TD per 20,000 to 30,000 persons).
Like most parishes in the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly, the population of Thurles declined catastrophically in the decades during and following the Great Famine. This drop in the famine decade 1841-1851 (shown in graph above) is actually steeper than that indicated, as some 2,761 (over 23%) of the population of Thurles in 1851 remained inmates of the Thurles Workhouse (Hospital of the Assumption) and many of these inmates ordinarily would not have been naturalised Thurles residents.
Unlike most of the rural parishes in the Archdiocese of Cashel & Emly, the decline in population here in Thurles was reversed prior to 1936, due largely to the increase in employment brought by the Thurles Sugar Factory in 1934. However the Irish Sugar Company, which had already closed the sugar factory at Tuam, in Co. Galway, was to turn its attention on the factory here at Thurles; closing it completely in 1989.
The closure of Thurles Sugar Factory in 1989, then one of the largest employers in Thurles, was to now instigate a continuous downward spiral with regard to employment, which in turn would spell the death knell to other smaller retailers also within the town. Add to this now downward employment spiral, one textile factory (Phoenix Yarns), two bakeries (Sweeney’s in Mitchel Street and Crotty’s in Friar Street), the Premier Foods take over and immediate closure of Erin Foods. Continue to add to this the loss of the Jobst Medical Products factory, the GMX Moulinex factory (Electronic Engineers Electrical Components Manufacturer). With these factory’s now closed Transport Companies wholly dependent on formers business were quickly soon to follow.
The above video was taken two years ago, but little if anything has changed from a Thurles employment perspective.
In opposition government during November 2007, Fine Gael Deputy Noel Coonan expressed grave concerns about these confirmed closures declaring, “This latest news (Erin Foods closure) has sent shock waves through the area. The present Government has failed the people of Thurles and at the eleventh hour made no effort to intervene and reverse this decision. Government policies are having a devastating effect on rural constituencies like Tipperary North. A total review of Government policy is urgently required”, he stated.
Also in opposition during November 2007, Labour’s then Senator Alan Kelly stated, “Thurles has taken a severe hit over the last number of years since the closure of the Sugar Factory. It is now clear that we need direct Government intervention to address this problem and to safeguard the economic future of Thurles. It is fair to say that the manufacturing sector has been decimated in Thurles.” he stated.
Both above named politicians, Deputy Coonan and the now new Minister Alan Kelly, while now in government for the last 4 years, have done absolutely nothing to improve employment here in Thurles.
This is 2015 and last Friday night Fine Gael selected outgoing Deputy Noel Coonan, to contest the 2016 General Election, in our new five-seat constituency of Tipperary. Deputy Coonan together with Minister of State Tom Hayes were both chosen, without a contest, at a selection convention in the Anner Hotel, Thurles, chaired by Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald.
No doubt Labours Minister Kelly will also be selected to contest this same 2016 General Election and thus my simple question is this; “With an estimated almost 600,000 people having been forced to emigrate from Ireland and Tipperary in recent years, in search of work; will the Tipperary electorate continue to vote for “more of the same neglect” at the ballot box, come the next General Election?”
Lest we forget that while employment rates may have risen in the eastern half the country over the first three months of 2015, five areas in Ireland including the Midland and Western regions recorded an increase in the rate of unemployment for this very same period.
Current Government Ministers maybe jubilant over claims they have finally broken below the psychological 10% unemployment barrier nationally, but the figures, published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), demonstrate that the task faced by this Government, to spread the effects of economic recovery evenly across our land, have not yet materialised here in Co. Tipperary.
Thurles needs new, fresh, imaginative political leadership.