LIKE other island communities, Tory islanders have experienced serious erosion of their economic independence over recent decades.
Many residents depend on social welfare and its population is less than half of what it was at the turn of the last century.
However there are signs of a welcome reversal in trends.
The first ever Naíonra on the island is preparing to open its doors to five young boys and girls while there’s a meeting today, Friday, looking to establish a Youth Club for teenagers on the island.
Elsewhere, money has been secured for a recycling centre and gardening equipment while plans are afoot to rid the island of eye-sores like abandoned cars, fridges and cookers.
Ms Marjorie Uí Chearbhaill is the new manager of the Co-op on Tory. A native of Magheraroarty, she moved to the island in the summer together with her husband Donal Cearbhaill and their three young children Pádraig 6, Caitlín 3 and a half and Anne 1.
“We’re currently fund-raising for materials and books for the Naíonra while we hope to have Cllr John Seamais O Fearraigh in on Friday to talk about the things we need to have in place before we can set up a youth club like putting people on child protection courses and Garda vetting as well as looking at funding,” Ms Uí Chearbhaill said.
The island community have identified a premises which, with a little bit of renovation work, would be suitable for the youth club.
“We would also be able to use the building as a venue to hold courses between now and next summer. We’re hoping to have two youth clubs – one for 4 to 12 year olds and the other one for those aged between 13 and 18 years,” she explained.
Tory island was home to more than four hundred people back in 1851 (402) but that figure dropped to a low of 133 in 2002. Today there are 151 inhabitants on the island.
Marjorie and the committee are doing a lot of work on the island to improve the services on the island for the young families.
“We have a growing young population which we need to look after. We are looking at setting up two youth clubs, parent and toddler group, a centre for creativity which we can run various courses from, a summer Irish learning college which will bring more visitors to the island and will also bring in income to the house keepers.
“We would also like to look at getting a few people trained on the island who could run outdoor activities while we hope to be able to open up part of the lighthouse as a museum and tea/coffee shop,” she said.
Meanwhile, work started this week on a major clean-up of the island with old washing machines and cars being gathered up along with loads of assorted rubbish.
“Last week, Tory Island was approved for a €20,000 grant by Donegal County Council to put in place a recycling facility beside the office while we also got a recent grant of €8,500 to buy gardening equipment which the Tidy Islands committee hope to put to good use next year,” she said.
Growing up, Ms Uí Chearbhaill was always looking out at Tory Island from her Magheraroarty home. Today, she is adapting to life looking back to the mainland. Her husband’s father was a native of Tory and he too is enjoying island life.
“There’s a great community spirit on the island and, hopefully, we can do our bit,” Ms Uí Chearbhaill said.
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