Local activists demand improved public services in Donegal to facilitate returning emigrants

CAMPAIGNERS say they are not surprised by Teresa Gillespie’s ordeal, the Ballybofey woman who had to attend Letterkenny Emergency Department because a GP appointment wasn’t available.

“I know many people who have gone to A&E because they can’t get a GP.

“This proves how urgent the need is for GP services to be expanded,” said Mary T Sweeney.


“I have large numbers of people contacting me to say they can’t get registered with a GP. This problem is totally out of control when such an essential service can’t be accessed.”

Ms. Sweeney, Chairperson of the Letterkenny Hospital Campaign and a member of the Aontú party, stresses the need for investment in various areas beyond additional GPs to support the existing population and those looking to return home from abroad.

“We need to look at school places for those coming back who have children.

“A rural bus service is often non-existent which means the school transport system is in crisis.

“Families that have children with an intellectual disability or with autism, ADHD, the number of available places in schools to give the required support is so limited.

“We need investment to create a community that reaches out across the board to cater for returning emigrants that have the skills we need,” claims Ms. Sweeney.

The Aontú representative is also urging for an immediate overhaul of Donegal’s planning system to facilitate the development of additional housing units.


“People are desperate to return to Donegal and we desperately need their skills, but the rural planning system is in total disarray. I know individuals with family land in rural areas but getting planning permission to build is a nightmare.

“Where are they going to find a place to live? Prices to rent
have gone through the roof.

“As of last week there were only 34 houses available to rent in Letterkenny so where are we going to put people who want to come home?

“I’m talking to parents who are actually funding their children to stay in Canada and Australia. The accommodation in those places is often very expensive.

“The problem here is, there is no accommodation,” added Ms. Sweeney.

Donegal has one of the largest Ukrainian populations in Ireland and that clearly has an impact on the local health and education systems.

“Ukrainian refugees are afforded more opportunities than Irish citizens because of the crisis that they’re coming out of. Housing and healthcare is given automatically and they receive the full dole rate.

“They deserve the support, and I’ve helped them myself, but getting automatic housing is a major advantage, and the GP services need to be expanded so that everyone is looked after,” according to Ms. Sweeney.

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