SDLP Down District Chairman Councillor Eamonn O’Neill has said more has to be done by government to address the soaring emigration levels in South Down.
He said, “Unemployment is increasing in South Down, dole queues are growing and emigration appears to be at its highest level for decades as thousands of people leave our country in search of work.
“This is tearing the soul out of our communities. It has left many families heartbroken and is having a profound impact on our local sports teams with many Gaelic clubs finding it difficult to field a first team panel.
“Some of our best brains are leaving in search of work and there is an urgent need for local and central government to bring jobs to South Down, which is in a worse situation than many other areas due to our huge dependency on the construction sector as a key source of employment.
“In order to get the full picture of emigration we must look at those on the employment and benefits register now compared to last year and thus decipher how many people have left the country.
“Last month both Down District and Newry and Mourne councils unanimously agreed to an SDLP proposal to create a joint committee between the two councils to address joblessness in South Down.
“This committee will scrutinise courses in our regional colleges to see if they are suitable and sufficient to retrain the many people who are currently out of work. It will also examine if we are doing enough to promote tourism in South Down, which is our main area for potential economic growth.
“We must bring out the best in our young people and give them realistic job opportunities and reasons to stay in Ireland.
“In the SDLP’s Economic Document ‘Partnership and Economic Recovery’ we identified realistic measures that could be taken by government to stimulate job creation in the construction, tourism and the agri-foods sector.
“Unfortunately, Sinn Féin and the DUP railroaded through a budget that doesn’t have job creation as its main focus. Unless the economy becomes a key priority for the Executive, South Down will suffer for generations to come and will continue to lose many of its brightest individuals in their quest for a more prosperous life elsewhere,” added Councillor O’Neill.