Varadkar says Donegal no longer suffering mass emigration after being challenged by McDonald

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said Donegal is no longer suffering high levels of emigration after being challenged by Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald on the lack of infrastructural connectivity in the county.
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Deputy McDonald said she had recently visited the Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce and heard from members how ‘significant shortfalls in transport infrastructure, the housing crisis and staff shortages are holding back progress’.

“Imagine what could be achieved if a Government finally gripped the long-acknowledged connectivity deficits of the north west and addressed the fundamental housing and cost-of-living crises,” the Leader of Opposition said, speaking in the Dáil.

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She referred to the long history of emigration from the county.

'Far from there being mass emigration, the population of Donegal increased', the Taoiseach has said.'Far from there being mass emigration, the population of Donegal increased', the Taoiseach has said.
'Far from there being mass emigration, the population of Donegal increased', the Taoiseach has said.

"Donegal, as the Taoiseach will know, has always suffered from excessively high levels of emigration. Add to that the shortfalls in the defective block scheme, the housing crisis and the cost-of-living crisis and we have a perfect storm.

"Young workers continue to emigrate. The skilled staff hired into the county face undue and sometimes impossible challenges to secure accommodation.

"These are old problems that have been manifested and multiplied into new crises this Government has yet to fully accept. They directly impact people's lives and quality of life and on the competitiveness, social cohesion and well-being of the region.

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"What response has the Taoiseach to the challenges that have been laid out by the Letterkenny Chamber of Commerce? What commitment can he give not only to Donegal but to the north west as a whole to show that he has the willingness, ear, heart, stomach and ability to address all of this?” she asked.

The Taoiseach said he had recently visited Letterkenny and that he had been impressed by the progress he had seen in Donegal.

“I visited Tata Consultancy Services, TCS, a multinational company employing over 1,000 people now in Letterkenny, which is great to see. I visited the hospital.

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"I met with families and have been in homes affected by mica. I want to acknowledge some of the real problems that the county faces, whether it is economic development or housing, or the cost of living or mica, but I have to say things are not as bleak as the Deputy made out.

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"I know there are companies thinking of investing in Donegal and investing in the north-west and I hope they are not brought to meet Deputy McDonald because they would probably be put off investing in the region and might choose to invest in another country instead," he told the chamber.

Deputy Varadkar argued Donegal is no longer suffering from high emigration.

"Far from there being mass emigration, the population of Donegal increased. We know that from the most recent census. It had declined in previous censuses.

"It is actually now going up again. That is positive. Unemployment is close to, if not at, an all-time low. I am disappointed that the Deputy had nothing good to say about Donegal in her remarks,” he stated.

The Taoiseach said he was ‘very keen to get the A5 up and running’ and that this would further benefit the county.