Thursday, October 06, 2016

Viewpoint: Let's not be left behind again

More than half of homes in Kilcullen have been built since 2000, according to figures gathered by, writes Brian Byrne.

The actual percentage of 56pc compares to the national one of 26pc. The figures are quoted by local estate agent Austin Egan in a property update article in this month's Bridge Magazine, which makes for very interesting reading.

The fact that just 16pc of the current housing stock was built between 1961-1980 compared to the national share of 20pc, and that 15pc was built between 1981-2000 (25pc nationally) is a direct reflection of the fact that Kildare County Council left Kilcullen without proper water and sewerage services through that period, while Naas and Newbridge were well served in that respect, and could grow.

There's an argument, to which I would partly subscribe, that there was a silver lining to that situation, in that we retained our village character and that's part of the attraction for all of our new residents over the last 15 years. But there was a cost too, for that neglect. We lost opportunity for a growth in population and industry which might have made Kilcullen more self-sufficient than we have been. Which might have made it a place where more of our young people could have stayed to make their own lives.

Anyhow, now that the country is on an upward move again, and that we have, as it happens, a very young demographic profile, it's important that we make sure we’re not left behind again. Or, that they are not left behind. They being the next generation of adults, currently the children of, mostly, new residents.

Again from Austin Egan’s Bridge article, we read that we have a higher proportion of under-16s than the national average — 28pc v 22pc. And 56pc of the people here are under 34, compared to 50pc nationally. What particularly surprised me is that only 9pc of us are over 65.

Austin’s perspective was on the need for more, and suitable homes here. But there’s an equal need for jobs and careers. Because they are what sustain homes and community. And, given the very high quality of education provided by our primary and second level schools in Kilcullen, they preferably should be knowledge-based jobs.

As it happens, we have at least one company headquartered here which already provides just such employment opportunities. Murphy Surveys has some 200 people working for it, surveyors, salespeople, IT specialists, data analysts, financial people and more. It’s an example of the kind of business we need to attract more of if we want to build a sustainable community.

There’s a history of Kilcullen taking the task of bringing employment to the village on its own, with little if any support from the state. The sculpture to Kilcullen Development Association erected at the bridge earlier this year is testament to that.

Kilcullen is, thanks to the foresight and work of many who are no longer with us, a community with many more advantages and facilities than have places far bigger than we were or even than we have become. It’s a good place to set down roots, to grow families in, and to hope for a future.

But now, unless we want to raise and educate a new generation of young people to leave what is now a village grown bigger, we need to look again at building within. Not just homes, but the means to sustain the families who live in them.

So as we meet our public representatives next Monday night to give them a list of the relatively small things that currently concern us, let’s not forget to take the long view, and put them on notice that they need to be prepared to back us with much more than interests them in the short term political elections cycle.

We need a future more than just as a dormitory place for people who go to work in other places, with commutes that cripple family life at its most vulnerable times. Or a place from which to inevitably send educated children to other places for their own lives.

So while we make our politicians aware of potholes and footpaths and traffic lights and signage, let’s also talk about the bigger things. About fully available fast internet. About high tech affordable office space for startups. About the need to cluster complementary small businesses not just in the larger towns around us but also in small communities like us, to help develop us as more self sufficient. Let's talk about local and longer distance public transport that suits the need of the users instead of suiting the business model. I'm sure you can think of more.

Right, there won't be time on Monday night to deal with all of that, and anyway the Kilcullen Community action organisers have an already full agenda for discussion with the seven or eight public representatives who have committed to turning up.

But it behoves us as a community to turn up too. To let them see that we're interested in getting action on the potholes and the footpaths and the signage and all that. So that when we want to talk to them about all the other, bigger stuff, they'll take us seriously.

So it's 8pm, Monday night, in the Town Hall. Remember, this is for us, not for them.