In the recent election, two FF TDs, Mary Coughlan and Pat "The Cope" Gallagher, comfortably retained their seats in Donegal South West. It is truly astonishing that support for Fianna Fáil remains solid in a rural constituency which stands out for all the wrong reasons.
Despite a decade of extraordinary growth, unemployment there remains stubbornly high. The fishing industry, which was crucial to the local economy in the south and west of the constituency, has been allowed to deteriorate. Recently big employers such as multinational Hospira or the famous clothing company, Magee, have shut down or offshored most of their operations. School drop out rates are abnormally high, third level educational attainment, worringly low.
Though the local economy is in far better shape than it was a decade ago, much of it is based on the boom in the construction industry. There is, therefore, serious potential for disaster in the event of a downturn in the building trade, because many of those who now make a decent living from it have no other skills. In fact, this is a constituency which seems not to be making the transition to the knowledge economy. I am not aware of any significant progress in creating high skilled jobs in the area.
Furthermore, in a region blessed with a stunning landscape and coastline, the tourism industry remains curiously understated. So much more could be done.
The two Fianna Fáil ministers who have represented this constituency for a very long time were returned. They have have had real power to make a difference, yet the legacy I have described speaks for itself. It is depressing to know that for some strange reason, the rural voter places loyalty over accountability, and above all, it seems, has a peculiar aversion to change.