St Brendan's Village,
Mulranny, Co Mayo
The project started in 1984 and set to address the need
for all of our citizens, no matter how old or disabled, to
have the opportunity to stay in their own area, if that was
their wish. For too long we all witnessed the sad silent
migration of too many of our older people to faraway
institutions. They once had families like us, but due to the
ravages of time and emigration they found themselves alone
in their sunset years. When they needed our help most we had
nothing to offer except to send them to a faraway place
where they knew no-one, and like the old Indian, in many
cases they just lost heart and died. They returned again to
their own area, but in a box.
Our St Brendan's Village Development has not alone
stopped this sad migration of our weakest citizens from this
area, but has actually reversed it. Thanks to our St.
Brendan's Village Development many people have got a new
lease of life by returning again back to their own area from
these same institutions.
Likewise many of our older emigrants who went abroad in
the 40's, 50's and 60's have returned again to their own
area after many years of emigration - back to our low
support sheltered housing. Here people are living with the
minimum of support in the bosom of the community with the
support of electronic alarms and Caretaker nuns. People can
go to the Centre for their meals or prepare their own meals
if they wish.
This is only as it should be, particularly in this 'UN
Year of Older People' , that we remember those two groups of
forgotten people, both Irish and both elderly, and both
groups equally let down by the system.
Yet it is only right that we do this. It is only right
also that every community think about doing this in their
own area. It's very much a two-way process and a recipe for
rural regeneration also.
St. Brendan's Village Project has been a powerful tool for
rural regeneration. Keeping people from having to leave and
returning them to their own area has a massive humanitarian
spin-off for those people who stay or are returned, but it
has also helped us regenerate our village.
Our St. Brendan's Village Project is now the biggest
local employer in our village. Thanks to those older folk
who have returned, we now can provide welcome employment so
that many of our young people needn't leave any more to find
Dr Jerry Cowley
Driving force behind the creation of St Brendan's Village
has been local General Practitioner, Dr Jerry Cowley, who
argues there is a great need to retain people in rural
"Our young people had to go in the past because of a lack
of employment. The sad and silent emigration of the elderly
was also happening on a daily basis to faraway institutions
when they were most vulnerable and alone" In Mulranny St
Brendan's Village has stopped that exodus.
But, says Dr Cowley, the Department of Health must give
more financial support to maintaining and supporting older
people in the community. The need to retain and build on
services in rural areas such as day centres and housing is
critical and could break the vicious circle of continuing
depopulation and further erosion of services.