Gaeltacht community offering free housing to a family for one year
There have been more than 1,100 applications.
A Gaeltacht community along the Galway-Mayo border is offering rent free housing for a year to a family willing to relocate to the area with children of primary school age.
The scheme has been offered with the aim of saving the community's Gaelscoil from closing due to a decline in pupil numbers.
In response to the initiative, more than 1,100 families have applied for the competition.
The Gaeltacht village of Chloch Bhreac, which is situated between Loch Measc and Loch Coirib, has seen the closure of both its local shop and post office in recent times.
But the community is determined not to let that happen to Scoil Naomh Pádraig.
With just 11 pupils currently attending the school, it needs at least 12 to hold on to a teacher and stay open in the long term.
Scoil Naomh Pádraig Principal Geraldine Feerick is one of the two teaching staff, and also acts as a learning support teacher.
Speaking to RTE, she said "We have a fantastic school and this is the only central focal point that's left in the community".
"We run courses here, have card games, coffee mornings and we put on a play every year. I grew up here myself, I went to school here and it would break my heart to see the school closing, because it was always a beautiful little school in the middle of a stunning rural area".
"And it's still the same as it was years ago when I came here. And we came up with this idea of the free rental in order to try and get a family to boost our numbers".
"So first we had to get a house and obviously it's quite hard with the housing crisis at the moment. So we were very lucky to get a local couple that offered us a five-bedroom house at great value in order to support the school and we're very grateful for it. Then it was full steam ahead."
Ms Feerick said that once the house was obtained, the team were able to advertise and look for a family to come to the community.
"It's a fantastic opportunity for any family because it's a small school where we have lots of support, lots of things going on through gaeilge, which they will pick up very easily because kids are like sponges. And they get to experience living in a local rural community which is a great advantage to any family," she said.
"We've got a lot of interest, which was amazing and interest from abroad as well as at home with our families from Manchester, London, Portugal, you know, a lot of various places.
"We had over 1,100 applications which was fantastic. Going through all of them wasn't an easy task, but it's done now and we've whittled down a shortlist of candidates."
Ms Feerick went on to say that the shortlist is made up of families they believe will be able to easily relocate and integrate into the local community.
"It's a very friendly community and the locals are all fantastic," she adds.
In addition to rent free housing for one year, the successful applicants will also be able to work remotely at the nearby Gaeltacht digital hub in Corr na Móna.
Seán Ó Cionnaigh, who is on the Gaelscoil Board of Management, spoke to this, saying that;
"We are delighted that we had over 1,100 applications. but that comes down to the beauty of the area. We have plenty of employment here with the Gaeltacht gteic digital hub. It means people can work remotely and live in a beautiful part of rural Ireland," Mr Ó Cionnaigh said.
The lucky family is set to be chosen by the end of this month, allowing them to spend the summer preparing for a new life and a new school in An Chloch Bhreac.
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