|1. Symposia / Historical Safaris
The research reported here is an Interim Report from a project initiated by the Centre for Island Studies, Clare Island, County Mayo, with the specific aim of establishing parameters for seasonal infrastructural pressure on Ireland's offshore islands.
The Centre for Island Studies has been involved in a number of projects on Clare Island itself. In the course of this work it became clear that there was an urgent need to establish baseline data on the throughflow of people on all inhabited offshore islands. Both of the authors of this report have been involved directly in Clare Island Cooperative, and one (Peter Gill) has been an officer of Comhdhail Oilean na heireann. This additional perspective has been another spur to this work. The authors have had direct experience of island affairs.
The work reported here has been partly financed by FAS, Castlebar, County Mayo and has been supported by Comhdhail and the various island co-operatives and community associations(1).
Any planning decisions concerning islands, any environmental management policies, any estimates of viability and sustainability must have regard to special demographic characteristics which pertain on offshore islands. Seasonal migration has always been a part of traditional island life. However, this migration has typically involved movement within the resident population.
Throughout the western world, as economic growth has drawn people toward cities and sprawling conurbations there has been a concomitant seasonal, or holiday, out flow to peripheral and more remote regions. The place of islands in this process has tended to be more recent. It is still a fact that the resident populations of Ireland's offshore islands are declining. We have estimated the present population of the offshore islands to be 3095(2). This figure corresponds well with other surveys and also with the estimates of the officers of Comhdhail. It is important to point out the difficulties involved in estimating an accurate figure for the permanent population. One good source is the estimates regularly carried out by island schoolchildren in their various schools. We have included one such example in this report. It was carried out on Inis Mor(3). It gives a good idea of the accuracy with which local inhabitants can guage the size of the resident population. The task involves considerable judgment in defining actual residency. We have not given strict guidelines in this matter, though we have instructed on certain known doubtful cases such as students, school-children attending schools on the mainland and fishermen at sea.
Not withstanding the problems of estimating the size of the permanent population, this research was specifically aimed at estimating the maximum transient population on the islands. Other goals included describing measures of social infrastructure and pressure on certain resources. These will not be reported here(4).