It was once considered one of the leading shannonside villages in the region but in recent years Rooskey has been devastated by multiple losses from the closure of its biggest employer and An Bord Pleanala’s subsequent decision to refuse planning for reuse the site, to more recently, the loss of its only hotel and the closure of its only petrol station.
Driving through the village in the late 1990s you were greeted by a bustling community with a thriving business base and a strong sense of self. Over a decade later visitors are greeted by empty business premises, empty houses and an obvious failure of successive Government’s to adequately address the problems impacting on this village.
On May 8, 2002 a major fire destroyed much of the Glanbia Meats pig processing facility in the village with the lost of over 340 jobs. Despite initial hopes that the company would rebuild the facility, they decided against re-investing in the site and instead, simply retained the cannery facility. Although calls were made at the time for support to help secure a replacement industry, no major investment was directed to Rooskey.
Four years later the village was dealt a further blow with the announcement that Glanbia planned to close the remaining cannery with the loss of 85 more jobs. Although the establishment of the Vistamed medical supplies factory has provided a much needed jobs boost over the last 12 years, the village and surrounding area has, despite the very best efforts of the local community to encourage investment, failed to recover from the loss of its biggest employer.
Plans to redevelop the former Glanbia site were dashed in April 2009 when An Bord Pleanala refused planning permission for a Business Park.
The LEAD Partnership had hoped to build 24 apartments , 15 shops, four storage units, 13 offices, 10 industrial units, a crèche, enterprise centre, office building and a 32 berth marina on the site. Although the plans had been approved by Roscommon County Council, they were subsequently appealed and the decision to grant planning was overturned leaving the village centre site empty.
Further adding to the woes of this very proud community, the Shannon Key West Hotel one of last major employers in the village, was forced to close its doors on October 18, last year after the company behind it went into liquidation. The building is now being advertised for sale with a reserve of just €300,000. The local petrol station has also closed its doors in the last year, adding to further jobs losses.
Most recently the village has been dealt another blow with the recent exclusion of it and neighbouring village, Dromod, from the Bus Eireann route to Dublin.
Speaking at the recent Council meeting, local councillor, Sean McGowan described the move as “yet another nail in the coffin for the area and for rural Ireland”.
He said that Rooskey has taken a battering over the past decade.
“All the infrastructure, all the jobs, the services have just disappeared over the last few years and nothing is being done to step in and reverse this,” Cllr McGowan said.
Local residents have continued to fight for their village. In 2010 the Rooskey Development and Social Inclusion Ltd celebrated the opening of a new community centre and the Rooskey Spraoi Festival, established in 2003, has proven popular. The village itself remains a draw for boating traffic but further investment is needed to ensure it can capitalise on passing trade.
The question now is will something be done to save Rooskey, or will yet another Government stand by and watch yet another rural community struggle to survive?