Ireland is a gorgeous country with rolling, green hills, a breathtaking coastline, and history and culture for days. It’s got great culture, great people, and, of course, great Guinness. But nowhere’s perfect. For all its attractions, Ireland is also a place of high living costs, widespread unemployment, and a growing problem with drugs and organized crime. If you want to experience the best of the Emerald Isle without the flipside, do whatever you can to avoid these 20 worst places to live in Ireland.
Castleisland’s main claim to fame is the width of its main street, which is so substantial that local journalist Con Houlihan has been promoted to describe Castleisland as “not so much a town as a street between two fields”. Which pretty much sums things up. There are fields and there’s a street…. and that’s it. If you want job prospects, a lively social life, and something to do with your time, this isn’t the place for you.
Castleblayney is a small town in County Monaghan, with a population of around 3600. It’s got a nice location on the western shore of the county’s largest lake, Lough Muckno, but that’s about the first and last good thing you can say about it. Unemployment is rife, the poverty level is high, and there’s precious little to do apart from dream of escape. Unless you like your hometown to be of the miserable and gloomy variety, it’s best to steer clear.
Lifford is a small town of less than 2000 in County Donegal. It’s not an inherently bad place – there’s a pretty center, several community organizations and clubs, a few historical monuments, a heritage center, and a couple of nice restaurants. The problem is that as with many small, border towns, any money that was floating around in the early 2000s disappeared during the post-2008 Irish economic downturn and hasn’t been since. Unless the government turns the focus of national development onto small, rural areas, the situation for communities like Lifford is unlikely to improve any time soon.
17. Cross Roads
Like many border towns, Cross Roads was badly hit by the recession and has never really recovered. Unemployment is rife (the proportion of households where no one is earning is 1 in 3 compared to the national average of 1 in 5) while the government’s lack of focus on rural areas isn’t helping matters any. Understandably, the general vibes the town is giving off aren’t exactly cheerful.
Abbeyfeale is a small historical market town in County Limerick. It’s not a terrible place to live by any means – the problem is, it’s not a great place either. In terms of the unemployment rate, community involvement, and education levels, it scores pretty dismally. The real problem, however, is that there’s really very little to do here: apart from wandering around the shops (which should take all of 10 minutes) and enjoying a Guinness at one of the local pubs, the opportunities for recreation are almost nonexistent.
It may be known as the Emerald Isle, but not all parts of Ireland have as much green as others. While most larger, urban areas have largely recovered from the recession, certain cities, particularly those in more rural areas, are still struggling to move forward. Letterkenny in Donegal is one of them. The city is one of the most disadvantaged in the country, with high unemployment and equally high poverty. The COVID pandemic hasn’t exactly helped the situation either: as donegaldaily.com reports, many families have been so badly affected by the economic turmoil resulting from the crisis, they’ve been unable to afford even the most basic essentials.
Violent crime is mercifully rare in Ireland, but it’s not unheard of, especially if you happen to live in Enniscorthy. Along with the occasional stabbing or assault, the town is also at the center of a growing drug problem that’s seen a corresponding increase in the number of property crimes. On the plus side, there’s a railway station that will be very happy to whisk you away to somewhere better.
13. New Ross
New Ross is a slightly bleak, slightly depressing city of 8,040 people with an industrial vibe and not a whole lot going on. It’s a little bit grey, a little bit grim, and very much not the kind of place you’d want to spend much time in. On the plus side, the Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience is said to offer an incredible insight into the hows and why of the potato famine.
“From its vibrant city life to its rural charm and stunning coastline, Waterford city and county have something for everyone!” We’re not inclined to disbelieve them. The problem is, “everyone” includes criminals, of which Waterford City has more than its fair share. The city might be Ireland’s oldest, but it has a very 21st-century problem: namely, an escalating drug problem that’s given rise to one of the worst crime rates in the country. It’s still beautiful, but not all that glitters is gold.
As anyone who’s ever visited Cork will tell you, it’s a beautiful place. Quaint, charming, and blessed with stunning scenery, it offers the quintessential Irish experience to the armies of tourists that descend on it each year. The problem? It’s a big city – the second biggest in Ireland, in fact. And with big cities come big problems. In fairness, nowhere in Ireland is particularly dangerous – not dangerous in the way of the Londons and the Los Angeles’ and the Tijuanas of the world, in any case. But crime rates are relative, and by Irish standards, the crime rate in Cork is no laughing matter. According to reports, arson is one of the biggest problems, with 2824 incidents recorded since 2003 alone.
Galway regularly ranks as one of the best places to visit in Ireland. With its picture-perfect streets, its idyllic surroundings, and its vibrant culture, it’s a great place to spend a long weekend. But visiting a place isn’t quite the same as living in it. While Galway unquestionably has its charms, it also has quite a lot of something else: crime. According to irishmirror.ie, Galway recorded more criminal incidents than any other Irish city outside of Dublin between 2003-2019. If you can turn a blind eye to the crime, you’ll probably have a great time living there. If you can’t, it’s best avoided.
Dublin is by no means the worst place in Ireland to live – hence its inclusion at number 9 on our list. There are some stunning parts to it, with great restaurants, amazing bars, and more attractions than you can shake a stick at. It’s also got a fabulous culture, excellent job opportunities, and a richness and history you can’t help but love. But it’s also got an insanely high cost of living, substantial poverty, and the worst crime rate in the country. That isn’t necessarily unexpected – it is the capital, after all – but it’s also not easy to ignore.
Voted as the worst town in Ireland by collegetimes.com, Larne is a major port on the east coast of County Antrim. In fairness, it’s not completely devoid of attractions – the promenade is very picturesque and there’s a couple of not entirely unpretty sandy beaches nearby. But other than that, the only thing you’ll really come to love about the town is the road out of there.
Rathnew isn’t all bad. For a start, it’s got the historic Tinakilly House, the former home of Capt. Robert Halpin which these days serves as a very nice hotel with some great views over the Irish Sea. There’s also a grand total of three pubs, three fish and chip shops, and even a petrol station. And then… nothing. Really, the best you can say is that there’s a bus that will take you out of there.
Backdropped by rich, fertile hills, home to the legendary Tipperary Racecourse, and made famous by the wartime song “It’s a long way to Tipperary,” Tipperary seems a great place to live. For some people, it might be. But for those who value job opportunities (there aren’t any), decent amenities (if you’re after something more than a pub or a betting shop, you’re out of luck), prosperity (refer back to the job opportunities), safety (the crime isn’t terrible, but woe betide the motorist who leaves their car unlocked for more than a few minutes), and a way out of there (there’s a bus station, but buses rarely bother to stop there), it’s really not.
On the surface, Limerick is a fascinating, beautiful city studded with medieval castles and churches, lively pubs and restaurants, and things to do and see. But scratch beneath the surface and things suddenly get a lot less attractive. Gang violence isn’t something most people associate with Ireland, but in Limerick, it’s alive and well. In the early 2000s, it even earned the dubious nickname of Stab City in recognition of the growing problem. While the explanation for the city’s problems is complex and varied, much of it is down to the deprivation, endemic unemployment, and poverty experienced on the housing estates, as well as the skyrocketing drug trade.
Clonmel is a pretty little town with a serious problem. Over the past few years, drugs have ripped the community apart. In January alone, €256,000 worth of cocaine, heroin, amphetamines, MDMA, alprazolam, cannabis, and diazepam were seized from dealers in the town. As the Irish Times reports, so bad has the situation become, the community policing unit has been temporarily dissolved to concentrate resources on the sale and supply of drugs. Speaking to Tipp FM’s mid-morning current affairs program, Tipp Today, Superintendent William Leahy confirmed: “We have a serious drugs issue in Clonmel, and many’s the time, throughout the last year . . . two years, I’ve gone to sudden deaths of people who overdosed from drugs, deaths of people who took their own lives because of drugs.” As the drug problem has escalated, so has other criminal activity. All in all, it’s best avoided.
Back in 2014, Bunclody was voted the most economically depressed town in Ireland. It had the worst unemployment rate, the lowest inward migration figures, the most empty houses, and one of the worst educational standards. 7 years later, the situation is no prettier. It’s still depressed, still depressing, and still the kind of place you’d rather avoid if you had the choice.
Carrick-on-Suir hasn’t been having a good time of it in the press recently. For a start, its local hospital has just closed, leading to a wave of protests and several very unflattering news reports about the state of the town’s amenities. There’s the growing drug problem, which sparked huge alarm in the community after a couple of young men were filmed shooting up outside the town hall. When you factor in the escalating unemployment, the low incomes, and the high living costs, it’s understandable why towns-ireland.com ranks it as one of the worst towns in Ireland.
According to The Irish Sun, Longford isn’t a great place to live if you value personal happiness. According to the publication, Longford ranks as the worst place in the country for positive attitudes about life potential, feeling empowered to bring about change, and feeling safe and happy. If those kinds of things mean anything to you, do what you can to avoid it.