Farming survey: Urban-rural divide may deepen further

Places that the boom never reached the first time around now feel they are being forgotten all over again, writes Elaine Loughlin.

Jeremiah and JJ Deleaney from Macroom at the National Ploughing Championships in Tullamore. Photo: Niall Carson /PA

Take a stroll along Dublin’s silicon docks, a mandatory take-away coffee cup in hand, and you could be in London or New York as Googlers, Yahooers, and Facebook staff mingle among the new glass office buildings.

But as technology pushes on, those living in the humps and hollows of rural Ireland feel even more isolated.

Places that the boom never reached the first time around now feel they are being forgotten all over again.

The Irish Examiner poll lays bare this the growing rural-urban divide and, with Brexit already impacting on the agri-sector, this division may deepen further in the coming years.

It seems that Government’s initiatives to breathe life back into rural Ireland — including a dedicated minister and a much publicised action plan for rural development — are not being felt.

When farmers were asked about whether they feel the gap between rural and urban Ireland is growing a significant 69% agreed that it has. Of those respondents, 38% strongly agreed that the void is becoming bigger.

Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring, who is due to attend the Ploughing Championships this week, has a massive task ahead of him not only to help bring physical change to the regions but to shift the mentality of those living in isolated areas who feel Government is simply not doing enough.

Perhaps this offers an explanation as to why Simon Coveney, a former Minister for Agriculture and farmer, appealed much more solidly to those questioned.

Mr Coveney, who was a popular minister during his time in the Department of Agriculture, was viewed as the more conservative candidate who claimed he would represent all of society in the recent Fine Gael leadership race.

Farmers and those living outside urban hubs are clearly still more reserved in their outlook and even among the younger under 35 cohort Mr Coveney is more popular that Mr Varadkar.

While there have been small changes and shifts within particular sectors — the poll revealed a drop in Fine Gael support among those working in dairy — it seems as though farmers still firmly vote along family party lines that have been carved out since the war of Independence and the foundation of the State.

According the the Irish Examiner poll — Fine Gael currently enjoy a 40% share of support, while Fianna Fáil are in second place on 25%.

Surprising so that farmers still feel they have been ignored considering the party that the majority support - Fine Gael — have been in power since 2011.

Another surprise from this typically conservative cohort is the openness to having Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael in power together.

The poll shows that 35% of farmers would like to see the two largest parties share power after the next election.

This is double the number who favour a continuation of the current coalition of Fine Gael and Independents or indeed a Government made up of Independents and Fianna Fáil.

Perhaps Ireland’s farmers, who regularity have to take a stab at forecasting the weather, also see what is coming down the line politically.

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