People in rural Ireland need a new, united voice and an effective means of making their views known to the powers that be, according to three key organisations in Kerry which have joined forces in a bid to halt rural decline.
The Irish Rural Dwellers Association, the IFA, and the GAA have formed a Rural Coalition that may become a blueprint for a national forum.
IRDA chairman James Doyle said they hoped the coalition would enter in to dialogue with government departments on rural issues. They also hoped to develop an employment strategy.
“The Rural Coalition’s aim is to address the needs, aspirations and the continuing welfare of those who wish to live, work, and raise their families in the countryside,” he said.
“The objective of this new alliance is to work closely with our elected representatives; its common purpose is to make rural Ireland a place where its residents can continue to live comfortably, while also contributing substantially to the economy.”
Mr Doyle, a farmer in Beaufort, said the group was not against urbanisation but insisted it should not take place at the expense of rural areas.
“In many ways, rural people feel excluded from the democratic process by way of legislation, planning and opportunity. In order to tackle a problem we must first recognise that it exists but we are not prepared to lie down and accept the present situation.”
The organisations have launched a joint study, The Rural Challenge: Empowering Rural Communities to Achieve Growth and Sustainability, and the next step is to meet with Kerry’s elected representatives.
Prominent GAA activist and rural campaigner John Kelly said many people were moving to large urban areas which did not have sufficient services or facilities. However, infrastructure was in place in rural areas which had playing fields, schools, and other facilities.
“It’s often very difficult to provide for the social needs of people in urban areas so why not use what’s already place in rural Ireland?”
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