Special Report (Rural Ireland): ‘Don’t pigeonhole rural communities as a burden’

The former head of the Government commission on rural Ireland has pleaded for an end to the view of rural communities as a problem and burden on the rest of the country.

Cathal O’Donoghue said there was a preoccupation with post office closures and farm prices at both public and official level, with debate limited to stereotypes and dominated by the view that communities were in decline.

He said any hope of rejuvenating the rural economy would require proper understanding of both the complexity of the challenges faced in rural Ireland and the richness of the resources available there.

“We shouldn’t pigeonhole rural Ireland as a burden and a problem but rather, if it is mobilised, it can be part of the solution,” he said.

Prof O’Donoghue was chief executive of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA), which concluded its reports to Government over a year ago, and spoke at the start of the Irish Examiner’s week-long series on rural communities.

RELATED: Special Report (Rural Ireland):‘We’ll get it up and running again’

Each day this week, we visit a different village or town to hear first-hand the difficulties caused by the economic collapse of recent years and the specific significance for rural areas.

We see communities that have lost post offices, Garda stations, all local retail outlets, and a disproportionate number of their young people, and that have yet to catch sight of the recovery beginning to appear in the main urban centres.

RELATED: Special Report (Rural Ireland): Community makes sure area stays safe despite the lack of a Garda presence

However, we also see that while they have lost vital services and lack infrastructure, they have not lost community spirit and display huge determination to fight back — with or without Government support.

Rural Ireland is being targeted as a hunting ground for votes in the pre-election period, with Fine Gael last month launching its Standing Up For Rural Ireland campaign.

The campaign restates many of the goals identified by CEDRA as necessary for the recovery and sustainability of rural areas in its report of April last year which has yet to be adopted into a national policy or strategy for rural Ireland.

RELATED: Special Report (Rural Ireland): ‘We would love to be employers, to employ locally and to invest locally’

While the communities we visited show great resolve and imagination, the psychological scars of being left behind are also evident.

One woman we met, who was gutted by the loss of her local post office, said with unintended poignancy: “There isn’t really much out in the country, only people.”

More on this topic

Can remote working rejuvenate rural Ireland?Can remote working rejuvenate rural Ireland?

Council to develop digital hubs for remote workingCouncil to develop digital hubs for remote working

Ireland's hill sheep contribute far more than tourist photo opportunitiesIreland's hill sheep contribute far more than tourist photo opportunities

Family bakery closure cuts deep in Kerry townFamily bakery closure cuts deep in Kerry town


Lifestyle

Cross rope bridges strung across the Atlantic or visit reimagining of time gone by; whatever you fancy doing, you’ll find it in Ulster.Staycations 2020: Take your pick from these great things to do in Ulster

Peter Dowdall has advice on caring for these perennial favouritesLook after your peonies and they'll brighten your garden

A routine smear test picked up Eileen Rushe's cancer when she was in her early 30s. It was a long road to recovery, says Arlene Harris.In check: Why every woman must get a cervical screening test

And we’re back! Ireland’s tourism and hospitality industry rebooted on Monday, with a ripple of giddy enthusiasm across the country, as byways and motorways whirred with the national great escape.What's a hotel visit like these days? Tom Breathnach checks in

More From The Irish Examiner