Opinion poll findings show that 31% of rural dwellers strongly agree with the idea of a widening urban/ rural gulf, while another 38% slightly agree. In contrast, 13% disagree, including 2% who strongly disagree.
In last year’s poll a smaller percentage, 61%, agreed that the rural/urban divide was widening, but that included 35% who strongly agreed with that view.
In the 2014 poll, 44% strongly agreed with the perception of a deepening gap between urban and rural Ireland, with 75% of those polled that year believing then divide was widening. One notable detail in this year’s result on is how 80% of women believe there is a wider gap between urban and rural Ireland, compared with 67% of men who feel the same way.
The poll result also shows that younger and middleaged respondents are more likely to see a gulf between urban and rural Ireland than their older counterparts. For example, 71% of those aged under 34, and 77% of those aged 35 to 54, see a widening rural/urban divide, compared with 67% of those aged 55 to 64 and 61% of those aged 65 and over.
Those without an off-farm income (71%) are marginally more likely to believe in this widening divide compared with those with an off-farm job (68%). The poll also shows that more than 70% of respondents in the dairy, tillage and livestock sectors perceive this divide, versus just 56% of those involved in other farming sectors.
Overall, fewer people are ambivalent on the issue this year than last year, with 18% neither agreeing nor disagreeing compared with 21% in last year’s poll. Those polled in Tullamore, Co Offaly and Tipperary are more likely to believe the divide between urban and rural areas is widening, while those in Tullow, Co Carlow, and Cappamore, Co Limerick and least likely to hold this view.
Teagasc economist Kevin Hanrahan said: “It is clear that as compared with some parts of Dublin, Cork and Galway rural Ireland has experienced slower rates of growth in incomes in recent years but it has also not seen the rise in costs of living that have been seen in some urban areas.
“Growth and particularly trickle-down growth effects will always take time. I am not surprised by the fact that those survey respondents that don’t have off-farm jobs think that the divide is growing while those with off-farm jobs are less likely to hold this opinion.”
Regarding a perceived urban/rural divide, ICMSA president John Comer said: “Perhaps this perception is lessening but in ICMSA’s experience on the ground in every corner and district of the state there is still a very clear idea that the State’s focus seems to be within the M50 and that the most crude cost/ benefit analysis seems to be decisive when evaluating situations in rural districts with scant, if any, concerns about the state having an equal responsibility to all its citizens regardless of where they live.
“[The] ICMSA has repeatedly drawn attention to what it calls ‘the retreat of the state’ from very large areas of the state as Garda barracks, DVO offices, post offices, schools and departmental offices all closed or were ‘rationalised’ into larger urban centres.
“The continued official tolerance for the long decline of our county towns is a case in point and the delays and loss of momentum around an effective rollout of rural broadband is also revealing — though this seems to be moving forward now with a bit more purpose.”