Rural communities must be part of the solution to cost of living crisis

Irish Rural Link (IRL ), the Moate based national network representing the interest of rural communities, believe the agricultural sector and rural communities can and must be part of the solution to the current cost of living crisis.

Seamus Lennon, IRL chief executive, asserted the belief that rural communities must play a pivotal role in a much need solution to the ongoing cost of living crisis.

“Agriculture remains the main sector in rural areas and together with rural communities IRL believe they can hold the solutions to many of the current global problems we are now all experiencing; rising cost of energy and food, energy security and food security.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw the strength of local communities working together, the importance of rural volunteering and the value of such services as Meals on Wheels to ensure no one was forgotten about or left behind during this time. There was a greater focus on local also; appreciating local environment and surroundings, supporting local businesses and a renewed interest by people to grow their own food. As we emerge from the pandemic, the need for these services and volunteers still remains and the value placed on them must continue but they must be supported by Government at both local and national level.

“The transition away from the use of fossil fuels and burning of peat by local communities has caused a lot of concern for local communities over the past number of years, especially in the Midlands region, where many households’ dependent on this type of fuel to heat their homes. These communities have supplied fuel in their local communities. They must be at the centre of just transition and engagement from the beginning for any renewable energy projects is essential. Community owned energy projects allow communities to appreciate the benefits of greener energy sources and help them decide what sources of renewable energy works best for their needs. It also helps to eliminate mistrust between communities and the energy companies as well as creating new employment opportunities for people in the community.

“With remote and hybrid working becoming policy for many organisations and the development of digital hubs and co-working spaces in rural areas, more people have the opportunity to stay in their own community and work close to where they live. It also opens new opportunities for entrepreneurs and new start-ups to emerge, while at the same time increasing the support for existing local businesses.

“While we tackle the current cost of living crisis, long-term investment into rural services and political will is needed so rural communities become part of the solution of a just transition and future energy and food security,” Mr Lennon asserted.

 

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