Rural Ireland has changed dramatically over the past 100 years. The composition and population patterns continue to change and there is a need to reconsider how we devise and implement policies to safeguard the future of rural Ireland as a valuable national resource.
The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas provided a list of recommendations to Government in its report ‘Energising Ireland’s Rural Economy’.
The Commission called for new integrated approaches to rural economic development and called on Government to prepare a clear and detailed Rural Economic Development policy.
In 2016 Government should make a real commitment to rural Ireland, backed with the necessary ongoing financial support to ensure that rural areas can benefit from and contribute to our economic recovery.
Rural Ireland needs investment, particularly in broadband. Government must acknowledge this need for investment and commit the necessary funds to deliver broadband to every household and business in rural Ireland before 2018.
It is not good enough that 750,000 households and businesses have to wait until 2020 at the earliest to have access to broadband.
Rural Ireland needs broadband now in order to promote enterprise and entrepreneurship and create sustainable, well paid jobs that will enable young people to remain in their communities.
Government should commit ongoing investment in ‘patient’ capital funding for public services and public transport in rural areas. This will enable rural towns and communities to adapt to demographic challenges.
‘Patient’ capital means the social and economic returns are in the medium to long-term, requiring policies that take a longer term view – not everything can be fixed in one term of office, but the foundations for progress can be laid.
Now is the time for real commitment to rural Ireland, not just more rhetoric.