Spil­lane: Ru­ral Ire­land is vi­brant, alive and well

Irish Examiner - - News - Elaine Lough­lin

GAA pun­dit Pat Spil­lane has crit­i­cised an “urban per­cep­tion” that ru­ral Ire­land is sim­ply a drain on the econ­omy.

The Ker­ry­man said the com­mon city at­ti­tude that ru­ral ar­eas are dy­ing or dead must be smashed and fur­ther noted that, sadly, many good news sto­ries and pos­i­tive ini­tia­tives hap­pen­ing coun­try in ar­eas were not high­lighted.

“There is a per­cep­tion out there among city dwellers that ru­ral Ire­land is dead, that it is dy­ing, that it is a drain on the econ­omy and that it’s all about wel­fare and grants and schemes — it’s not. Ru­ral Ire­land is vi­brant, it is alive and well.”

At a ru­ral fo­rum in Westport, yes­ter­day, the re­tired foot­ball leg­end said com­mu­ni­ties need to work to­gether from the bot­tom up to pre­serve ru­ral Ire­land.

“Yes there are parts of ru­ral Ire­land where the boom time hasn’t reached yet,” he as­serted.

Mr Spil­lane said ru­ral Ire­land needs jobs, and fa­cil­i­ties to look af­ter the el­derly and sup­ports for those with young fam­i­lies to stay in their com­mu­ni­ties.

Speak­ing at the same event, Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar said hav­ing mu­nic­i­pal ar­chi­tects in ev­ery large town, like in Cl on akil ty, would make ru­ral towns bet­ter places to live in.

“One size doesn’t fit all but good ex­am­ples should be fol­lowed, both Clon­akilty and Westport are good ex­am­ples to fol­low,” Mr Varad­kar said.

Re­spond­ing to Westport mu­nic­i­pal town ar­chi­tect Simon Wall, who sug­gested that all towns em­ploy their own ar­chi­tect, Mr Varad­kar said: “I think you may be on to some­thing. What’s re­ally im­por­tant is the pub­lic realm,” the Taoiseach said.

“Even in Dublin, you go to some­where like Malahide and Lu­can and you walk down the main street and it has a vil­lage feel to it, it at­tracts peo­ple to want to live there and busi­nesses and so on.

“Whereas the town that I am from, Blan­chard­stown, the main street is very hig­gledy-pig­gledy. Ar­chi­tects and peo­ple who have that ex­per­tise could re­ally help to make a dif­fer­ence.”

Yes­ter­day’s Project Ire­land 2040 event, at­tended by Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed and Ru­ral Af­fairs Min­is­ter Michael Ring, fo­cused on bal­anc­ing re­gional growth and in­vest­ment in ru­ral re­gen­er­a­tion.

A key com­mit­ment of Project Ire­land 2040 is the pro­vi­sion of a new €1bn over the pe­riod 2019-2027 through the Ru­ral Re­gen­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment Fund which will pro­vide in­vest­ment to sup­port ru­ral re­newal for suit­able projects in towns and vil­lages with a pop­u­la­tion of less than 10,000, and out­ly­ing ar­eas.

Picture: Elaine Lough­lin

Taoiseach Leo Varad­kar is joined by Agri­cul­ture Min­is­ter Michael Creed, Sen­a­tor Michelle Mul­herin, and Ru­ral De­vel­op­ment Min­is­ter Michael Ring in Westport.

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