SUPPORTING rural communities who want to transform their local area into dynamic regions capable of attracting visitors, investors or residents must be placed at the centre of policy, it was suggested yesterday.
Irish Rural Link, the national organisation campaigning for sustainable rural communities, is examining how these places can ensure their future at its national conference in Charleville, Co Cork.
Seamus Boland, chief executive, said rural communities are facing challenges such as the decline in traditional areas of employment, reduced public services and an ageing population.
“Many of these communities feel ... they don’t have the skills or resources to deal with the challenges they face.
“Many commentators... argue in a globalised world only major city-regions will compete economically and getting infrastructure and services right in our cities... should be the national priority,” he said.
However, citing examples of rural communities that have transformed their locality, Mr Boland referred to communities that have taken previously unused buildings or land and transformed them into tourist attractions.
Communities have established co-ops to run a local shop which has transformed village life, while community-owned renewable energy resources have been developed.