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NESC publishes Research Papers No.19 & 20: Making Rural Ireland Resilient


Making Rural Ireland Resilient

We need to take time to understand how rural Ireland is changing.  The pandemic has seen some return to rural areas and this is positive.  It has also magnified long-standing issues, such as access to high-quality broadband, social isolation and the need for sustainable enterprises and job creation.

Today NESC publishes two research papers. The papers explore the value of understanding different types of ‘rural’ and the opportunities to build economic resilience, as Ireland transitions to a low carbon, digital and thriving economy and society.   Dr Larry O’Connell, Director of NESC said, ‘the papers have already helped start a dialogue with NESC members and wider stakeholders about the future of rural areas, opportunities and co-creation of solutions. The papers will also help NESC to continue to examine just transition and regional development, in particular by feeding into its work on the Shared Island.

The paper, Challenges and Opportunities for Rural Ireland and the Agricultural Sector is authored by UCD’s Dr Edel Kelly, Dr Karen Keaveney and Dr Anne Markey. It identifies seven types of rural-from very strong traditional rural to peri-urban rural areas adjacent to large towns and cities.  It highlights common challenges such as declining numbers of young adults but also differences in changes in population density and consequent demand for services.

The UCD researchers also point to reasons to be hopeful for Irish rural areas. A key finding is the need to look positively at rural spaces and to work with communities and farmers to ‘’co-create’’ solutions and local value. They engaged with experts and produced a list 106 opportunities, spanning social, environmental and economic activity.  The opportunities included developing new products, remote working and solutions-focused on climate action.

In parallel, NESC commissioned Sean McCabe in TASC to consider how the idea of community wealth building might be a catalyst in rural spaces. The paper, Economic Resilience in Sustainable Communities: Innovative Approaches in Public Spending to Maximise Local Benefits examines how the community wealth was increased in the UK city of Preston.  The key was a coordinated approach from local government to use procurement and job creation to create wealth locally.  The paper argues that this same approach has relevance for rural Ireland, for example by using climate action resources, such as retrofit or renewable energy supports, as a catalyst for rural communities.  Like the UCD research, the paper also focuses on co-creating these opportunities with local communities.

Note to Editors

The Council is aware that the policy system is also reflecting on these issues. The Government is developing a new Rural Policy to build on the progress of the Action Plan for Rural Development to promote rural recovery and development in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis.

About the National Economic and Social Council (NESC)

The National Economic & Social Council (NESC) was established in 1973.  NESC is an expert advisory and consultative body, focusing on strategic economic, social and environmental policies.  The Council was set up to analyse and report to the Taoiseach on strategic issues relating to the efficient development of the economy, the achievement of social justice and environmental sustainability.  It addresses the public system and the institutional challenges related to implementation, monitoring and learning.  It is chaired by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach.  The members of the Council are appointed by the Taoiseach, for a three year term.  They are representatives of business and employers’ organisations, trade unions, agricultural and farming organisations, community and voluntary organisations, and environmental organisations; as well as heads of Government departments and independent experts.  The Council has published 149 agreed reports on a wide range of policy issues, as well as research papers by its professional Secretariat and other experts.

NESC Work on Shared Island

NESC are responding to a request from the Department of the Taoiseach to carry out research and to produce a comprehensive report on the Shared Island in 2021.  The NESC research will contribute to building a shared knowledge base and understanding about possible ways in which greater co-operation can emerge across a number of economic, social and environmental areas in Ireland, North and South, and also between these islands East and West.   The research will not address the constitutional question, but will focus on sustainable economic, social and environmental development issues in line with NESC’s strategic remit.

View our publication page to access both reports.

For further information, please contact:

 Dr Larry O’Connell, Director


T: 01 8146332

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