There is enough factual evidence to confirm an economic disparity in rural Ireland.
An adult evaluation will confirm that current support measures are not engaging adequately in this sector. The much-hyped economic upturn is not apparent in rural Ireland where many rural enterprises are vulnerable and hanging on financially by fingernails.
Deputy Peadar Toibin TD chaired a Dáil committee investigating community support measures including LEADER. Its findings when some way in identifying just some of the bottlenecks in the sector. The LEADER programme has a much reduced budget of €200m, yet nationally only €37m has been drawn down. Meath Partnership received approval of Leader funds of €6,9m yet the draw down is €856k.
Here's the press release and link to the report itself: https://beta.oireachtas.ie/en/press-centre/press-releases/20171130-radical-change-in-model-of-capital-investment-necessary-to-sustain-viable-rural-communities-culture-heritage-gaeltacht-committee-report/
Longford LEADER was a trailblazer. Sadly this operation is now a poor reflection. By and large there are very few rural economic measures actually delivering tangible results. Visual decline in many rural towns and villages provide more than ample evidence of the continued ineffectiveness of rural development measures and polices.
At a crucial time, pre-Brexit, the plethora of rural development schemes appear not to be fit for the current challenges. We have a catalogue of development plans, County Development, Regional Development, Spatial Strategies all with aspirational vision but with little on the ground, operational traction; very few of past development plans have delivered at local level. There has been little response or innovative measures to arrest rural decline.
The Irish Central Bank estimated up to 100, 000 job losses as a result of Brexit. More recent reports suggest that up to 40.000 will be lost in NI and an estimated 250,000 job losses in the 26 counties.
We have yet to see a definitive Brexit position but the odds appear to be a Hard Brexit. Rural Ireland has not gained from the 2008 financial meltdown with many rural businesses hanging by the fingernails. Whatever the Brexit outcome there is little dividend for rural Ireland. Rural Ireland is further impacted by the growing beef crisis
It is past time that this ineffectual trampoline thinking gives way to a more localized, innovative and measured development drive
Revenue now has an updated document “Preparing for the withdrawal; of the United Kingdom from the European Union” July 2019 which can provide the basis for a realistic counter challenge
Rural communities must be part of this new strategy
“To identify a model, or derivative that can be effectively and quickly incorporated into the existing Irish rural economic development landscape, to do so within reasonable time and cost parameters”.
The focus is an Economic, rather than Social, engagement, Operational not Aspirational
The proposal is to develop a series of Needs and Market led development platforms in rural communities. This is a cluster model, networked with peers to a county level.
The outcome should be a realistic Local Development Platform embraced by the community and endorsed by the development agencies.
The business demographic in rural Ireland is Micro, enterprises employing less than 10 persons. The early action is to bring scale and impact by way of cluster, co-op or collegiate organization.
The second step is to identify and engage those relevant and effective support agencies with an economic development agenda. Crucially an effective link to third level and ETB must be to the forefront.
In the first instant the introduction of a number of development templates, to encompass local needs resulting in both a Needs Analysis and a foundation for a prioritized formal business proposal. The conclusion of this module is a development schedule of prioritized action items.
The formation of a management structure will include local inputs with recognised legal status. Relevant support agencies will be included in the structure.
A Business Plan with relevant Objectives, Timeline, Costings and Key Performance Indicators will be included.
The overall objective must be to create a network cluster that delivers an individual robust business model to each participant. Each Local Development Platform will have access to a county based County Marketing Company, an online and offline sales and marketing operation. Each Local Development Platform will be encouraged to link with local peers with an ultimate county network as a goal.
The primary suggested supports are:
• Local Tourism Development, Visitor Information Points
• Network Development to Business, N2B
• Retail Supports ShopPing
• Educational and Training
• County Marketing Company
The Secondary Phase:
• Rural Broadband Hubs
• Capacity Plus, an audit of local potential production capacity
• Rural Link development
• Green Energy Initiatives
Similar development initiatives are expected directly from community sources.
The Development will be community owned with Charitable (tax) status. The Management and Operations team will be Private sector and will include Development Agencies input. This will include Education and Training elements.
Local Development Platforms will drive operations at local level in conjunction with local participants. This will migrate to a County model.
The structure will identify local needs and allow an effective solutions pathway
On a wider issue there may now be a case to seek relocation of government offices to Mayo. Dublin continues to face increasing living and property costs. Relocation to a much lower cost rural location could now be a feasible option.