This week the Western Development Commission (WDC) was invited by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs to discuss what it takes to sustain a viable rural community.
The committee is holding a series of meetings to get to the heart of what makes a rural community sustainable and viable. Cathaoirleach of the Committee (Committee members can be seen here) Peadar Tóibín T.D. has said: “There is a deep imbalance in the distribution of jobs, enterprise and resources in this State causing major difficulties in urban and rural areas. Developing sustainable enterprises, improving tourism opportunities, promoting and encouraging agribusiness and creating jobs are crucial in halting population decline and in sustaining rural communities”.
During their deliberations the Committee will examine all aspects of the requirements of rural communities in modern Ireland. They have divided hearings into six different streams: employment, emergency services, local services, quality of life, education and transport. They will gather evidence from witnesses from all four provinces, including the Gaeltacht, including representatives from Leader partnerships and Government agencies, local service and local interest groups, business, education, farming, financial and transport sectors, and health care, leisure, sport and charity organisations as well as the relevant Government Departments. It will be a wide-ranging and comprehensive study.
The hearing on Wednesday 26th October 2016 considered the employment stream which includes investment, development and employment in rural areas, doing business and locating workers in rural areas and incentives for rural enterprises, resource-based industries and creative and media industries. It was attended by the WDC acting CEO Mr Ian Brannigan and Policy Analyst Dr Helen McHenry and also heard from Enterprise Ireland, Irish Small and Medium Enterprises; Údarás na Gaeltachta and the Irish Farmers Association. A recording of the webcast of the debate can be seen here. The transcript of the meeting and the opening statement from the WDC will be available shortly.
The previous meeting of the committee on the subject (Wednesday, 12 October 2016) heard the views of a number of rural development organisations (the transcript is available here).