|Rural Ireland: Not bad if you're a sheep. Because sheep |
don't need broadband, roads, services, healthcare...
The Irish Times are hosting a commendable section dedicated to rural Ireland and its concerns, and solicited comments from Labour's Ann Phelan, Minister for Rural Affairs. We'll stop this donut effect, she said, making sure large supermarkets don't locate outside town centers. Other than that, she's not promising anything because she says "I probably have a maximum of 18-21 months to do something.” Her main focus she says is on job creation; there is no budget (save that from other departments) with which to directly fund projects.
The CEDRA report, a product of the Pat Spillane (!) chaired Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas, came up with thirty-four recommendations, part of one of which was the appointment of a minister. That has been done, though the other part of that recommendation - a High Level Implementation Committee - seems to have been ignored. Doesn't bode well, then. And as mentioned above, the newly appointed minister isn't promising she's going to do anything. I'm sure she'll be lovely, though, and at least she's bumping the gender balance in the junior ministerial ranks. Legacy, eh.
The worst thing of all is the CEDRA 'vision statement'. I reproduce it here in its full glory:
Rural Ireland will become a dynamic, adaptable and outward looking multi-sectoral economy supporting vibrant, resilient and diverse communities experiencing a high quality of life with an energised relationship between rural and urban Ireland which will contribute to its sustainability for the benefit of society as a whole.
So let's read this as a statement of what Rural Ireland is not (seeing as the vision is that it needs to become, erm, something:
Rural Ireland is a static, inflexible, inward looking single sector (farming?) economy with lifeless, flaky and mono-culutural communities experiencing a low quality of life with a staid relationship between rural and urban Ireland which doesn't contribute to its sustainability for the benefit of society as a whole.I'm not sure I agree with that. And I'm not sure I agree with the aspiration either. Frankly I'm not even sure I understand it. Let's remove most of the adjectives, and see how it reads.
Rural Ireland will become a multi-sectoral economy supporting diverse communities experiencing a high quality of life with a relationship between rural and urban Ireland which will contribute to its sustainability for the benefit of society as a whole.Still hard to understand what the aspiration is. It's already a multi-sectoral economy, with services, tourism and farming to the fore. If it is to support a high quality of life, who measures that? what does 'contribute to its sustainability' mean? Sustainability of what? Sustainability of the economy? Of the diverse community? Of the high quality of life? And when they say 'for the benefit of society as a whole' - why is that? Are we saying (removing much of the middle bit) that the vision is that "Rural Ireland will benefit society as a whole"?
It is almost as if the great mandarins of Dublin have decided that the country needs to improve the productivity of the countryside, which costs way too much to service, in reducing the national debt. That's what the vision is about. It's not about making it a nicer place to live in, a place where services are easier to access, where roads are less treacherous, or where life expectancy is not reduced because of poor access to healthcare. Why isn't the Rural Ireland Strategy about making Rural Ireland better? It seems like a pretty simple vision to articulate...if you want to.