Research reveals rural communities want greater focus on job creation – Macra

71% of people living in rural Ireland feel that stronger Government policies are needed to promote job growth in rural communities,  according to research published today at the launch of the Macra na Feirme, ‘Know Your Neighbour Weekend’ Campaign, which is supported by Calor.

Presented with 20 issues, such as unemployment, access to medical services, road quality, security and antisocial behaviour, unemployment was one of the issues of biggest concern, with 18 per cent of those surveyed, saying unemployment is the biggest issue facing communities at present.

Examined regionally; 16 per cent of Dubliners cite unemployment as an issue of concern, rising to 20 per cent for rest of Leinster, 21 per cent for people living in Connaught/Ulster and 18 per cent in Munster. However security and anti-social behaviour is also a significant issue for those living in Dublin – with 25 per cent – one in four - saying these issues are of concern to them.

Access to certain services is also an issue concerning rural communities, with 35 per cent of rural dwellers reporting that they have difficulty accessing broadband services, while only 5 per cent of urban dwellers cite this as an issue. Access to public transport (54 per cent) and hospitals (51 per cent) are also major issues in rural Ireland, with over half of those surveyed indicating difficulty.

Commenting on the research at the launch of the 10th annual ‘Know Your Neighbour Weekend’ campaign, Macra National President, Seán Finan said; “We know that there is an economic recovery underway but we need to ensure that the Government develop policies which address the urban/ rural two-tier nature of this recovery. Our concern is that the recovery to date seems very urban focussed and it is not impacting on rural communities, this is borne out by our research.”

“Those living in isolated parts of the country with limited access to services rely on their closest neighbours for support, security and friendship. The aim of ‘Know Your Neighbour Weekend’ is to provide an opportunity during the summer, to get to know these neighbours and establish a strong support network. I am encouraging every community, rural or urban, to get involved.”

Other infrastructural issues of concern in rural Ireland include; the quality of roads (13 per cent) and access to hospitals and medical services (10 per cent).

The research also demonstrates that keeping in contact with elderly neighbours, with 72 per cent saying it is very important to them, and 49 per cent of those surveyed suggesting they would like if there were more community events in their area. Knowing your neighbour on a personal level is also important to 58 per cent of those surveyed. However there is a clear urban/ rural divide here. 63 per cent of rural dwellers feel it is important for them to know their neighbour on a personal level, as opposed to, 55 per cent of urban residents.

Speaking at the launch of the new partnership, Liam Silke, Finance Director, Calor said: “At Calor we understand the challenges faced by rural communities. We operate in rural Ireland where we support homeowners, rural enterprises and larger industries by providing a cleaner, efficient fuel source for communities who cannot avail of natural gas. Our research confirms that rural communities require greater access to the infrastructure that will allow them to thrive and to create further employment and we are delighted to partner with Macra na Feirme and to support this campaign.”

Macra na Feirme is calling on communities nationwide to host a local event this summer to encourage neighbours to get to know each other better. Any group or individual planning an event should register for an organiser’s pack at www.knowyourneighbour.ie  The organisers pack will include helpful ideas, posters, t-shirts and balloons to help make the event successful.