Rural Ireland is a place of strong community links and economic potential. However, in small towns, villages and in more remote areas, people often do not enjoy the amenities and services that those in cities and large towns take for granted. These include day-to-day necessities such as decent bus services, post offices, easy access to local shops, jobs in the local community and access to a doctor or to mental health care.
Our Rural Manifesto sets out practical solutions which can restore the natural world and at the same time improve our quality of life in rural Ireland. This is a ten-year challenge because it will take more than one government to deliver the scale of change we need. We will not make the necessary leap if we see it as a divisive issue between rural and urban Ireland, or between young and old, or if we turn it into a fight between traditional political factions.
We’ll rejuvenate rural Ireland by bringing life back to our towns and villages, creating thriving sustainable communities where people can live and work.
Ireland has a unique and valuable asset in our farming sector, and, compared to many other nations, a large proportion of farming is carried out by small to medium land holders. This should be one of Ireland’s greatest strengths and one of our best opportunities to support rural communities. People who farm the land have a right to a viable livelihood. In an era of increasing greenhouse gas emissions, volatile international markets, product competition and new climate change agreements, we believe the following policies will support farmers as they work towards a more secure future for their farm holdings, their local areas, their trade networks and the country as a whole.
- Facilitating community owned renewable energy to fight energy poverty and financially benefit rural communities.
- Reforming the Common Agriculture Policy to prioritise small and medium farmers – not big agribusiness.
- Increasing organic farming to 20% by 2030 and establishing an ‘Energy Efficient Farming’ scheme.
- Ending monoculture forestry plantations and promoting Close To Nature, Continuous Cover forestry models.
- Supporting restoration and planting of new hedgerows, and protecting our wildlife, wetlands, farms, and forests.
Ireland will change dramatically over the next decade. We have an opportunity to pull together and ensure that those changes are fair, sustainable and allow us to hold on to some of the best and most important aspects of rural Ireland: close and supportive communities, a love of the natural world, and a belief in our rural way of life.
The next decade must see a transition to a more sustainable, greener economy. This transition must be fair to everyone and must enhance the lives of every person and family in Ireland. Our proposal for a just transition will introduce a new commission and mediation service, which will work within a new form of social partnership. This process will bring together affected communities, trade unions, businesses, climate transition experts and government to see how we can overcome obstacles to a fair and just transition to a low carbon economy.
Rural communities are at the heart of the transition to a low carbon economy. By positioning ourselves as early movers, we can use this necessary shift in land use, transport, energy and industry to rebalance our economic development and reverse the decline of rural Ireland. This economic shift will only work if it is accompanied by social and political reform. For the transition to be a success, we must work to rebuild a sense of community in our towns and villages and begin the process of devolving decision-making authority to local political structures.
We will rejuvenate our rural communities through:
- Local Innovation Hubs to improve connectivity and job creation in regional towns and villages.
- Creating warm, comfortable homes and reducing fuel poverty through an ambitious retrofitting programme.
- Scaling up Local Link services and introducing free school transport.
- Prioritising rural Ireland for the roll-out of Electric Vehicle charging infrastructure.
- Undertaking catchment area studies to ensure every student has a school place.
- Prioritising Sláintecare and community based healthcare – keeping people in their homes and communities where possible.
- Protecting rural post offices, by increasing the delivery of public services provided in them.
- Promoting eco-tourism through a new All-Ireland Walkways Development Plan.