Extensive study on rural Ireland contributes to debate on future of communities

Monday, 23 January 2006

An extensive study into life in rural Ireland, which covers a wide range of economic, environmental and social issues, has been launched by the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Mr Éamon Ó Cuív, at a special reception at NUI Galway.

The Rural Living: An Analysis of 1,249 Households in the Republic of Ireland, survey was conducted by students of the Rural Development programme at the four NUI constituent universities; University College Dublin, University College Cork, NUI Galway and NUI Maynooth. Its findings offer a contribution to the debate on the future of life in rural Ireland whose population today faces the challenges associated with the decline in full-time farming as a way of life, the expansion of part-time farming, increased urbanization and the rise in commuter towns and villages.

Commenting on the study, Minister Ó Cuív said the study was a valuable contribution to our understanding of the changes and pressures being experienced by rural communities in a time of radical change.

"The academic directors and students on the programme, who have contributed to this body of research deserve our thanks," said Mr Ó Cuív.

"It presents a comprehensive overview and analysis of the current status of rural households in Ireland while underlining the value and relevance of collaboration between universities in the area of rural research, programme design and delivery.

Monday's launch was preceded by a seminar featuring addresses by academic experts in rural development from each of the four universities.

Professor Michael Cuddy, Department of Economics, NUI Galway, delivered an overview of rural development in Ireland, which formed a key component of the study.

"Ireland now has two rural societies which are very different in respect to the challenges they face," he said.

"The first is urbanized and integrated into the global production and consumer society while the second is traditional and continues to face the challenges of migration and increasingly costly social services. The time of 'crying wolf' for all of rural Ireland has passed, there must be two different approaches to these distinctly different challenges."

The original Rural Development programme, introduced at diploma level in 1996, was expanded in 2004 to include a Bachelor of Science Degree in Rural Development. The students benefit from the combined expertise of the four participating universities who offer the courses by distance education.

The programmes for mature students contribute to the attainment of national policy objectives for higher education in expanding access to higher education and providing opportunities for lifelong learning.

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