Education

Dundalk IT hosts ‘Rural Conversation’ event

Social cohesion among communities in rural Ireland

Staff Reporter

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Staff Reporter

Dundalk IT hosts ‘Rural Conversation’ event

DkIT Hosts North East Rural Conversation with Royal Irish Academy

Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) recently facilitated a ‘Rural Conversation’ in conjunction with the Royal Irish Academy aimed examining ways of enhancing social cohesion among communities in rural Ireland.

The consultative rural stakeholder event was the second of three Rural Conversations, hosted in three Higher Education Institutions around the island of Ireland. More than 70 representatives attended  the event including academics, local government, policy experts and representatives from rural communities across the North Leinster South Ulster region. Outputs from the event have been used to help to inform the development of future Government policy on rural development in Ireland.

This event was opened by Dr Michael Mulvey, President, DkIT. During his opening address, DkIT President, Michael Mulvey, PhD, said: “The topic of social cohesion which is today's focus is very relevant to a college like DkIT. Whilst we draw students from North Dublin the bulk of our students are from Louth, Meath, Cavan, Monaghan and increasingly Armagh and Co. Down.  It is a region that has integrity of its own and we endeavor to act and lead and serve this region in an integrated way whilst at the same time respecting that it spans two jurisdictions.”

Other speakers included Professor Áine Hyland, MRIA,  Mr William Parnell, Assistant Secretary General from the Department of Rural and Community Development and Professor Colette Henry, Head of Department of Business Studies who coordinated the event with the Royal Irish Academy. Speaking at the event she added:

“In Ireland, rural areas account for 57% of the population. Research highlights that economic downturns have greater detrimental impacts on rural communities with immediate impact on unemployment and potential emigration of skilled labour. It vital that government policy and infrastructure empowers rural communities and supports them to navigate periods of  instability. This is particularly important in our own border region with uncertainty surrounding BREXIT.”

During her presentation, Colette highlighted the role of Higher Education in supporting rural communities including skills provision, particularly in the areas of business, manufacturing, agri-food and veterinary. She also highlighted the importance of schools outreach and the promotion of new programme areas such a robotics and data science in ensuring that we meet the skills requirements for our communities in the future.

Attendees of the Rural Conversation were asked to provide feedback under these questions:

- What are the key positive and negative factors impacting social cohesion in rural communities?
- Which cohorts within rural communities are most affected by a lack of cohesion among and between community segments (e.g. youth, elderly, new citizens, etc.), and how are they impacted?
- What actions need to be taken in order to enhance cohesion and strengthen social support structures for all rural dwellers?