This "parliament" will give rural people a voice
Ireland is about the join the growing number of European countries to convene a Rural Parliament, designed to express the voice of rural people in Europe and to promote self-help and action by rural people, in partnership with civil society and governments.
At a time of increasing pressure on democratic processes across Europe, a new movement has been growing in rural areas across the continent where ‘Rural Parliaments’ have emerged, made up of a partnership of all stakeholders who have an interest in supporting rural areas to develop and become more attractive for people to live and work in.
Ultimately these ‘Parliaments’ give the opportunity for rural communities to support each other in addressing issues such as de-population and loss of key services.
In Ireland, the Local Development Network (ILDN) representing all Local Development Companies (ILDN) operating across the country has this week announced that they will facilitate the first Irish Rural Parliament in Tullamore on March 8th 2019.
ILDN Vice-Chairperson, Éamonn O’ Reilly believes that the Irish Rural Parliament will offer a new voice and new opportunities for rural groups and communities,
“We have seen how Rural Parliaments in Europe have given rural communities opportunities to shine a light on pertinent issues and offer an informal space to meet with and influence policy-makers. The Irish Rural Parliament will bring together those with ideas and those that can make things happen for rural Ireland.”
O’Reilly says that the aim is to work in partnership with all rural stakeholders including those representing farmers, rural women and youth, the community and voluntary sector and rural services providers.
Rural parliaments are forums for discussion and debate, established to give voice to rural populations of the country, to influence policy and practice and to develop networks between those in rural areas, nationally and internationally.
They operate as informal, inclusive, participative structures whereby individuals and organisations with an interest in rural life are invited to attend annual gatherings of the parliament, where issues are presented, discussed and actions decided on.
There are a growing number of such parliaments throughout Europe, though there has not been one in Ireland to date. These civil society movements bring forward the collective views of the people that live in the rural communities though a ‘bottom-up’ approach.
In Ireland, Local Development Companies are charged with implementing development supports to enable such ‘bottom-up’ and are perfectly positioned to facilitate the successful development of Ireland’s inaugural Rural Parliament.
They are represented by Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) and collectively they provide direct social and economic supports to over 11,000 community groups and 83,000 individuals in rural areas each year.