Action Plan for Rural Development

 

Sir, – I note that the Action Plan for Rural Development contains the usual nonsense about supporting credit unions, particularly regulatory support. Rather than supporting them, this Government, through the auspices of the Central Bank, has pursued a policy of closing credit unions.

Not all of them are like Rush, closing due to financial problems. Most of them are closing because they are drowning under a sea of regulatory and bureaucratic controls, imposed by the same Central Bank. Not much sign of any regulatory support there.

Incidentally, Rush now has no credit union and no bank branches. I wouldn’t like to be running a small business in that rural town. – Yours, etc,

MARK CROWTHER,

Marino,

Dublin 3.

Sir, – The decline of rural centres is frequently portrayed as a consequence of rural depopulation, but official census figures show the opposite. The number of people living in rural areas actually increased by 14 per cent between 1996 and 2011 (from 1.51 to 1.74 million). Indeed the rural population in some counties grew very significantly: Carlow’s rural population grew by 24 per cent, Wexford’s by 26 per cent, and Louth’s by 30 per cent.

While overall rural populations have been growing steadily, rural centres have been declining, making it clear that those establishing themselves in rural areas have opted to live in newer, more spacious accommodation between villages, rather than in the older and more cramped housing stock within them. Once you need to travel by car to the nearest village, it is little bother to pass on through and do your business more easily in the nearest large town instead.

To rejuvenate those small towns and villages the relatively recent and accelerating trend for dispersed one-off housing must be not just halted, but reversed. The Action Plan for Rural Development is the first official recognition of this fact, and its proposed incentives for modernising certain kinds of housing stock seem to have the right goal, ie to encourage people to shun isolated one-off housing in rural areas in favour of village living.

Whether this or any other plan has a prayer of success is another matter. After all, it is not depopulation that has been killing rural towns, but rather their irrelevance, even to those local rural residents who supposedly need them most. _ Yours, etc,

JOHN THOMPSON,

Phibsboro,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – One of the widest divides on this island is the chasm that separates rural and urban Ireland.

One doesn’t need a qualification in economic development to know that both rural and urban Ireland have it in their grasp to be mutually advantageous.

Rural Ireland, while enterprising, needs customers from outside to support economic and social activities. The cities, with their increasing health-conscious populations, require greater access to the countryside. While converting closed shops into houses may have merit, without local sustainable commercial activity, many of our villages risk becoming little more than housing estates in the fields. – Yours, etc,

JOHN HENNESSY,

Dublin 7.

Sir, – The recently announced plan for rejuvenating towns and villages sounds like a payback to Independent TDs who are in the Government and to Ministers from rural constituencies. But that’s typical of Irish politics and maybe anything that might be productive should be welcomed. However, a plan for 600 towns and villages, to create 135,000 jobs, all at a cost of €60 millon over three years, sounds like a Donald Trump policy. If only all of our national problems could be solved so easily! At approximately €450 for each new job, maybe the Government should massively expand the plan immediately. – Yours, etc,

BRIAN CULLEN,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16.