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Councillor Joe Garrihy said one of the most useful and practical signposting elements of the council’s Rural Development Strategy is encouraging co-operation between parishes and areas to see what can be achieved by working collectively.

Working together the way forward for Clare rural communities

THE establishment of the North Burren Community Group has been hailed as an example of what small rural communities can achieve when they unite under a new umbrella organisation.

Niamh Wiley, Rural and Community Development Officer (RCDO) provided an example of a “partnering of parishes” approach operating in North Clare at a recent West Clare Municipal District (MD) meeting.

The setup and growth of the group was aided through the work of the RCDOs.

Following a series of local consultation and engagement, the North Burren Community Group was formed last year, consisting of active stakeholders from all the various parishes, selected with specific skill sets.

The group represents the parishes of Carron and Noughaval, Belharbour, New Quay, Finavarra Peninsula and Aughinish Island, spanning a radius of 30km, to include approximately 1,000 residents.

This partnership of parishes model was adapted by the group because of the need to address the lack of shared community and enterprise space in this area of North Clare.

“The lack of a community facility has rendered them powerless in uniting their community, or in supporting the growth of projects involving the elderly or young people to combat rural isolation and loneliness.

“This partnership approach has encouraged this community to look beyond the boundaries of their parishes.  They have been able to collectively assess, and pool together local assets and resources.

“Long term, they envisage this approach will allow them to achieve economies of scale and build on the strengths and opportunities to become self-sustaining.

“It is clear that the council supports the partnering parishes model and will continue to work with communities interested in this model,” she said.

Her comments came after Councillor Joe Garrihy called on the West Clare MD to engage with and further define the compatible/cooperating parishes and settlements of the MD.

This involves working closely with the communities in enabling and resourcing capacity and cooperation with defined appropriate forums for the community and voluntary sector of these areas.

Councillor Garrihy said one of the most useful and practical signposting elements of the council’s Rural Development Strategy is encouraging co-operation between parishes and areas to see what can be achieved by working collectively.

The Lisdoonvarna councillor pointed out this is being forced on local communities due to rural depopulation and the amalgamation of GAA teams.

“This needs to be driven from a ground-up perspective,” said Councillor Garrihy.

“The pillar of sustainability is the ability to maximise resources to secure funding from whatever streams or funding resources is all based around numbers.

“We probably haven’t had the chance to work harder on this on the ground. Something like meals on wheels will have to be delivered on a cross-parish basis. We don’t need to have the National Concert Hall at every crossroads.

“There is a piece of understanding and engagement that needs to be relayed to communities who are working very hard but may be working in silos. This is a basis for rural sustainability that would benefit from a lot more focus,” he said.

Councillor Joe Killeen said the North Burren Community Group illustrates what can be achieved when communities pool their resources as they wouldn’t have the population density on their own to sustain the provision of a facility such as a community centre.

Senior executive officer, Siobhán McNulty said she is available to signpost interested parties to secure the best return from funding opportunities for communities.

Rural Development senior executive officer, Bernie Haugh outlined the draft Renewed Rural Development Strategy builds on the notion of partnering parishes from the existing Rural Dev Strategy 2026 and it references “providing special supports for combined towns and partnering parishes so they can achieve sufficient scale of population and resources to attract public investment and justify private investment”.

“These combined towns and partnering parishes under the umbrella of the four municipal districts will aim to be large enough to justify the maintenance of public facilities and services where there has been a migration of services to these areas from the council headquarters,” she said.

“They will be used as a platform for strengthening local service provision across the full extent of the county and particularly in the areas, which have not benefited from the implementation of policy and resources in the past.”

By linking neighbouring towns and parishes, she said the council can leverage greater national funding to deliver much needed services in an area and benefit from greater value for money rather than trying to address public service and amenity deficits everywhere.

The Rural and Community Development Officers continue to support capacity building, networking, partnering, and assisting community development and engagement on the ground and this concept of partnering parishes and combined towns underpins their approach in supporting service provision and projects and initiatives.

This concept may require changes at national level to foster the partnering parishes approaches through the roll-out of National Funding Schemes at local level.

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