Conference set to discuss ways of how to revitalise rural Ireland

A conference in Co. Tipperary is set to discuss the best course of action to take in order to revitalise rural Ireland.

The conference, which will begin at 7pm tonight, will take place in the St. Patrick’s Campus of the Mary Immaculate College (MIC) in Thurles.

The conference has been organised by the Head of the Institute for Pastoral Studies at MIC, Fr. Eamonn Fitzgibbon, to advance the conversation around how to regenerate rural Ireland.

Titled ‘Building Rural Community – Lessons from Sport’, the event will seek inspiration from the world of sport in the bid to rejuvenate ailing parts of rural Ireland.

A number of ‘rural champions’ are set to take part in the conference, including;
  • Anna May McHugh; Managing Director of the National Ploughing Championships.
  • Michael Ryan; Tipperary’s All-Ireland Senior hurling winning Manager.
  • John ‘Bull’ Hayes; former Munster and Ireland rugby player.
  • Padraig Giblin; a businessman from Scariff, Co. Clare.
  • Pat Spillane; former Kerry footballer and Chairman of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA).

Despite the theme of the conference focusing on taking lessons from sport, the conversation on the night is set to embrace broad issues affecting rural areas and trying to re-imagine ways to revitalise them.

Anna May McHugh will deliver a talk around the theme of ‘A pleasant and friendly place to meet and do business’, which was the original mission statement for the Ploughing Championships when it was formed in 1931.

Meanwhile, Ryan, who is from Upperchurch in Co. Tipperary, will speak about how his native village has tapped into the natural beauty of the area and developed a strong sports/leisure tourism industry around hill walking.

Another sporting icon, John Hayes, will talk about the re-generational efforts being made in rural Co. Limerick; particularly in the villages of Bruff and Cappamore.

A businessman from Scariff, Co. Clare, Padraig Giblin, will also speak about the development of his two sports-related businesses.

The challenges for rural Ireland are really serious and building a sense of community is key, according to Fr. Eamonn Fitzgibbon.

We need to think smarter and be more innovative going forward, if we are to revitalise badly hit areas of rural Ireland.

“To that end, there are many lessons to be learned from sport and we have a cast of rural champions assembled for the event.

“We certainly won’t want for inspiration on the night. The speakers have all walked the walk and, no doubt, will bring many great learnings to the table,” Fitzgibbon said.