Unemployment is the main issue facing rural communities, according to a new Macra na Feirme survey.

It also says that access to medical services and rural transport, along with security and antisocial behaviour also high on the list of issues.

At the launch of the Macra na Feirme and Calor 2015 ‘Know your Neighbour Weekend’ Campaign, Macra’s survey shows that 71% of people living in rural Ireland feel that stronger Government policies are needed to promote job growth in rural communities.

Presented with 20 issues, such as unemployment, access to medical services, road quality, security and antisocial behaviour, unemployment was one of the issues of biggest concern, with 18% of those surveyed, saying unemployment is the biggest issue facing communities at present.

Examined regionally; 16% of Dubliners cite unemployment as an issue of concern, rising to 20 per cent for rest of Leinster, 21% for people living in Connaught/Ulster and 18% in Munster.

However security and anti-social behaviour is also a significant issue for those living in Dublin – with 25% saying these issues are of concern to them.

Access to certain services is also an issue concerning rural communities, with 35% of rural dwellers reporting that they have difficulty accessing broadband services, while only 5% of urban dwellers cite this as an issue. A

ccess to public transport (54%) and hospitals (51%) are also major issues in rural Ireland, with over half of those surveyed indicating difficulty.

Commenting on the research at the launch of the 10th annual ‘Know Your Neighbour Weekend’ campaign, Macra National President, Seán Finan said; “We know that there is an economic recovery underway but we need to ensure that the Government develop policies which address the urban/ rural two-tier nature of this recovery.

“Our concern is that the recovery to date seems very urban focussed and it is not impacting on rural communities, this is borne out by our research.”

The research also demonstrates that keeping in contact with elderly neighbours, with 72% saying it is very important to them, and 49% of those surveyed suggesting they would like if there were more community events in their area.

Macra na Feirme is calling on communities nationwide to host a local event this summer to encourage neighbours to get to know each other better.