So here's to our volunteers, the heart and soul of rural Ireland
Published 31/10/2012 | 06:00
I've read a number of studies lately that conclude that wealth creation of rural areas and regions is undervalued by society and governments. Isn't this the case in Ireland as well?
Without getting a complex about it, I suspect that the inhabitants of Dublin 4 rate themselves in a different league to the farmers of Mayo or Monaghan, or even Carlow.
The farmers might even be regarded as being 'carried' by the citizens of the capital. Let's look a little closer to see who is carrying whom.
The highly paid professionals in Dublin 4 -- the lawyers, the accountants, the bankers the civil servants, the university lecturers, the medics, even the politicians -- may all enjoy the fruits of considerable wealth. But the small farmer with the few suckler cows is actually creating more net wealth for the country than his urban cousins.
Even the Single Farm Payment adds to the net wealth of Ireland Inc. And while the vast bulk of the farmer euros are spent locally, creating jobs in the local community, the Dublin 4 euro is more likely to be spent on a new car or a foreign holiday.
However, maybe the message of the importance of the regions to Ireland's recovery is getting through. Last week it was great to see the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year award being won by Edmond Harty of Dairymaster in north Kerry. Not alone is his company creating wealth by exporting milking machines across the world, it is also creating a buzz in the local community.
In a former life, I travelled extensively throughout rural France, visiting farms in search of AI bulls. I was amazed at the deadness of the areas. Good quality land was going cheap. Villages were half boarded up. Nothing was being built. I remember one village south of Limoges where the population had fallen from over 1,000 to about 100 in 60 years and the village church held Mass only four times a year.
The contrast with rural Ireland at the time --it was during the Celtic Tiger era -- could hardly have been greater. Why the difference in rural vitality?