Culture and Rural Development

The publication of a White paper on Rural Development `Ensuring the Future; A Strategy for Rural Development in Ireland’ has been announced by the Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Mr Noel Davern TD. The White Paper includes the following section on culture:

Rural communities are closely associated with Irish traditions, heritage and culture which have been critical in shaping the national identity. The cultural heritage embraces the language, life-style and traditions, traditional music, song and dance, landscape, unique products, monuments, national games, the arts, etc. Gaeltacht areas, besides their linguistic importance, represent a distinct cultural identity and way of life.

The national culture provides a sense of place for rural communities, a link with the past, but it also has through its traditions and values, a crucial role in defining modern society, Arts and culture contribute to building a sense of local identity and they influence the confidence with which rural communities tackle their own problems, co-operate with each other in their social and economic organisations and adapt their collective approach to modern needs.

In economic terms, culture and the arts, and in the Gaeltacht, the Irish language, contribute directly and indirectly to the creation and retention of employment in rural areas and present an image of an area as a basis for tourism and business investment., Traditional and modern crafts represent a significant and growing sector of the small business economy in many rural areas and provide opportunities for people to generate income from their personal resources and skills. The preservation and enhancement of local culture is also a feature of rural areas which has potential for generating new kinds of economic activity. In recent years the film industry has not only generated local economic activity but has promoted the image and attractions of rural areas for tourism purposes.

The Government will ensure that economic and social development will be pursued on the basis of respect for the heritage of rural areas, including the Irish language, and that the implementation of the strategy outlined in the White Paper will be undertaken in a manner which will protect and promote the national culture. Support will be provided for development projects which will allow increased access and participation in arts and cultural activities for rural communities, not only for the purposes of enriching the quality of life and the cultural identity of rural communities, but also as contributors to economic development,.

The Government is committed also to encouraging and promoting awareness of, and access to the National Cultural Institutions and, in managing national parks, national monuments, through conservation of flora and fauna, etc. This commitment is evident in the work of Duchas - the Heritage Service, and in the recent announcement of the devolution of the Irish Folklife Collection from the National Museum of Ireland to Turlough Park House, Castlebar This is a unique joint venture with the local authority in recognition of the tourism, local, and rural development potential of the area.

Gaeltacht communities face an on-going threat to their language and culture, particularly from modern mass media and population movement.

The Government is committed to continuing support for the Gaeltacht particularly in relation to the developmental activities of Udara’s na Gaeltachta and the schemes operated by the Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands and to ensuring that Irish speakers, in the Gaeltacht and elsewhere, have the right and the opportunity to conduct their business with the State through the medium of Irish.

Minister Davern said that, for the first time in the context of rural development in Ireland, there now existed a comprehensive and integrated expression of Government policy on the many elements pertinent to the needs of rural communities. The Department of Agriculture and Food will as the newly titled Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Development act as the lead' Department in providing a central focus and drive for rural development policy matters. Thelead’ Department will provide a dedicated resource to implement the rural development strategy outlined in the White Paper and will ensure a co-ordinated approach to rural development issues across Departments.