The County Down Rural Enabler Programme had a successful launch on Monday 20th September at the Market House, Ballynahinch.
The Rural Enabler Programme is a partnership approach between Rural Community Network (the lead partner), Irish Rural Link (IRL), the Department of Community, Equality & Gaeltacht Affairs (DCEGA), and the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD). The Programme is funded under PEACE III through the Special EU Programmes Body.
Libby Keys, keynote speaker at the event, told us ‘There is no doubt that rural communities are becoming increasingly diverse and how we handle this is a test of us and what we might become as a society. We have areas that remain segregated and areas that are mixed but separate.’ Libby continued ‘At some point, we have to find ways of dealing with the past because a future that doesn’t acknowledge our deeply painful history is like building something on sand. I have found that groups are eager to have ‘difficult’ conversations – but many don’t know where to start, and don’t feel skilled enough to undertake them themselves. This is where the Rural Enablers can play an important role.’
Jude Cumiskey, Rural Enabler (Down) told us ‘There was a great turnout at the launch and it provided the opportunity for participants to discuss what support and assistance this programme can bring to rural communities in County Down. From these discussions, there were many ideas and opportunities presented which I will be following up’.
Michael Hughes, Chief Executive Officer of RCN, said ‘For many rural communities, people live in the same space but, unfortunately due to the conflict, find it difficult to share the space that they live in.’ Michael continued ‘The Rural Enabler programme will hopefully assist people living in rural communities in Co Down to actually start to look at how they can use what is in the community for the betterment of that area. This is critically important in an era where the scarce resources for service delivery are going to get scarcer as public sector funding decreases.’ Future community meetings are planned to be held in local venues across County Down.
For further information, contact Jude on 07738 449711 or Rural Community Network on 028 8676 6670.