Posted 20 January 2022
Core funding, LEADER, LAGs, Modernisation fund, RISP, Rural Champion, Rural White Paper, the Bill of Rights, Equality, Community Relations, Good relations, racism, Peace 2, Peace 3, Rural Enabler Programme, Rural Community Estates Programme, Poverty, human rights, the Big Society, Brexit, the protocol, RHI, Assembly, Review of Public Administration, Bengoa report, Transforming our Care, Rural Needs Act, Rural Proofing, Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation, Rural Halls programme, Area Planning, the Bain report, New Decade New Approach, the pandemic, Zoom, build back better.
As Rural Community Network held its 30th Annual General Meeting last week these are just a few of the buzzwords and phrases that sprung to my mind. The AGM was held via Zoom and the celebrations were, by necessity, low key as almost all our work has been online since the pandemic started. Tom my mind it would have been inappropriate to hold a celebration type event in view of the suffering that many in our communities have endured since the start of the pandemic.
These buzzwords and phrases have formed part of the background to my work as a policy officer with RCN since 2011. Some of these themes and issues were of their time and ran their course. Who remembers the modernisation fund? It was established by the then Department for Social Development to support the modernisation of the community and voluntary sector. Others have been constant themes that RCN and member groups have returned to such as the campaign for a Bill of Rights, rural proofing of services and poverty. Other themes have emerged since the Brexit referendum vote which even leavers and remainers can agree has certainly destabilised political relations and community relations within Northern Ireland, between these islands and between the UK and EU.
Despite the vagaries of policy trends and buzzwords that come and go Rural Community Network remains committed to the key principles of community development. We have a vision of vibrant, articulate, inclusive and sustainable rural communities across Northern Ireland contributing to a prosperous, equitable, peaceful, and stable society. Our mission is to provide an effective voice for and support to rural communities, particularly those who are most disadvantaged.
We would like to acknowledge the support of our funders over the past three decades who have supported the organisation to grow and develop our work. We would also like to thank all our partners, collaborators and supporters from across Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Britain and further afield for their solidarity and friendship as we have sought to share lessons from our work and learn lessons from theirs. A final word of thanks must go to our member groups who we have tried our best to serve over the past thirty years. Their daily work in rural communities across the North at the coalface of tackling poverty, loneliness, providing community space to meet, providing childcare and youth services is inspiring and is the glue that binds many rural communities together.
The challenges for rural communities remain although they have evolved over the past thirty years but there are new opportunities that we can take to build strong, sustainable communities where people can live a good life underpinned by equality and social justice. RCN will continue to pursue that vision.
“Then I thought of the tribe whose dances never fail / For they keep dancing till they sight the deer.”
Seamus Heaney, Station Island