Irish Rural Link – The Organisation
Irish Rural Link (IRL), formed in 1991, is a national network of organisations and individuals campaigning for sustainable rural development in Ireland and Europe. IRL, a non-profit organisation now directly represents over 600 community groups with a combined membership of 25,000. A member of the Community and Voluntary Pillar of Social Partnership, the network provides a structure through which rural groups and individuals, representing disadvantaged rural communities, can articulate their common needs and priorities, share their experiences and present their case to policy-makers at local, national and European Level.
Irish Rural Link’s vision is of vibrant, inclusive and sustainable rural communities that contribute to an equitable and just society.
Our mission is to influence and inform on local, national and European development policies and programmes in favour of rural communities, especially those marginalized as a result of poverty, exclusion and isolation, and support rural communities to implement appropriate strategic programmes that improve their circumstances.
In 1990, various rural projects in the second EC Combat Poverty Programme spearheaded the establishment of the Trans European Rural Network (TERN). TERN’s main objective was to represent the interests of locally based rural groups in disadvantaged and marginalised rural areas at European level by highlighting problems, advocating appropriate policies, sharing experiences and examples of good practice as well as establishing information channels with the then EC Commission and European Parliament.
It was realised that the success of TERN in giving locally based rural projects a voice in Brussels would be dependent on the existence of strong national networks which would be able to inform TERN of the problems and issues in the different member states. It was equally felt that the experience of establishing TERN had convinced those involved of the value of networks as a way of representing the interests of rural groups and promoting a sense of solidarity and co-operation between them.
At the instigation of Sr. Stanislaus Kennedy (Co-ordinator of TERN), the Combat Poverty Agency made some money available to investigate the need for an Irish rural network and its possible structure and operation. It was out of these investigations that Irish Rural Link was established in 1991.
IRL Board Members
Tom Lavin, Chairman – Hightrees Family Resource Centre, Sligo
Michael Kenny, Secretary – NUI Maynooth
Maria O’Gorman, Treasurer – Duagh FRC, Listowel, Co. Kerry
Miriam McKenna – Flexibus, Louth, Meath & Fingal Local Link
Dr. Maura Farrell, NUI Galway
Billy Murphy – Wexford Local Development
Gerald Quain – Ballyhoura Development
Kieran McEntee – Kenagh Coop, Co. Longford
Tara Farrell – Longford Womens Link
Dermot Leavy – Westmeath Community Development
Alan Kerry – Rural transport Network