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, has grown significantly since its inception and now directly represents over 300 community groups with a combined membership of 25,000.
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 is the only group represented at the national social partnership talks solely representing rural communities’ interests.

Irish Rural Link’s aims are:

  1. To articulate and facilitate the voices of rural communities in local, regional, national and European policy arenas, especially those experiencing poverty, social exclusion and the challenge of change in the 21st century.
  2. To promote local and community development in rural communities in order to strengthen and build the capacity of rural community groups to act as primary movers through practical assistance and advice.
  3. To research, critique and disseminate policies relating to rural communities including issues such as sustainability, social exclusion, equality and poverty
  4. To facilitate cross-border networking between rural communities

Role of Irish Rural Link.

Irish Rural Link established in 1991 acts as a rural representative voice on rural community matters. This role is recognised by the political system in common with 17 other community organisations that make up the community pillar. This pillar negotiates collectively and individually with Government as well as other private and public agencies. The C&V Pillar is nominated by government as the recognised advocate source with rights to participate in the social dialogue process.
Through the concept of Social dialogue gives IRL the right to represent on rural issues direct to Government, its agencies and at European level.
This right, which has been recognised by successive Government’s allows IRL access to all of the political parties and elected members at local and national level. Irish Rural Link also sits on various government committees, such as Farm safety, post codes, water quality, unfinished housing estates, cross border programmes.

Membership Networks

Currently IRL is encouraging its various members to form single issue networks within the umbrella of the organisation. This is a concept well tried in the Trade Union movement and the Farmer organisations.
In essence it allows each group to focus on the issues close to their every day experience, without the overall worry of maintaining a National Network.
Because of new legislation, new networks will need approximately €20,000 for start-up purposes. This involves legal registration, charitable status application, company registration and all of the processes involved.
It also allows the rural family, largely made up of rural community issues to work as a united front when required and strengthens the representational power because of the larger membership

Already IRL networks include:

  1. The Wetlands Forum
  2. Rural Transport
  3. Meals on Wheels

Additional benefits are:

  1. That we will support experts, who are knowledgeable about their area of interest.
  2. It allows the interest groups to participate at the heart of policy making and in that context bring greater integrity to the problems and opportunities that may materialise.
  3. The wider membership of IRL is also better informed and because of that is more likely to take into account the issues that affect rural communities.
  4. The agreed policy, because it is accepted by the wider rural family is more likely to be successful in terms of its influence.

The practical management of this is as follows.

  1. Each individual organisation affiliates as a member of IRL
  2. Once affiliated each group joins with others to form the IRL network.
  3. The network is managed by the group’s own representatives with the overall support of the IRL administration.
  4. All negotiations organised through IRL are managed by the interest related representatives and can be advised by IRL.

Types of Membership

Basic Package Fee Per Member
Community group or individual. Membership of the organisation Irish Rural Link.
Access to advocacy contacts
IRL office support
Preparation of submissions
Organisation and co-ordination of network
Advanced Membership Membership of the organisation Irish Rural Link.
Access to advocacy contacts
IRL office support
Preparation of submissions
Organisation and co-ordination of network
Dedicated staff support
Network development events including seminars national and international.
Training and development of the network.The extent of this is dictated by the amount membership fee paid and accessing the funds to employ the staff person.


Over the years members of Irish Rural Link have sought to advance policies based on community rural sustainability. It continually seeks to prioritise the interests of rural people and their communities who are disadvantaged because of poor access to basic services. One of those services is loss of services/ isolation. It will evoke passionate responses and discussion as to how the needs of rural communities are best met. Such debates need a calm forum for careful consideration and development of practical solutions.

IRL would invite a representative from the proposed Wild Atlantic Way Network onto the IRL board such a representation would greatly publicise the issues facing communities along the Wild Atlantic Way. In that context the establishment of a meaningful Wild Atlantic Way network under the umbrella of Irish Rural Link would be hugely beneficial to all of the parties concerned and primarily the interests of people who need this service.

Current Networks Members

  1. National Meals on Wheels Network
  2. Wild Atlantic Way Network
  3. Wetlands Network
  4. National Rural Transport Network