At a meeting last Wednesday in Carrick-on-Shannon, a majority of County Councillors, together with PPN community representatives, met with Fr Seán Healy from Social Justice Ireland. Fr Seán, who is one of the founders of the Public Participation Network (PPN), gave an overview of the thinking behind its formation and encouraged every sector of the Leitrim community to work together for the good of all.
“The benefits of having representation and involvement from every community group in the County is enormous,” Fr Seán said. “The more people that engage, the better the decisions that will be made that impact on the people. Benefits can be felt in every aspect of living – economic, cultural, social and spiritual.”
“The PPN can address the very real problems existing for rural Ireland, not least being depopulation. Reversing rural decline should be a priority in Ireland. Something is wrong. When we had our economic crash jobs were lost. But the jobs lost in rural Ireland were multiples of the jobs lost in the urban centres per capita. However, now that there is recovery, jobs are created. But the jobs created in the urban centres are multiples of the jobs created in rural areas. The results are clear to see – rural Ireland is in decline. “
He suggested a focus on the infrastructure of our rural areas – physical and broadband. “Every government for the last 12 years have promised rural broadband; now they are talking about implementation in 2021. The whole community must work together to tackle this problem.”
A lively discussion followed on how elected Councillors and the PPN representatives can work together. The Councillors were very open to such cooperation and said that they can be helped greatly in their work by the PPN. It was agreed that on the Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) in particular, the PPN reps and the Councillors on the committee would liaise to create a very strong voice when decisions are made.
Fr Seán thanked the Councillors who attended and commended them for their engagement. Mary McTiernan, Facilitator of PPN Secretariat, said that this meeting was a really important event. “We are all on a learning curve,” she said. “Nobody likes change and the PPN is a huge change for the communities of Leitrim. We are now realising that the PPN can really empower our communities if we work it correctly. Fr Seán Healy has shown us how it can be used to benefit all of us and we are all determined to work together to maximise its potential.” She thanked Fr Seán for giving his time to address the meeting.