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Teagasc publishes its Index of the Economic Strength of Rural Towns in Ireland

Teagasc Head of Rural Economy and Development, Prof Cathal O’Donoghue presented the Teagasc Index of Rural Towns today in Dublin. Prof O’Donoghue said at the launch that “Rural Towns and their immediate hinterlands account for about a third of the population and have been affected to a greater extent by the economic crisis in terms of unemployment.”

He said that “These rural towns have had a lower focus in national development strategies over the past decade and a half. However the launch of the CEDRA report next week will help to fill this policy vacuum.”

Analysing the index, he noted “There is huge variation between the strongest and weakest towns.

  • There is a 50 percentage point difference between the unemployment rate in the strongest 20 per cent and the weakest 10 per cent.
  • There is a large 40 percentage point difference in the levels of tertiary education in the strongest and weakest towns.
  • The weakest towns also have a larger proportion of unoccupied housing than average.
  • Additionally, stronger towns have positive net migration rates while weaker towns suffer negative ones.
  • Weaker towns are more likely to be towns within net-inward commuting than outgoing commuting, reflecting their economic importance in more peripheral areas.”

Commenting on the spatial pattern of Index, Teagasc Senior Research Officer, Dr David Meredith noted:

  • “The Midlands, South-East and West have the highest concentration of the weakest Towns.
  • The South West and West have the highest concentration of the strongest towns.
  • Offaly and Carlow were the counties with lowest average index, reflecting challenges in the SE and Midlands
  • Sligo and Cork were the counties with the highest average index”

He highlighted that:

  • Many of the weaker towns (Oldcastle, Co. Meath; Gort, Co. Galway; Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick) are located on the edges of the commuter belts associated with the cities or
  • Are in places that are experiencing long-term economic restructuring (Ballaghaderreen, Co. Roscommon and New Ross, Co. Wexford).
  • Commuter towns located close to the cities preformed relatively strongly in the face of the economic downturn;, e.g. Clarinbridge, Co. Galway and Straffan, Co. Kildare, as did some strong rural towns, e.g. Clifden, Co. Galway and Bantry, Co. Cork.

Commenting on the implications of the analysis Prof. O’Donoghue stated:

  • “The situation faced by towns across the country is a complex one.
  • It cannot be boiled down to an east-west divide. Some towns in the east of the country have been disproportionately affected by the downturn while there are several towns in the west are among the strongest in the country.
  • The solutions to the challenges that these towns face will have to be tailored to their specific needs, a one size fits all strategy will not work in this instance.”

TeagascRuralTownsIndex(1.5MB, PDF)