Remote working has potential to ‘transform' rural Ireland - Minister

The development of Remote Working will enable people to pursue good careers, while being able to live in rural areas, according to Minister Heather Humphreys.

The Minister for Rural and Community Development said Remote Working has the potential to transform Rural Ireland and persuade people to move back to their home towns and villages.

Minister Heather Humphreys made the remarks during an online forum she hosted ahead of the publication of the Government’s five year strategy for Rural Development.

Close to 200 stakeholders and interested members of the public signed up for the webinar, entitled ‘Shaping Our Rural Future’.

Among those to contribute included Seamus Boland of Irish Rural Link, Tracy Keogh of Grow Remote and Emma Kerins of Chambers Ireland.

Some of the issues during the event included:

- The need for rural communities to be supported by proper infrastructure, including waste water facilities

- Supports for rural towns and villages to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic

- The work and efforts made by volunteers and community groups in recent weeks

- The development of ‘Remote Working’

Addressing the online audience, Minister Humphreys said: “Notwithstanding the challenges that lie ahead, there are exciting opportunities emerging for rural Ireland in areas such as broadband roll out and new sectors such as the Bio economy.

"We have also seen some really powerful examples over the last six months of how resilient our communities and businesses are. We have seen how businesses have adapted to meet the needs of a changed market place, and we have seen a step-change in our thinking about how and where we work.”

On the issues of Remote Working, Minister Humphreys added:

“One year ago, Remote Working was simply a concept. Now, it is a reality and we need to embrace it, particularly in light of COVID-19.”

She continued: “Remote working, or connected working as I prefer to call it, has the potential to transform rural Ireland and to enable people to pursue good careers while continuing to live in rural areas.

“This is not just an aspiration. We are seeing the evidence in front of our eyes. Connected working is reducing commutes for many workers, providing increased custom for local businesses in rural towns, and it is even attracting people to move back to areas they grew up in.”

Minister Humphreys will publish the Government’s Five Year Policy for Rural Development in the coming months.