By Sean Ryan - 18 March, 2017
A major conference on the regeneration of rural Ireland has been organised by Mary Immaculate College (MIC) for later this month and will take place at its Thurles-based campus in Co. Tipperary.
An impressive line-up of speakers will take part in the conference, which focuses on how sport and local community organisations have held rural Ireland together. The conference, which is entitled ‘Building Rural Communities – Lessons from Sport’, will be held at the former Seminary at St Patrick’s College in Thurles on 29 March.
Among the speakers are former Kerry footballer and Sunday Game panellist Pat Spillane, who is the chairman of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA). Also included is the managing director of the National Ploughing Championships Anna May McHugh, current Tipperary hurling boss Michael Ryan and former Irish and Munster rugby tight-head prop John Hayes. The final speaker is sports business guru Padraig Giblin, who set up the first retractable nets business for sports pitches in Ireland.
The conference has been organised by the Head of the Institute for Pastoral Studies at MIC Fr Eamonn Fitzgibbon to advance the conversation around how to regenerate rural Ireland. While the theme of the conference is around taking lessons from sport, which currently plays a huge role in rural Ireland, the conversation on the night will embrace broad issues affecting rural areas and trying to re-imagine ways to revitalise them.
Speaking to the Tipperary Star, Fr Fitzgibbon, who is also the Episcopal Vicar for Pastoral Planning with the Diocese of Limerick, said that “The challenges to rural Ireland are really serious and building a sense of community is key. We need to think smarter and be more innovative going forward if we are to revitalise badly hit areas of rural Ireland. To that end, there are many lessons to be learned from sport and we have a cast of rural champions assembled for the event. We are getting great feedback and interest already so would urge people to book their tickets early to avoid disappointment.”
He added: “We certainly won’t want for inspiration on the night. The speakers have all walked the walk and no doubt will bring many great learnings to the table.”
Tickets can be booked by visiting www.buildingruralcommunities.com.