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Launching the strategy: (L-R) PM Micheál Martin, Rural Development Minister Heather Humphreys, Deputy PM Leo Varadkar and Environment Minister Eamon Ryan, Source: merrionstreet.ie / Facebook

Ireland: Working from the pub

Ireland: Working from the pub

The pilot scheme is part of a five-year government strategy to breathe new life into rural towns and villages after the pandemic

Transforming disused pubs (and other abandoned buildings) into remote working hubs? Sounds good, rhymes well and forms the centrepiece of a government strategy to resuscitate dying rural towns and villages across Ireland in the post-pandemic period.

Attracting remote workers to rural communities

'Our Rural Future: Rural Development Policy 2021-2025' envisages a national network of 400 remote working hubs, including spaces created specifically for the public sector. Under the scheme, a fifth of public servants would shift to remote or home working by the end of the year. Legislation will also be drafted this year to give employees the right to request distance working.

The focus of the new policy is on attracting remote workers to rural communities. This will pay off in revitalised town centres, more and well-paid rural jobs, revival of rural and adventure tourism and boost to the green economy.

The strategy also calls for a subsidised Local Area Hackney Scheme in parts of rural Ireland where traditional hackney carriages cannot survive commercially. 

Since fast internet connectivity is a must for remote workers, a broadband roll-out is planned throughout rural communities. This will bring new opportunities in areas such as eHealth, remote learning, online trading and new technologies, reads the government’s press release.

Europe’s first

The blueprint is billed as Ireland’s most ambitious and transformational policy for rural development in decades. According to BBC, Ireland is the first European country to come up with such a plan.

The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys said during the launch of the strategy:

“As we recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have a unique opportunity to re-imagine rural Ireland and harness the talent, skills and creativity running through our rural communities. For decades we have seen global trends where young people leave their local communities to live and work in larger cities. As we emerge from COVID-19 we will never have a better opportunity to reverse that long-standing trend.

The move to remote working, underpinned by the rollout of the National Broadband Plan... will allow people to work from their own local communities, revitalise our town centres, reduce commuting times, lower transport emissions and most importantly - improve the quality of life of our people.”

The Minister said that the scheme has been inspired by UK’s "the hub in the pub" concept.

Slow internet speeds

Michael Collins, Member of Parliament from Cork South West told RTÉ that access to high-speed broadband is causing problems for people working remotely in his constituency.

"There are huge issues. Many people have come back from the cities to work in rural communities and the broadband is shocking. The Government needs to look at the National Broadband Plan. I have hundreds and hundreds of people in west Cork pulling their hair out of their heads because they can’t get broadband in their homes," said Collins.

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