Research shows sense of community is in decline

Minister of Agriculture, Michelle McIlveen is pictured at the launch alongside Mark McClements, Sales Manager for Calor and Roberta Simmons, YFCU President.
Minister of Agriculture, Michelle McIlveen is pictured at the launch alongside Mark McClements, Sales Manager for Calor and Roberta Simmons, YFCU President.

Research commissioned to mark the launch of Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) ‘Know Your Neighbour’ campaign in partnership with Calor shows that seven in 10 (71%) of adults feel that children today feel a lessor sense of community than they themselves did growing up in Northern Ireland.

This rises to three quarters (75%) of adults living in urban communities. Similarly, not being familiar with neighbours is more prevalent in urban communities with almost one in six (14%) saying that they do not know their neighbours at all, versus just one in 20 (5%) of people in rural communities.

Most people (41%) say that although they are friendly with their neighbours , they would not socialise with them, however, people in rural communities are far more likely to socialise with their neighbours with over one in five (21%) saying that they would versus just over one in 10 in urban areas (11%).

Commenting on the research at the launch of the 11th annual ‘Know Your Neighbour’ campaign, YFCU president, Roberta Simmons said: “As a native of Rathfriland, I know how much those living in rural communities can rely on their neighbours and how important a strong sense of community is. This summer, I’m delighted to be working on this campaign with Calor, asking our members, whether in an urban or rural setting to organise a community event in order for neighbours to get to know one another.”

“Those living in isolated parts of the country with limited access to services rely on their closest neighbours for support, security and friendship. The aim of ‘Know Your Neighbour’ is to bring everyone together at community events, to get to know these neighbours and establish a strong support network. I am encouraging every community, rural or urban, to get involved.”

Urban and rural dwellers have conflicting priorities with ‘peace and quiet’ selected as a positive aspect of living in a rural community according to 75% of people while 89% of urban dwellers believe that convenience is king. Proximity to friends and family is important universally with four in 10 rural dwellers (40%) and half of urban dwellers (53%) saying that it is a positive aspect of where they live.

Other priorities for rural dwellers include friendly people (60%), a sense of community (45%) and a feeling of security (34%). When asked what aspects of rural life frustrated them, top grievances include slower broadband (63%), a lack of amenities (59%), a lack of local infrastructure (48%) and a lack of job opportunities (45%). In contrast while urban dwellers appreciate the availability of entertainment facilities (34%), public transport links (31%) and job opportunities (24%), they are frustrated by traffic and congestion (56%), the cost of living (42%), noise (35%) and having to live in smaller accommodation (23%).

Speaking at the launch, Agriculture Minister Michelle McIlveen said: “Being a good neighbour and having good neighbours, is very important to all of us at various stages throughout our lives, but it’s especially important for those living in more isolated rural areas.

“Young or old, we all appreciate the connection of friendships or just knowing someone is thinking about us, so this scheme is the perfect reminder to offer some support or friendship to those living close to us.

“In Northern Ireland our reputation for friendliness and hospitality is world renowned so I would encourage everyone to take part in this campaign to get to know their neighbour and help build a genuinely inclusive and happier society.”

Speaking at the launch of the 2016 campaign, Mark McClements, sales manager, Calor said: “At Calor we understand what makes living in a rural community so special, we also understand that it brings with it its own challenges. We operate in rural Northern Ireland where we support homeowners, rural enterprises and larger industries by providing a cleaner, efficient fuel source for communities who cannot avail of natural gas. We are delighted to partner with YFCU in this campaign as it allows us to provide support to the communities in which we operate.”

Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster (YFCU) is calling on communities nationwide to host a local event this summer to encourage neighbours to get to know each other better. Any group or individual planning an event should register for an organiser’s pack at www.knowyourneighbour.ie.

The organiser’s pack will include helpful ideas, posters, t-shirts and balloons to help make the event successful.