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Maura Farrell, Marie Mahon and John McDonagh

The rural as a return migration destination

This paper investigates the phenomenon of return migration to rural areas through exploring how different conceptual approaches address issues of population return, and the significance of the rural as a return migration destination. Theories of migration have variously concentrated on economic, social, cultural and political understandings, with migration often thought of in terms of various forms of capital. Theories relating to the rural, in particular those that reflect the influence of globalizing processes, advocate a shift towards understanding it in relational, context-specific terms, implying that individual return migration experiences that are situated within a particular rural context will be complex and distinct. Using empirical evidence from the West of Ireland, this paper reviews some key conceptual approaches to understanding return migration on the one hand, and the impact of a rural context on the other. Drawing from a series of qualitative interviews conducted with return migrants, this paper reveals the complexity of contemporary return migration experiences in rural areas.

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John McDonagh, Maura Farrell, Marie Mahon and Mary Ryan

New opportunities and cautionary steps? Farmers, forestry and rural development in Ireland

It is argued that European agriculture is currently confronted with a multitude of critical challenges and developmental changes, in which the viability of farms based solely on traditional forms of production applies only to a minority who can compete at the level and scale of global markets. The challenge to the remaining majority of farmers and to wider agricultural communities is to remain viable through adoption of alternative farm activities and enterprises under what is described as a multifunctional model of agriculture. One activity that is emerging as a realistic economic option under this rural restructuring is forestry. From an increasing range of policy perspectives within agriculture, rural development, environment, tourism and industry, forestry is becoming redefined as much more than a resource for primary production. It is also an activity which offers enormous potential as a secondary resource, particularly when its significance as an ecological, amenity, recreational and environmental reserve is successfully realised. However, evidence would suggest that Irish farmers have been particularly slow to embrace forestry as a potential resource. In what is generally accepted as a time of economic crisis for the agricultural sector, this paper explores the perceptions, attitudes and apparent reluctance of Irish farmers to engage in forestry as a viable farm enterprise. We assess this evidence against the prevailing EU and national policy context for forestry, particularly the range of incentives and/or barriers to forestry, and seek to establish if, and to what extent, reasons lie within the policy context, or whether farmers contest the notion of forestry as an agricultural activity for other, more ideological or practical, reasons.

Open access

Lucia Máliková, Maura Farrell and John McDonagh


The existence of marginal regions is closely linked to the socio-spatial polarisation of our society. Although marginality and peripherality can be considered a multidimensional phenomenon, the literature as well as social discourses often address only some of its dimensions, in particular on the basis of objective approaches. Such a research is usually based on the quantification of a wide range of statistical indicators, whether of a social, environmental or economic nature. This study aims to capture another equally important dimension of this phenomenon, namely the perception of marginality and peripherality. Drawing on a series of interviews carried out with experts in the field of Irish rurality, this research points to the various perceptions of this phenomenon in rural Ireland. The results once again confirm the complexity of marginality and peripherality, and highlight many differences but also similarities that exist with regard to this phenomenon in the Irish rural context.

Open access

John McDonagh, Maura Farrell and Marie Mahon


Agriculture across Europe is very much driven by the reforms initiated by the European Union (EU) and World Trade Organisation negotiations. Reforms have mobilised a shift in agricultural practices from production to a somewhat contested post-production and, more recently, multifunctional agriculture regime. Accompanying such change has been the debate on the future of farming, the role of agriculture within the countryside, and the extent to which the sector will maintain support from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the EU. Central to these discussions, in terms of bringing about beneficial change on farms and in rural areas, is the advice and direction available to farmers. The agricultural extension advisory services are an integral component of this process. This paper explores the position of public extension advisory services in Ireland and determines the extent to which these services are impacting the trajectory of modern agricultural practices within a framework of more traditional views of farmers and farm families.