John Durkan

Project Title: Social Capital formation in County Sligo (and the North West of Ireland)

Student Name: John Durkan

Supervisor: Dr.John Pender

Key Research Question.

Has the level of social capital in Ireland in general and in Sligo in particular declined since 1991?

In tandem with this question, two additional ones emerge;

Has community involvement in civic engagement retreated over the period 1991 to 2011?

If it has, how can community involvement in civic society be re-invigorated?

Aims and objectives of the proposed programme for research

Aim of this Research:

(a)    To explore the extent to which social re-capitalization may infuse and enhance notions of community in contemporary Ireland.

Main objectives of this research:

(a)    To examine key concepts often associated with community groups, for example – What do we mean by the notion ‘community’?

How do individuals or groups use, or attempt to use, power within wider society?

(b)   To analyse new communities that have emerged in the post Celtic Tiger era.

(c)    To review relevant Acts of Parliament and specific initiatives, including White Papers, at both EU and Irish level dealing with social capital and community.

(d)   To explore current civil society structures in operation arising out of EU and Irish legislation.

(e)    To review the above mentioned programmes and initiatives that influences the direction of community development.

(f)     To provide a comparative context by investigating how community organisations have developed in other countries.

(g)    To identify what factors need to be present to make community development effective.

Scope of this proposal:

A critical review and analysis of the government’s active citizenship agenda and its relationship with:

(a)    Community development

(b)   Compatibility with a free market entrepreneurial economy rooted in the politics of individualism.

Conclusion

Modern Ireland has, comparatively speaking, moved a long way from being a simple agrarian society. The Celtic Tiger brought to Ireland a host of peoples from almost every country in the world and created a range of job occupations undreamed of at the foundation of the state just over ninety years ago.

Now that the Celtic Tiger era is over and communities cannot rely solely on central government to solve their problems, the degree of social capital as it exists (or not) in Ireland needs to be looked at. Are we, as Anderson (1991) surmises, really a collection of ‘imagined communities’ or is there a different Ireland emerging? One can only conclude that this is a story in the making. Irish society has been moulded by events such as our former status as a colony, the status of the Catholic Church, the political fall out from the civil war. Ireland never addressed the state of civil society in the way it will have to in the future. Will an island society like ours be able to cope with its newfound circumstances both socially and economically? Finally the problem of measuring social capital has to be addressed. As noted by a number of writers it’s a relatively new phenomenon for sociology in general and Ireland in particular. It is certainly possible to make comparisons between different countries and communities but whether or not this is enough needs to be addressed. The only thing we now for sure is that social capital and its connection with trust and networking is good for society and is evident in all advanced societies.

Publications/Conferences attended: member and treasurer of Rural Science Association www.ruralsa.ie . Keep in touch with current events this way