Irish Rural Link Annual Conference 2021 In partnership with Rural Action NI

May 21, 2021 | Events, News, Press & Events

Making Connections: Preparing for Funding Opportunities and Cross Border Collaboration’ Conference Highlight Report

Conference Highlight Report –

Thursday 24th June

This timely conference will explore funding opportunities available to community and voluntary organisations on both sides of the Border as well as new funding for Cross Border collaborative projects through the All Island fund, International Fund for Ireland and the new PEACE Plus Programme. The conference will also look at different themes and ideas for collaborative projects to support development of rural communities on both side of the border and adapt to changes brought about as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and Brexit.

10.00am           Overview – What are the Opportunities?

  • Community Foundation of Ireland
  • Paul Skinader, Pobal
  • Gina McIntyre – CEO SEUPB
  • Paddy Harte –  Chairperson IFI
  • DFA (Ireland Fund)


11.00am            Breakout Session 1 Community Development Principles & Building Capacity

  • Community Engagement and Empowerment – Seamus Boland IRL This session will discuss how carry out meaningful and inclusive engagement with communities and empower them to take the lead in developing their local community.
  • Engaging your people and Succession planning – Carol Lambe This session will look at a Best Practice Example Monaghan County Council’s Nurturing Communities Programme in reaching out to communities who are struggling, working with them through the process of developing a community development plan, helping them to develop their project ideas along the way.
  • Challenges and Problem Solving – Anthony Saores, Centre for Cross Border Studies This session will look at current Cross Border collaboration taking place, some of the challenges that have arisen as a result of COVID-19 and Brexit.  A discussion on possible solutions to these challenges.

Workshops in Breakout Session 2 will run twice to allow participants attend 2 workshops of your choice.   Each workshop will be facilitated with a short presentation on the topic.

11.40am           Breakout Session 2A – Room 1: Health & Wellbeing –Roger O’Sullivan, Institute of Public Health This workshop will present ideas for cross border projects and Health and Wellbeing in rural communities and how best to address the challenges that came to the fore during COVID-19.

Room 2: Environment/Biodiversity & Climate Change – Aidan Campbell, RCN. There was a renewed appreciation of the environment and nature during Covid-19 restrictions.  This workshop will look at how this can be maintained and how communities can lead the way in climate change and protecting local biodiversity.

Room 3: Rural Tourism –  Speaker TBA The tourism sector has been the hardest hit sector during Covid-19.  This session will explore how to build robust and sustainable industry, and how rural communities benefit from the tourism sector.

Room 4: Social Enterprise Development – Derek Browne, Programme Manager, ABC Social Enterprise Programme This session will look at how social enterprise is a key contributor to rural development and social inclusion and the opportunities for greater collaboration in developing social enterprise in communities.

Room 5: Smart Villages- Pat Kennedy (eTownz) This session will look at how rural communities can be revitalised through digital and social innovation.  It will look at the use of ICT for the delivery of essential services for rural communities. 

12.10pm           BREAK (10 mins)

12.20pm           Breakout Session 2B

  • Health & Wellbeing – Roger O’Sullivan Institute of Public Health
  • Environment/Biodiversity & Climate Change – Aidan Campbell, RCN
  • Rural Tourism –  TBA
  • Social Enterprise Development – Derek Browne
  • Smart Villages- Pat Kennedy (eTownz)

1pm                   Feedback Session and Plenary

1.30pm                            Conference end


Gina McIntyre – Gina is the Chief Executive of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), a cross-border body established under the Good Friday Agreement and working to the Government of Ireland and the Northern Ireland Assembly.  She is currently responsible for the European Union’s PEACE IV and INTERREG VA funding programmes, totalling in excess of €0.5 billion and is currently involved in the development of the new PEACE PLUS Programme, worth approximately €1bn.  Having spent most of her career involved with EU support programmes Gina has gained extensive knowledge of the complex cross-border development needs of the region and the appropriate European funding instruments available to meet them. Gina is a qualified chartered accountant who trained and qualified with Coopers & Lybrand (now PWC).

Carol Lambe- Monaghan County Council – Carol Lambe has been Community Development Officer with Monaghan County Council for the past twenty years.  Before working for the Council, she ran her own consultancy business, providing a range of supports to communities, including facilitation, funding advice, strategic planning and promotion.  Her first job out of college was as Development Worker for Inniskeen Enterprise Development Group, which involved helping the group to develop and promote the Patrick Kavanagh Centre.  Within Monaghan County Council, Carol assists communities to develop their ideas into fundable projects, and supports the Council to access funding to turn ideas into reality. Projects developed by Carol include the Ulster Canal Greenway and Muckno Playpark, which was ranked in Ireland’s top 50 playgrounds last year.

Derek Browne – Derek Browne is a Management Accountant with over 20 years’ experience working with a broad range of social enterprises as a Director, mentor, consultant and volunteer.  Over the last 6 years Derek has delivered a Social Enterprise Programme in Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council that has mentored and supported start up and developing award winning social enterprises that have been hugely successful locally and internationally and has helped to build a dynamic culture balancing entrepreneurial ambition and social purpose.  

Paddy Harte IFI, Chairman Mr Harte has been a member of the Board of the International Fund for Ireland since March 2015 and was appointed Chairman in March 2019. He has more than two decades of experience and expertise in economic development and peace-building work. Paddy is a UCD business graduate and is currently a management consultant focusing on strategic, economic and social development in disadvantaged communities. Previously, he was Joint-Programme Director of the cross-border MSc in Innovation and Leadership in the Public Sector, delivered jointly between Ulster University and Letterkenny Institute of Technology (IT), and is a  former lecturer in Leadership and Change at Letterkenny IT. He is a former Board Member of the cross-border finance company Ulster Community Investment Trust (now Community Finance Ireland) and the Collins Institute think-tank. He has served on the boards of a number of economic development boards including chairing the very successful Donegal Gathering. He has also worked as a leadership coach with a coalition of cross-party MLAs at the William J Clinton Leadership Institute, Belfast. He is a past recipient of The Donegal People of the Year Award for his work with communities and has been nominated for this award several times.

Aidan Campbell – Aidan took up the post of Policy and Public Affairs Officer in 2010 although has been with RCN since 2007 as a Community Development Officer.  He has responsibility for developing, managing and coordinating RCN’s work on policy and research, advocating for sustainable change and contributing to RCN’s role as an effective voice for rural communities.Aidan is from Derrytresk in East Tyrone and grew up on a small farm.  He graduated from QUB with a BA in Economic and Social History. He continued his studies at NUI Maynooth undertaking the Higher Diploma in Community Development. Aidan was previously employed as a community development worker with Lenadoon Community Forum in Belfast.

Professor Roger O’Sullivan is the Director of the Ageing Research and Development Division within the Institute of Public Health and visiting Professor at Ulster University’s Bamford Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing. Between 2007 – 2015 he was Director of The Centre for Ageing Research and Development in Ireland. Professor O’Sullivan was awarded membership through distinction of the Faculty of Public Health–UK in 2017 and in 2020 was made a Fellow of the Gerontological Society of America.  He has substantially written, edited and published in the area of ageing and older  people.