Muintir na Tíre, the national organisation promoting community development in Ireland, was established in 1937 by John M Canon Hayes, the first unit of which was launched in Tipperary town in November of that year. This was the beginning of Canon Hayes’ rural community idea which was to develop and expand into a comprehensive movement designed to raise the standard of living of people in all aspects of Irish rural life. The emphasis was on local improvement – social, economic, cultural and recreational – based on the participation of people themselves in the promotion of the welfare of their community.
Through its core principles of neighbourliness, self-help and self-reliance, Muintir na Tíre has promoted and supported the concept of active community participation and championed the idea of community development in both Ireland and Europe.
From the early 60′s the organisation adopted the United Nations definition of the Community Development process, which states that it is “a process designed to create conditions of economic and social progress for the whole community with the fullest possible reliance upon the communities own initiative”. This definition reflects Muintir na Tíre’s approach to this process which is based around “the whole community” as a unit of organisation through which social, economic, cultural and environmental development can take place.
The framework developed and adopted by Muintir na Tíre to promote this holistic approach to community development is the representative Muintir Community Council. Through this framework, Muintir na Tíre has succeeded in building a national network of community groups dedicated to promoting and supporting local development within their communities.
The organisation has been in the forefront of rural development since its inception. It has been the pioneer, instigator, motivator and the mentor to many local community groups and this is the role with which it is most competent. Muintir’s role focuses primarily on the animation and capacity building of local communities and this is complementary to the role which other agencies and organisations play in the process of community development. Muintir understands the need to have up-to-date information, to keep abreast of what is happening locally and to contribute to the decision making process nationally.
Muintir has been involved in various pieces of research and pilot studies starting with the Parish Plan for Agriculture (1950), the Limerick Rural Survey (1948-1954), the Training of Trainers Project (1970) and the Four Co. Tipperary Parishes Study (1994), the Three Counties Pilot Project for the setting up of representative community councils funded under the LEADER II Programme (1998-2001), the E-Volve joint Irish/Welsh Project funded under INTERREG IIIA and Celtic Community Link, a Rural Development Initiative based in South Tipperary & Waterford and Carmartenshire in Wales funded by The Ireland Wales Territorial Co-operation Programme 2007-2013 (INTERREG 4A).
The organisation has also pioneered many innovative and worthwhile projects which are now self-sufficient or administered by statutory agencies. Important amongst these were the Community Information Centres (now known as Citizen Information Centres), the establishment of Bord Fáilte’s Tidy Towns Competition, Group Water Schemes for rural areas, the provision of Community Halls and Centres, establishing small and medium size enterprises, the ongoing training of members of Muintir Councils and the community crime prevention programme, Community Alert.
Muintir na Tire has over 75 years of expertise in the following:
The provision of pre-development training and the implementation of good organisational structures and governance.
Encouraging local communities to develop integrated bottom-up approaches.
Assisting communities to build capacity and stimulate innovation (including social innovation), entrepreneurship and capacity for change.
Promoting community ownership.
Working with groups in setting up democratic structures representative of the whole community.