These are financially straitened times.  We are seemingly pummelled each day with reports of our financial fragility and there seems to be a consequent need for stringent fiscal policy to assure international investors of our ‘bona fides’.  In such a context, it is interesting to explore the geography of national and regional credit ratings. Despite its flawed analysis of the risk associated with sub-prime assets that contributed to the near collapse of the global financial system, as one of the leading financial ratings agencies Standard & Poor’s  remains an important force in determining Irish fiscal policy. The ratings purport to indicate the risk associated with lending to a country. There are 16 possible classifications ranging from AAA+, indicating an extremely strong capacity to repay debts, to SD/D, indicating that a partial or full default is likely. (more…)


Not all rural areas are equal. There are accessible and remote areas with the latter continuing to lose population over the past decade (See Chapter 3 Population and Settlement Change in the Republic of Ireland 1991 – 2006. Demographic Impacts and Implications for Rural Areas). It would however be overly simplistic to argue that remote areas are the ones that will experience significant population loss as this would be to ignore the demographic profile of rural Ireland.

Migration is generally a young person’s (those in their late teens and 20s) activity. This is likely to be particularly true today as those in the older cohorts (30s+) are more likely to have purchased houses. (more…)

The data presented thus far highlight the decline in agricultural employment, they do not, however, provide any indication of the impact of the economic downturn on farmers that engage in off-farm employment. The most recent data from the National Farm Survey (NFS), relating to 2008, indicate that 40% of all farmers held an off-farm job (Connolly et al., 2009). For these individuals, off-farm income accounted for 71% of their total household income, highlighting the vital importance of off-farm employment to farm households and in contributing to the viability of the farm enterprise. (more…)

The numbers employed in agriculture initially declined from roughly 114,000 to 110,000 between 2004 and 2005 and thereafter remained at this level until Q3 2007. From late 2007 to the end of 2008 agricultural employment increased to 115,000 before witnessing a rapid decline during 2009 to a low of 98,000. These trends track developments in the wider economy with declining agricultural employment (2004 – 2007) corresponding to increasing off-farm employment opportunities. With the fall in non-agricultural employment opportunities from 2007 onwards it is possible that those working off-farm re-engaged in agriculture on a fulltime basis thereby accounting for some of the increase in the total number employed in the sector. (more…)