Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities, Joe O’Brien, T.D., today (21st October) addressed the fourth National Public Participation Network Conference held in the Midlands Park Hotel, Portlaoise. The two-day event was hosted by Laois Public Participation Network, in conjunction with Laois County Council, the Department of Rural and Community Development and the National PPN Advisory Group.
The Conference was attended by a wide range of individuals, representing PPNs throughout the country, local authority officials, elected representatives and others who support the work of the Network.
The conference had a varied and interesting agenda of workshops and talks, and included site trips to a number of locations in the vicinity of Portlaoise where delegates met with local community organisations that are members of the PPN.
In his address, Minister O’Brien commended the work carried out by PPNs over the past two years in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the arrival of displaced Ukrainians into Ireland over the past few months. PPNs have collaborated with local authorities and other local agencies on the community response to both of these events, providing key information to and from local community groups on the ground who were carrying out front-line activities to support vulnerable people in their local communities.
Minister O’Brien said:
“Despite the challenges brought about by COVID-19, 2020 and 2021 have both been years of growth and development for the PPNs. Their contribution has continued this year, when we began to welcome thousands of new arrivals from Ukraine to Ireland. PPNs work was and continues to be an example of how much we can achieve when we work together.”
Fulfilling a commitment made in the Programme for Government, an independent review of PPNs was undertaken earlier this year to identify any challenges as well as opportunities for further strengthening and enhancing Participation Networks.
Minister O’Brien added:
“In keeping with the participative ethos of the Public Participation Networks, my Department is working with the stakeholders to develop a roadmap to guide the future development of PPNs. We look forward to moving together to strengthen the PPN structures so they can further contribute to our vibrant community development sector.”
This initiative forms part of a range of measures being undertaken by the Department to support the community and voluntary sector, and to empower thriving, sustainable communities across Ireland.
The Department of Rural and Community Development Press Office
01-773 6843 / 087-1734633
Notes to editors:
Public Participation Networks
Public Participation Networks (PPNs) were set up on foot of the 2014 Report of the Working Group on Citizen Engagement with Local Government.
PPNs are independent organisations that were established to bring together volunteer-led groups in each Local Authority area. Their primary function is to provide representation for the community sector in Local Authority policymaking structures, giving local volunteers a greater say in local government decisions which affect their own communities.
Where community representation is required on local authority committees, such as Strategic Policy Committees or Local Community Development Committees etc., it must be sourced through the PPN. They also They also act as networking and information hubs for volunteer-run groups. act as networking and information hubs for volunteer-run groups.
Membership of a PPN is open to all volunteer-led/not-for-profit groups in a local authority area. A PPN has been established in each of the 31 local authority areas, and over 18,000 groups nationwide are currently members of a PPN.
In 2021, over 1,013 PPN representatives were elected to 397 local committees to represent the community sector on issues such as strategic policy, local community development, and policing.
For further information, please see previous PPN Annual Reports and the PPN Handbook.
Public Participation Networks and COVID-19/Ukraine response
As part of the community response to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the arrival of displaced Ukrainians into Ireland, PPNs worked with local authorities and other local agencies and served as crucial information hubs for local community groups. They also carried out initiatives of their own to help vulnerable people in their localities.