The Minister for Environment, Community and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD, announced today (5.11.2012) that Pat Spillane will be the Chairman of the new Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA).
Minister Hogan said: “Getting people back to work remains this Government’s number one objective. Building on the Action Plan for Jobs, Jobsbridge and the new initiatives I announced inPutting People First which empowers Local Government to drive economic development and create jobs at a local level, I am now establishing a new Commission that will generate a jobs strategy for rural Ireland. Too often policy is created at central government, I believe it is the people on the ground, who often have the answers to the challenges we are facing. The Commission will examine the non farming, “outside the farm gate”aspects of economic development in rural areas and undertake an extensive public consultation on the future economic potential of rural Ireland and how best to channel funding and resources between 2013 and 2025.”
“The differential degree of economic development and the variable impacts of the economic downturn between urban and rural areas will be examined in detail by the Commission in order to ensure that appropriate measures are identified to inform the development of strategies that support rural Ireland into the future. This new Commission is particularly relevant given that unemployment has increased more in rural areas particularly in small towns since the economic crisis began.”
A number of commitments relating to economic development contained in the Programme for Government, in particular, commitments to encourage job creation and sustainable enterprise development, are reliant on the ability of all parts of Ireland to contribute to economic growth going forward.
The Commission will involve 3 stages:
- A nationwide consultation of rural stakeholders including employers, unions, farm bodies, community organisation and the public sector
- Research and analysis of economic factors affecting rural areas
- The preparation of a report supporting the medium-term economic development of the Rural Areas for the period to 2025
Commenting on the appointment of the Chairman, Minister Hogan said: “Pat Spillane is the ideal candidate to act as Chairman of the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas. He has been a leader throughout his life, whether it be on the sporting field, where he won 9 All-Star awards, in his professional life as a School Principal in St. Gobán's College, Bantry or in his media career. Coming form a rural area Templenoe in County Kerry, where he lives with his wife and three children, and helping since his childhood days in running the family pub business, he has direct experience of the challenges facing rural Ireland. He is a passionate, enthusiastic and non-partisan champion of rural issues. Pat will do a great job in working with the Commission to deliver recommendations to create jobs in rural Ireland.”
Welcoming the CEDRA, Minister Simon Coveney TD, Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine said: “The Government is determined to pursue policies that can keep young people in their Communities in rural Ireland. This Rural Commission is about talking and listening to people living in rural parishes across the country as the basis of policy development to maximise the potential for jobs and rural communities. We have a very clear development and growth plan for the Agriculture, Fisheries and Food sector but there are other areas that need to be supported and developed in rural Ireland- that’s what this Commission is all about.”
Pat Spillane on accepting his role said:“I am delighted to be able to accept this important appointment. The unemployment situation is the real national crisis, affecting people deeply, the length and breadth of the land. It has particularly affected young people, who are struggling to get employment, many of whom are being forced to emigrate, decimating the fabric of rural society. I look forward to working with the members of the Commission to try to come up with ideas that will help to alleviate this situation.”
The Commission is established under the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and will be supported by an Executive led by Prof. Cathal O’Donoghue, Head of the Teagasc Rural Economy and Development Programme in collaboration with officials in the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government and the Western Development Commission for the research and consultation process.
Commenting on his lead research role, Cathal O’Donoghue said: “Teagasc and I are honoured to be able to support the Commission. We in Teagasc have previous experience in providing research support to the Food Harvest 2020 Committee that developed the Agri-Food Strategy. Together with our partners, we will provide whatever support we can to facilitate the mission of the Commission. The work of the Commission is particularly relevant for our stakeholders as Farm households have been particularly affected by the down turn with the off-farm employment rate of farmers falling back to late 1990’s levels. On the other hand the Food Harvest 2020 strategy for the Agri-Food sector has a target to generate 25000 new jobs and thus the sector can make a substantial impact on rural job creation.” The focus of the Commission’s work will be on “outside the farm gate” dimensions of economic development.
A practical contribution of the Commission will be the recruitment of a group of interns under the Job Bridge programme, who will train with the Commission and get skills in Event Management, Research, Web technology, Media, Administration and Project Management.
The Commission has a defined remit and timeframe and its main output will be a report that aims to inform medium term economic development of rural areas for the period to 2025. The report will be short and specific and will take a multi-sectoral approach. The Public Consultation process will include 17 public meetings to be held all over the country in January, March and April of 2013. The full Commission will also meet each month (except March) until October 2013 when it is planned to publish the report. Outside of the public consultation process there will also be a number of individual stakeholder meetings with civil society organisations representing among others, Youth, Farmers, Women, Older people, Academic Institutions and Government Departments and relevant state agencies.
The Minister will announce the membership of the Commission later in the week. The membership will represent a broad set of people from different backgrounds, with significant experience and expertise in the Rural Economy. The membership comprises both public and private sectors, bringing practical, government and research experience.