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The Future of Rural Ireland: Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas

The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas was launched recently by the Minister for Environment, Communities and Local Government, Phil Hogan TD.

The aim of the Commission will be to carry out an extensive public consultation on the future economic potential of rural Ireland and how best to channel funding and resources between 2013 and 2025. It will thus aim to generate a jobs strategy for rural Ireland. This is particularly relevant given that unemployment has increased more in rural areas, particularly in small towns since the economic crisis began.

The Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas 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 strategy supporting the medium-term economic development of the Rural Areas for the period to 2025.

Teagasc, as one of the leading research organisations in Agri-Food and Rural Affairs, will take responsibility for the research and consultation process. Teagasc will do this in conjunction with the Department of Environment and the Western Development Commission (WDC).

At the launch of the Commission, Prof. Cathal O’Donoghue, Head of the Teagasc Rural Economy and Development Programme welcomed the initiative. He said: “Farm households have been particularly affected by the downturn with the off-farm employment rate of farmers falling back to late 1990’s levels. Farm households would thus be one of the main beneficiaries of more jobs in rural areas. On the other hand the Food Harvest 2020 strategy for the Agri-Food sector has a target to generate 25,000 new jobs and thus the sector can make a substantial impact on rural job creation.”

Commenting on the partnership between Teagasc, WDC and the Department, Teagasc Head of Research, Dr. Frank O’Mara said: “It is important for state agencies to combine expertise and work together to find solution to the national jobs crisis.”