Minister Coveney and I established the Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas (CEDRA) in September 2012 and since then the Commission has been working towards the publication of a report that will inform policies and strategies to support the economic development of rural Ireland into the future. The Commission and its Chair, Mr. Pat Spillane, have been engaging with stakeholder groups and the general public over the last number of months regarding ideas to support the future economic development of rural areas and I am grateful for their work to date.
The central element of the work of CEDRA is an extensive public consultation process which has been on-going since February 2013. To date the Commission has held 18 stakeholder meetings which looked at broader areas of rural life, 2 focus group meetings looking at rural tourism and social enterprise, 2 sub-group meetings looking at export and rural resources and 8 general public meetings all over Ireland. In total 360 people have attended the public meetings with a further 225 people attending the stakeholder meetings.
The Commission is also conducting a parallel research process and ha s requested submissions on its website including an option to complete an online questionnaire. To date 60 questionnaires have been completed. In addition to this, 108 submissions have been received. In total between the consultation and research exercises 850 contributions have been received to date for consideration in the CEDRA research process. The Commission will present its preliminary findings at a conference on 10 June 2013 in NUI Maynooth with the final report due in October 2013.
I believe there is clear evidence that rural communities all over Ireland have embraced the CEDRA research process; I am confident that the information that emerges from this process will provide an invaluable insight into the economic development of rural areas and assist policy making into the future.