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Statement from Údarás na Gaeltachta’s Board Meeting

4 April, 2020

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Historic meeting of the Board Údarás na Gaeltachta

An historic meeting of the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta took place yesterday (03/04/20), as for the first time in its 40 year history its Board meeting was held online.  As a result of the COVID-19 emergency and the restrictions in place in relation to travel and social distancing, specific exceptional agreements with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, allowed the Board to hold its meeting online and to carry out its usual functions approving various projects, investments and schemes.

Additional Emergency COVID-19 Business Supports approved by the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta

Support for 24 new jobs approved with an investment of €800,000 in Gaeltacht companies

The Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta approved a number of projects yesterday which will result in 24 new full-time positions and an investment of over €800,000 when these projects are underway. The proposed initiatives will support new jobs in Gaeltacht companies in Counties Mayo, Galway, Donegal and Kerry.

Statement from the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta regarding the COVID-19 Crisis

For the past forty years Údarás na Gaeltachta has continually overcome challenges and obstacles of all kinds in order to seek to develop and strengthen Ireland’s unique Gaeltacht areas. It is a strange irony, therefore, that, as the organisation commemorates its 40th year, one of the most significant challenges ever to have faced the Gaeltacht is now upon us.

Nevertheless, if history has taught us anything, it is that during the deepest and harshest of crises that the most extraordinary actions emerge. It is at times like these that the indomitable Gaeltacht spirit, the innovation of its companies, whether large or small, and the resilience of its communities are most evident.

Údarás na Gaeltachta will provide as much support to the Gaeltacht community as is possible. In recent weeks it has announced support schemes as well as an Advisory and Supports Plan to help businesses and Gaeltacht communities during these uncertain times

The Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta is acutely aware of the significant pressures that the Gaeltacht is experiencing at present and the personal sacrifices that are being made by Gaeltacht communities throughout the country. The Board, along with the executive and staff of the organisation, is committed to making every effort and support possible available to all sectors of the Gaeltacht during this crisis. This crisis will affect all aspects of Gaeltacht life similarly to other regions across the nation itself but ‘ar scáth a chéile’, working hand in hand, we will recover and Údarás na Gaeltachta will endeavour to mitigate these effects as much as is possible.

The Gaeltacht and national community has witnessed the devastating effect of the Covid virus over recent weeks but the spirit of Gaeltacht communities, the ‘meitheal’, has also been to the fore with local committees, GAA clubs and Gaeltacht community development organisations coming together to help vulnerable groups. They deserve huge praise – is in am an ghátair a bhraitear an chabhair.

It is at times like these, as an economic downturn beckons, that innovative ideas emerge and today will be no exception. Some wonderful Gaeltacht companies are still operating at the heart of the emergency: providing devices, services, equipment and pharmaceutical products to the health sector not only in Ireland but throughout the world. Other Gaeltacht companies are also repurposing their products for the community and the health service, providing hand sanitizers, engineering equipment and other materials. There are excellent Gaeltacht products that are still essential in supply chains worldwide produced by companies who continue to battle on, trading online and who deserve our support and gratitude.

Údarás na Gaeltachta will provide as much support to the Gaeltacht community as is possible. In recent weeks it has announced support schemes as well as an Advisory and Supports Plan to help businesses and Gaeltacht communities during these uncertain times. Údarás na Gaeltachta staff remain available to provide support and advice and, although our public offices are closed, technology has been used to the fullest extent to ensure that the organisation’s services, including at Board level, continue to operate.

Údarás na Gaeltachta and its Board are operating as part of an integrated Government response to this crisis and those efforts will continue in earnest in the weeks ahead. We are working very closely with the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and other Agencies and Departments in an attempt to mitigate the specific effects the crisis will have on the Gaeltacht. We commend and congratulate all Gaeltacht communities, organisations and businesses for their tremendous efforts in ensuring that the effects of this unexpected crises are mitigated as much as is possible. Today’s sacrifices must be endured to ensure a better tomorrow.

Údarás na Gaeltachta was born of resulted ideas in the Gaeltacht community over forty years ago. Similar inspirational community actions will be required when this crisis has passed. By working as lámh a chéile (hand in hand) we will ensure the recovery so that we can ‘dúiseacht le dúthracht ag breacadh an lae’ – awaken with a fresh enthusiasm at the dawning of a new day.

Additional Emergency COVID-19 Business Supports approved by the Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta

The Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta approved additional COVID-19 business support funds of €135,000 yesterday (03/04/20) to provide practical support to Gaeltacht businesses experiencing significant pressures as a result of COVID-19.

Both support schemes ‘Business Continuity Voucher’ and ‘Online Trading Scheme’ will operate parallel to other COVID-19 supports being offered at present:

Temporary Wage Subsidy (70%); COVID-19 Pandemic Unemployment Payment; Supports for the Self-Employed, COVID-19 Illness Payment, Be Prepared Scheme, Act On Initiative, Mentoring Scheme, Finance in Focus Scheme.

Business Continuity Voucher

The Business Continuity Voucher is worth up to €2,500 in third party consultancy costs and can be used by companies and sole traders that employ up to 50 people to develop short-term and long-term strategies to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For a huge number of small businesses, survival is the over-riding objective at this time so making the right decisions is crucial. Successful applicants who avail of the voucher will gain access to contingency planning advice that will help them to continue trading through this crisis and to be ready for the recovery phase, when it comes. It will also help firms to prepare a business case so that they can apply for emergency financial interventions through the banks.

The kind of sectors that the voucher will help will vary, depending on the needs of each business, but it will include significant measures such as preparing a business case for application to emergency funding, developing a business continuity plan, reducing variable costs, reviewing and exploring supply chain financing options, implementing remote working processes or procedures, and leveraging expertise in HR and ICT.

Scheme application forms will be issued in the coming days.

Online Trading Scheme

Under the Online Trading Scheme a maximum grant of up to €2,500 or 50% of eligible expenses, excluding VAT, whichever is lower, is available to eligible businesses to develop and strengthen their ability to trade ‘online’. This scheme was introduced by Údarás na Gaeltachta in 2017 in order to increase the number of Gaeltacht businesses trading online and to increase Gaeltacht business sales online.  The Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta approved a new fund of €60,000 at its meeting yesterday (03/04/20) to continue the scheme and meet the demand for it. Along with the normal demand for this support, it recognises the present exceptional circumstances as a result of COVID-19, and that businesses are under pressure and wish to develop their ability to do conduct their business online. This scheme will offer financial incentives to Gaeltacht businesses who are eligible under standard Údarás na Gaeltachta criteria to develop and enhance their capability to trade online.

This scheme has been a valuable support to businesses big and small over the past three years to enhance their capability to trade ‘online’ and, as a result of this, to stabilise and develop the employment foundation.

Eligible criteria for the scheme as well as application forms will be published in the coming days.

gteic Digital Hub to be developed in An Clochán Liath (Dungloe) in Donegal

As part of the growth of the gteic network, the digital Gaeltacht network, it was agreed at the Board meeting of Údarás na Gaeltachta yesterday (03/04/20) to develop a gteic digital hub in a vacant space on the first floor of Templecrone Co-Operative Agricultural Society Ltd.’s building or The Cope as it is better known, on the Main Street of An Clochán Liath, Co Donegal and adapt it for gteic@An Clochán Liath.

It is hoped to develop this attractive central 264 square metre space into a high standard digital hub with 5 office spaces and 24 hotdesk/shared space units. Users of gteic@An Clochán Liath will be in a position to avail of the facilities already available in the building such as meeting rooms and a café as the project is being developed above a supermarket, clothing shop, café and other retail units.

The gteic Gréasán Digiteach na Gaeltachta is a network of 31 innovation & digital hubs to be developed by Údarás na Gaeltachta in locations throughout Ireland’s Gaeltacht area. The gteic digital hubs will provide a vibrant network of high speed broadband facilities in rural Gaeltacht areas to stimulate job creation, to assist remote working, to encourage and enable the return of Diaspóra na Gaeltachta, to facilitate concept development and new business and to develop a community of hubs where the unique Gaeltacht culture drives creativity and innovation.