Statement issued by Anna Ní Ghallachair, Chairperson and Steve Ó Cúláin, Chief Executive, Údarás na Gaeltachta
Review of 2012
2012 saw the enactment of the Gaeltacht Bill which provides a new strategic and operational environment for An tÚdarás. The Gaeltacht Act 2012 endorses Údarás na Gaeltachta’s role as the principal stakeholder in the regional development of the Gaeltacht and gives statutory effect to the implementation of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 in the Gaeltacht by Údarás. Following the enactment of the Gaeltacht Act a new Board was appointed to An tÚdarás.
Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies created 700 new jobs last year. Total employment in Údarás client companies stood at 7,553 at 2012 year end, of which 6,933 are full-time jobs and 620 are part-time jobs. When full-time job losses are taken into consideration, there was a net loss of 37 jobs overall.
Employment in the Gaeltacht
2012 saw the lowest rate of job losses in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies for well over a decade. Gaeltacht companies have stabilised their employment base, are more competitive and have a stronger export focus. Companies involved in the pharmaceutical, medical devices, food and niche manufacturing sectors increased their employment levels during the year. During 2012 export-led companies continued to grow sales and employment.
Client-companies trading in the domestic market experienced ongoing difficulties during the year. Companies operating in the services, tourism and traditional manufacturing sectors reduced their employment numbers during the year.
670 jobs approved for the Gaeltacht during the 2012
Údarás na Gaeltachta approved projects during the year which are expected to create 460 new jobs and lead to an overall projected investment of €37 million by Gaeltacht companies.
Many of these jobs will be coming on stream in 2013 and in subsequent years.
Significantly, support for a further 220 new jobs was approved by IDA Ireland for the Údarás client company Bioniche Pharma which is located in Indreabhán, Connemara during the year. Mylan, the largest generics pharmaceutical manufacturer in Ireland and one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies, acquired Bioniche Pharma in 2010. Mylan announced during the year it is to expand its facility in Connemara and establish it as a centre of excellence for the company’s injectable pharmaceutical products and R&D processes.
Economic Impact by Údarás clientcompanies continues to increase
The ABSEI research undertaken by Forfás in 2012 shows that total sales in Údarás client companies stood at €784 million, an increase of 3% on the previous year’s figures, with a very positive 11% growth forecasted for the following year. Exports sales were up 10% to €452 million and further growth targets up to 15% are expected next year, which will see record level exports achieved by Údarás client companies. Total exports, as a percentage of sales, in Údarás client companies has increased from 50% to 62% since 2009. Gaeltacht companies also have a significant impact in the Gaeltacht and domestic economy and this is illustrated by the 9% increase in it’s spend on Irish produced materials, contributing €431 million in direct expenditure in the economy last year. Total payroll amounted to €190 million.
Challenges for new jobs creation
An tÚdarás believes it is important to highlight that, although the level of job losses has stabilised and is at its lowest level in years, the number of new jobs being created is not sufficient to maintain employment levels in the Gaeltacht. The fall-off in jobs approvals is due to a number of factors, and include the challenging global economic conditions, companies deferring expansion and capital investment plans, and also a substantial reduction in capital budget provision to Údarás. This restricted the operations of the organisation in its capacity to approve new projects and investments and develop modern business infrastructure.
In order to attract inward investment, the Gaeltacht needs to be in a position to offer modern enterprises the most up-to-date physical, business and telecommunications infrastructure. The absence of access to high speed broadband is still a challenge for companies in some Gaeltacht areas.
Social Employment Schemes important in providing training and work experience
Social employment schemes continue to play an important role in providing work experience and training for Gaeltacht communities. Údarás na Gaeltachta manages and administers the Community Employment Scheme, the Rural Social Scheme, Tús and the Jobs Initiative, which are funded by the Department of Social Protection. In 2012 over 960 participants and 47 supervisors were employed in 46 schemes throughout the Gaeltacht. These social employment schemes are central to community development and language maintenance programmes and activities in the Gaeltacht.
Irish Language and Community Development Activities
Under the Gaeltacht Act 2012, Údarás na Gaeltachta has a statutory function regarding the implementation of the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language in the Gaeltacht. The strategy places emphasis on integrated language planning at community level and the Gaeltacht Act 2012 establishes the statutory basis for the language planning process in the Gaeltacht.
Language planning at community level presents challenges. The process is dependent on integrated support from government departments, state organisations and those providing services to the Gaeltacht community.
The implementation of the 20-Year Strategy of the Irish Language is the overall responsibility of the Strategy Unit in the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and various working groups have been established by the Strategy Unit to advance the progress of the various measures. An tÚdarás will be working with the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and with Gaeltacht communities so as to develop effective strategies and language plans which will support language maintenance and preservation locally.
During 2012 a number of working groups were formed consisting of representatives from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Foras na Gaeilge, The Department of Education and Skills, and An Chomhairle um Oideachas Gaeltachta agus Gaelscolaíochta (COGG). Gaeltacht community-based organisations will have a central role in the implementation of the Gaeltacht Act 2012. Údarás executives, in conjunction with executives from the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, organised two information sessions in the Gaeltacht areas, based on the Gaeltacht Act as it was at the time, to establish the views of the communities. Information meetings will again take place early in 2013 to discuss the arrangements for the Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas, Gaeltacht Service Towns, and plans and opportunities concerning the language planning process in the Gaeltacht.
Focus for 2013
An tÚdarás will continue to implement its strategic plan for the Gaeltacht. Employment creation in key sectors which have the potential to contribute to sustainable economic development, including natural and marine resources, life sciences, ICT’s, tourism, niche manufacturing, engineering, food and other high value commodities will be supported. Initiatives central to community development and language planning such as supports for childcare and pre-school education, youth development and training, all through the medium of Irish will continue to be supported. All of these programmes are rooted in the needs of the community’s linguistic, social as well as economic requirements and form an integrated and comprehensive approach to development and language maintenance.
The organisation will reorganise and restructure its resources and its work programmes to ensure that its new strategy and mandate as outlined in the Gaeltacht Act 2012 will be delivered.
We would like to acknowledge the support of IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, Bord Bia and BIM for their support in implementing our enterprise development programme and look forward to enhanced co-operation with them in the future. We would also like to thank the former Chairman, Liam Ó Cuinneagáin and former Board members for their commitment and co-operation over the years in the implementation of the organisations objectives and look forward to working with the new Údarás Board in 2013.