Statement issued by Seán Ó Labhraí, Acting Chief Executive and Liam Ó Cuinneagáin, Chairman, Údarás na Gaeltachta
■ 704 new full-time jobs created in 2010
■ Companies with export sales emerge strongest and sustain employment
■ 535 new full-time jobs approved
■ Údarás to have central role in 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language
■ 800 participants on social employment schemes worth €13m to Gaeltacht economy
■ Support for 70 preschools through Irish (naíonraí) serving over 1,000 children
■ 565 people attend accredited Irish language courses in Language Services Centres
■ Support for 29 community companies employing 112 people
Employment in the Gaeltacht in 2010
Total full-time employment in Údarás na Gaeltachta assisted-companies stood at 7,074 in 2010. A total of 704 new full-time jobs were created during the year, with a net-decrease of 398 jobs overall. The employment figures show a strong performance by exporting companies, reflecting the national trend. It is encouraging to see that a number of those companies continued to invest further and expand their operations during the year.
Jobs Approvals up on previous year
Despite the current economic difficulties, a total of 535 new jobs were approved during 2010 in new and existing enterprises. This figure is up 31% on the previous year and involves an overall projected investment of €54m in Gaeltacht companies. Many of these jobs will be coming on stream in 2011 and in the subsequent two years. Notwithstanding the challenging economic and business environment, this demonstrates Údarás’s ability to attract new investments, support its clients in their expansion plans, and therefore facilitate the creation of further employment.
It is important to note however, that the number of new jobs approved in the last two years is lower than previous years. Experience from previous years has demonstrated that a more substantial level of jobs approvals is required to ensure that the employment level in the Gaeltacht is maintained. The reduction in jobs approvals in the last two years is mainly due to a drop in the number of new projects from certain sectors seeking support as a result of businesses being affected by funding difficulties and lower demand, and due to a decrease in the level of funding available to the organisation (both from its own sources and the Exchequer). We expect, with the resources available to Údarás for 2011, that new projects creating up to 500 new jobs will be approved during the year. Additional funding resources will be required if other substantial job-creating opportunities present themselves during the year.
Companies consolidate and restructure in an effort to survive
Job losses were reduced during 2010 in comparison to the previous year. The majority of the losses occurred as a result of enterprises shedding staff numbers in order to cut costs, restructure, and consolidate. However, Údarás expects that a significant number of these jobs will be restored when the economy returns to growth. Smaller companies, especially those trading solely in the domestic market, and companies involved in the construction related sectors were most significantly affected due to the fall-off in domestic demand. It is worth noting that nearly half of the job losses over the past three years have occurred in enterprises that are related to the construction sector, which is in line with the figures nationally. Companies involved in the tourism industry also saw a reduction in employment.
During the year, An tÚdarás continued to work with its client-companies and support their efforts in developing new products and markets and increasing competitiveness. A total of €2.8m was approved in R&D projects during the year and the results of these projects will form the basis of expansion plans in the future.
Government schemes assist in sustaining jobs
Two Government initiatives, the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund and the Employment Subsidy Scheme established to protect jobs during the current economic difficulties were extremely important and helped sustain and maintain employment levels in some Gaeltacht companies during the year. Údarás na Gaeltachta administers the programmes in the Gaeltacht and to date to a total of €5.76 million in funding was approved to 36 Gaeltacht companies which resulted in helping to sustain 645 jobs.
Results from the Annual Business Survey of Economic Impact 2009 (ABSEI) carried out in 2010 by Forfás for all development agencies, which surveyed companies that include approximately 77% of Údarás-supported employment, indicates that total sales in client-companies was in the region of three-quarters of a billion Euro, of which €354m was in exports. The survey also illustrates that 40.6% of Gaeltacht companies are engaging in R&D activities.
Collaborations with other agencies
During 2010, An tÚdarás continued to collaborate with other state agencies and utilise the full spectrum of government initiatives available to deliver effective support programmes and services to our Gaeltacht communities and clients. Enhanced co-operation agreements were made with a number of agencies in order to ensure that optimum added value is gained for the sectors and communities which they serve through the programmes, initiatives and measures available.
Community Development and Language Activities
The organisation was able to maintain, to a large extent, its community development and language activities, notwithstanding the reduced levels of funding available. Support was provided to 29 community companies throughout the Gaeltacht which employ 112 full-time employees and provide important community services. An tÚdarás also manages and administers the Rural Social Scheme and the Community Employment Scheme in the Gaeltacht. Both employment schemes are funded nationally by the Department of Social Protection and in 2010 were worth €13m in total to the Gaeltacht economy, employing over 800 participants and 40 supervisors in 38 separate schemes throughout the Gaeltacht. In addition to providing work experience and training for those out of work, these employment schemes play an important role in community development throughout the Gaeltacht.
In relation to Irish language activities, An tÚdarás continued to provide support towards the operation of 70 Gaeltacht preschools (naíonraí) providing pre-school education through Irish to over 1,000 children through Comhar Naíonraí na Gaeltachta Teo. Assistance was also made available to a total of 34 Language Services Centres where over 565 people attended accredited Irish language courses throughout the year.
Third-Level Education through Irish
Support provided by Údarás na Gaeltachta over the past seven years has been pivotal to the development and provision of third-level education through Irish in Gaeltacht. As a result, a wide range of diploma, higher diploma, degree and post graduate courses are now being provided in centres throughout the Gaeltacht, primarily by Acadamh na hOllscolaíochta Gaeilge, NUIG. The Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in conjunction with the language specialist company Europus Teo and Waterford Institute of Technology in conjunction with the independent TV production company Nemeton Teo also run courses in the Gaeltacht. It was always the objective that an tÚdarás would initiate and support the development of third-level education through Irish in the Gaeltacht until such a time that the necessary policy changes were in place to provide systematic funding for qualifying courses. We welcome the steps taken during the year by An tAcadamh, NUI Galway, the Higher Education Authority (HEA), and the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs to ensure that qualifying courses in the Gaeltacht outreach centres will continue to be funded.
20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language
The recent publication by the Government of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language was an important milestone for both the Gaeltacht and Irish language speakers alike. Previous studies show the vulnerable position of the Irish language with experts predicting that the language may only survive as a household and community language in the Gaeltacht for another fifteen to twenty years. An tÚdarás recognises that the future of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht is interwoven with the advancement and development of the Irish language on a national level and that strong links are required consolidating both sides of the Irish language community as a whole. We welcome the central role that is proposed for Údarás as an implementing agency for the Strategy and the resulting expansion of the organisation’s remit to include a national role where Irish language activities are concerned. We will be working in conjunction with the Department of Community, Equality and Gaeltacht Affairs, who are responsible for overseeing the planning and implementation of the Strategy, to expediate the process of implementing the Strategy and the necessary steps required for the restructuring of Údarás na Gaeltachta to the proposed expanded role as Údarás na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta.
The Year Ahead
In addition to work being undertaken in preparation for the implementation of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language during 2011, An tÚdarás will also be focusing on its enterprise development functions. Particular emphasis will be placed on protecting existing employment in its client-companies and working with them to stimulate further R&D and product development activities. The organisation will continue its strategy of attracting new knowledge-based enterprises and investments and will work in co-operation with other state agencies to ensure the Gaeltacht receives the optimum benefit from national development initiatives and programmes.