In it’s 2008 Annual Report and Accounts published this week, Údarás na Gaeltachta states that it maintained the overall number of jobs in the Gaeltacht notwithstanding the deteriorating economic climate in the latter half of that year. The 2008 Annual Report states that a total of 1,269 new jobs were created in 2008 and 1,024 new full-time jobs were approved that year, involving a total investment of over €100m. Total employment in Údarás assisted-companies stood at 8,193 at year-end.
Referring to last year’s results and to the serious economic downturn that has since taken place, Liam Ó Cuinneagáin, Chairman of Údarás na Gaeltachta said that Údarás had experienced the most difficult and challenging period in the history of the organisation.
“The 2008 results are a source of hope and encouragement. New investment in modern sectors recorded significant progress, the numbers of value added jobs increased, and a considerable number of jobs were generated in social enterprises by co-operatives, community based organisations and language-based projects. The Gaeltacht infrastructure, which very much influences our development activities, also improved. Nothwithstanding that however, the sudden change in the economic climate, the exchequer cutbacks arising from that and the significant decline in the organisation’s income from the sale of assets greatly restricted the operations of the organisation. As a result, it will be very difficult for An tÚdarás to meet it’s employment targets during the current year”, he said.
He explained that the biggest challenge facing Údarás is maintaining existing employment levels. “This will be achieved by working closely with companies, maintaining investment contacts, limiting contractual commitments which would increase the organisation’s liabilities while at the same time maintaining as many as possible of those initiatives which are important at the community level.”
He referred to the new support programmes introduced by the Government (The Stabilisation Fund and the Employment Subsidy Scheme) and said that they were of great assistance to companies and that a number of Gaeltacht enterprises had already benefited from these measures. Enterprise Ireland is responsible for the administration of these programmes on a national level and Údarás na Gaeltachta implements them in the Gaeltacht. An tÚdarás is represented on the national Evaluation Committee and this reinforces the co-operation between An tÚdarás, the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the other national development agencies and the Gaeltacht companies that made applications under those programmes.
An tÚdarás looks forward to the publication of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language before year end. The implementation of the Strategy will not only be a challenge for the Gaeltacht communities and Irish language organisations but also for the Irish-speaking community nationally. The future of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht and on a national level is dependent on the approach which will be adopted by the Government regarding the preservation, protection and promotion of the language at this critical juncture. An tÚdarás is confident that a strong Gaeltacht development body will form an integral part of the structures required to implement the 20 year strategy.