• 737 new jobs created, the largest increase in new jobs in 5 years
• 7,682 jobs in Údarás client companies at year end
• New projects expected to create an additional 519 new jobs, and €42m investment
• 6% increase in sales and 6% increase in exports in client companies
• Nine organisations now preparing language plans for Language Planning Areas
Review of 2014
Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies created 737 new full-time equivalent jobs in 2014, the highest increase in jobs created since 2008. At year end, total employment in Údarás client companies stood at 7,682, of which 7,053 were full-time jobs and 629 were part-time jobs. When full-time job losses are taken into consideration, there was a net increase of 84 jobs overall.
During 2014, considerable progress was made in the language planning process. By year end, nine lead organisations were selected to begin preparing language plans for the Language Planning Areas which were announced during the year. The Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht also announced a list of towns which may be recognised as Gaeltacht Service Towns under the Gaeltacht Act 2012, focussing initially on Galway City, Letterkenny and Daingean Uí Chúis.
Employment in the Gaeltacht
The increase in the number of jobs created during the year offers grounds for optimism. Employment figures show that jobs increased in a number of sectors, particularly in food and drink, medical devices, fish farming and specialist manufacturing. Notably, employment increased in companies which saw growth in export sales.
During the course of the year, 28 new start-up enterprises were established and over 100 people were employed in those businesses by year end. Also, we are encouraged by Randox Laboratories’ announcement in October that it plans to make a substantial investment of €25 million in its facility in An Clochán Liath in Co. Donegal and increase its employee numbers from 66 to 540 by 2020.
Steve Ó Cúláin, CEO of an tÚdarás, said “We are delighted with the growth in the number of jobs created last year and that an tÚdarás succeeded in achieving the targets set out by Government in relation to job creation and approvals. We must continue to build on that foundation and attract new projects and investments to the Gaeltacht.”
Job losses occurred in some companies as they continue to restructure and refocus their business models as the market demands. The Gaoth Dobhair area in Donegal was particularly affected by job losses. Largo Foods ceased production in its facility on the Gaoth Dobhair Business Park, Nuance transferred its business to London, and SIOEN reduced the number of its employees during the year. This amounted to a total of 164 job losses in the business park, and although job losses occur annually, a significant loss in one rural area such as this has an adverse effect on that entire community.
Referring to the job losses, Steve Ó Cúláin, CEO, said, “We are cognisant of the fact that Gaoth Dobhair has been significantly impacted, and an tÚdarás is making every effort to attract alternative investment and employment opportunities to the area. Needless to say, infrastructural deficits, the provision of high speed broadband at a competitive price, and the lack of investment in suitable high-quality business premises all create challenges when attracting new enterprises to rural areas.”
He added, “We are encouraged by the number of new developments and projects in the pipeline and we welcome the increased focus that the Government has placed on policies relating to regional enterprise development and employment creation. An tÚdarás will be working with IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland in this regard, to identify and source additional resources required to attract new projects and jobs to the Gaeltacht.”
Over 500 new jobs approved for the Gaeltacht during 2014
Last year, Údarás na Gaeltachta approved projects which are expected to create a further 519 new jobs and involve a projected investment of €42 million as the projects come on-stream over the next few years. Developments were seen in companies operating in the food and drink, specialist manufacturing and service sectors, and an tÚdarás is looking forward to supporting Randox Teo in its plans to further develop its life-sciences and engineering production facility in An Clochán Liath.
Business Trends and the Economic Impact of Údarás client companies
Sales in Údarás client companies increased by 6% on the previous year. Research carried out by Insight Statistical Consultants in 2014 indicates that Gaeltacht companies had sales to the value of €826 million. Exports in client companies grew by 6% to €493 million, with an additional increase of 4% expected in 2015. Companies operating in the food and drink, modern manufacturing, medical devices and chemical sectors in particular, saw growth in exports, while sales in companies operating in the traditional manufacturing sector continued to decline. Údarás client companies contributed €417 million in direct expenditure to the Irish economy, through payroll, services and the purchasing of raw materials.
Social Employment Schemes
Údarás na Gaeltachta continued to manage and administer social employment schemes. At 2014 year end, 1,024 participants and 50 supervisors were involved in 47 schemes throughout the Gaeltacht. These schemes have an important dual role in providing work experience and training for the unemployed in the Gaeltacht community and in facilitating very significant input to community development projects. These schemes are estimated to be worth over €15 million annually to the Gaeltacht economy.
Irish Language Planning Activities
Work on developing the language planning process continued throughout the year. Nine Language Planning Areas were announced by Government and nine lead organisations were selected to prepare language plans for those areas. The lead organisations selected will be working in close cooperation with an tÚdarás and with community groups whose activities have an influence in preserving and strengthening the Irish language in the Gaeltacht. Best practice in language planning requires an integrated approach: the cooperation and participation of the community, the State and the private and voluntary sectors are vital to the process of strengthening the language in Gaeltacht communities.
A number of towns which may be recognised as Gaeltacht Service Towns were announced by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in December 2014. Údarás na Gaeltachta, or Foras na Gaeilge, as appropriate, will be working with the selected organisations to prepare and implement language plans, depending on whether the town is located in a Gaeltacht area or outside of the Gaeltacht. The process will commence with Galway City, Letterkenny and Daingean Uí Chúis.
Anna Ní Ghallachair, Chairperson of an tÚdarás, said that substantial progress was made during 2014 in relation to the language planning process: “Following a period of preparation to establish the administrative framework, the selected lead organisations have now begun preparing language plans for their respective Language Planning Areas”
She also referred to the challenges involved in this work: “Language planning is a complex process. Preventing further erosion of the Irish language in the Gaeltacht and increasing its daily usage amongst speakers is a challenge both for the State and for Údarás na Gaeltachta. The issue of language conservation in the Gaeltacht is not solely the responsibility of one government department (The Departments of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht) and an tÚdarás. The language planning process is embedded in various aspects of economic and social development, including the work of other Government Departments, in particular, the Department of Education and Skills, the Department of Health and the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government. There is a need for an integrated and determined partnership approach, involving cooperation between local communities and the relevant State agencies, to ensure that the necessary supports are provided in order to increase the number of daily Irish language speakers in the Gaeltacht and promote the usage of Irish as a community language, as is set out in legislation.”
Focus for 2015
In 2015, Údarás na Gaeltachta will continue to pursue its enterprise development strategy with particular emphasis on supporting micro-enterprise and start-ups. The renewed commitment by Government to optimise the regional development potential of the country as a whole is very welcome, and we will continue in our efforts, in co-operation with our sister-agencies, to attract mobile investment and much needed jobs to the Gaeltacht.
International research indicates that the availability of appropriate property solutions is a key element in the decision-making process undertaken by investors when deciding on suitable business location. We will continue our programme of the capital refurbishment and reconfiguration of our property porfolio in 2015, with the aim of providing a mix of high end property solutions to new and existing clients across all Gaeltacht areas during all stages of business development, from post incubation to expansion mode, and across all sectors.
The Wild Atlantic Way, while still in its infancy, has proved to be one of the most successful tourism initiatives of recent times. With over one quarter of the 2,500 km route passing through the Gaeltacht, an tÚdarás’ focus in 2015 and beyond will be to support our clients in taking full advantage of the promotion of the Wild Atlantic Way to deliver innovative and attractive products that will highlight the attractiveness and uniqueness of the Gaeltacht. An tÚdarás looks forward to progressing the development of the Cultúrlann Chonamara, a visitor centre at Teach an Phiarsaigh in Ros Muc, Connemara. The centre will not only commemorate one of the leaders of the 1916 Easter Rising but will also be an iconic visitor attraction of international appeal, and will be one of the legacy projects advanced as part of a network of flagship projects along the Wild Atlantic Way which will be of benefit both to the local community and to the region as a whole.
The gradual roll out of the language planning process will continue during 2015 in respect of the remaining Language Planning Areas and will commence in the initial Gaeltacht Service Towns identified.