In 2016, a total of 559 new full-time jobs were created in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies. There were 7,963 jobs in Údarás supported companies by year end, 7,348 full-time jobs and 615 part-time jobs. When numbers of full-time jobs losses are taken into consideration, there was a net gain of 80 jobs on the previous year.
Údarás client companies have exceeded a significant economic milestone of over €900m in total sales and have contributed over €420m in direct expenditure to the Irish economy for two consecutive years.
Employment in the Gaeltacht
The Galway and Cork Gaeltachtaí saw the highest net jobs growth in 2016. It is encouraging that the employment base in Gaeltacht companies has now stabilised and has reached its highest level in 7 years.
Gaeltacht companies are growing more competitive and increasingly focusing on export markets. This year’s figures show that the food & drink, services, and medical device sectors reflected the highest net gain in employment levels, although these sectors also suffered some job losses. The traditional manufacturing sector maintained its employment level, although the majority of jobs created in this sector were cancelled out by some significant job losses.
A total of 36 businesses were set up in the Gaeltacht throughout the year and over 100 people were employed in these businesses by year end. Over a quarter of Údarás client companies experienced employment growth during 2016. According to ABSEI research conducted in 2016, profit levels have been increasing steadily since 2008, with an estimated growth of 14.2% in 2015 over the previous year. In addition, during the past year Údarás na Gaeltachta has made a number of strategic investments in new infrastructural facilities which will support existing large employers undertake significant new developments and which will also help attract new projects in the future.
Údarás na Gaeltachta Chief Executive, Steve Ó Cúláin, said, “Our efforts of recent years show significant results and we have surpassed our targets for employment creation with over 500 new jobs created in the Gaeltacht annually. Údarás has shown what can be achieved if appropriate employment and rural policies are implemented and supported by the provision of adequate resources.”
The Chief Executive said that the growth in client companies’ markets is encouraging, “The success of our strategies is reflected in the fact that our client companies are achieving export growth, with nearly 70% of all sales now being exported. It is noteworthy that Údarás client companies spend over €425 million directly in the Irish economy.
We always welcome new businesses, both large and small. We have made significant capital investment again this year to support major employers in strengthening their position in the Gaeltacht community, and so that Údarás na Gaeltachta can provide business space for new companies. This investment will consolidate the employment base in rural Gaeltacht areas.”
Minister of State for Gaeltacht Affairs, Seán Kyne, T.D., said “I welcome these positive employment figures from Údarás na Gaeltachta. I am delighted to see that the Government’s focus on development and employment in regional and rural areas is producing results. Údarás na Gaeltachta will have a central role in implementing the Action Plan for Rural Ireland. It is encouraging to see that employment levels in the Gaeltacht are beginning to stabilise and that there is an increase in new businesses with 36 new companies setting up in 2016 and the creation of 100 jobs in these companies by the end of the year. My Department looks forward to continued cooperation with Údarás na Gaeltachta to build on these results in the context of the implementation of the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language. It gives particular satisfaction that 559 new full-time jobs were created in Údarás na Gaeltachta in 2016 and that there were 7,963 jobs in Údarás supported companies by year end. That is 7,348 full-time and 615 part-time.”
Further growth in the economic impact of Údarás client companies
Gaeltacht companies have a significant effect on both the Gaeltacht economy and the wider national economy. Údarás client companies generate expenditure of €427 million, which flows directly into the national economy, on payroll, services and raw materials. In 2016, client companies had a payroll of €180 million, with an average salary of €41,000 per employee in companies with 10 or more employees.
Figures from ABSEI research conducted in 2016 show that Údarás client companies had total sales of €926 million in the previous year. Exports grew by 10.6% to €628 million, an export–sales ratio of 68%. It is significant in the context of Brexit that nearly one quarter (24.5%) of Údarás client companies’ exports are to the United Kingdom and are worth €154 million.
Over 530 new jobs approved for the Gaeltacht in 2016
Last year, Údarás na Gaeltachta approved a number of new projects which will create 533 jobs and in which an estimated total of €38 million will be invested as they are developed over the next few years. Most job approvals during 2016 were for projects in Counties Galway and Donegal, although approval numbers for Counties Kerry and Cork were also significant. Companies in the medical device, food, services and niche manufacturing sectors continue to grow and develop.
Ionad Cultúrtha an Phiarsaigh, Conamara built and officially opened on €4.9m budget
Údarás na Gaeltachta is proud of its leading role in the advancement and development of this project from day one in cooperation with the community of Ros Muc and the wider Conamara community. Ionad Cultúrtha an Phiarsaigh, Conamara is a high-quality tourist centre which is one of eight major projects undertaken as part of the 1916 Centenary Programme and Údarás is delighted to have had a central role in this historic celebration in cooperation with the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Office of Public Works, Fáilte Ireland and Galway County Council. This Centre celebrates the Irish language, the cultural wealth of the Gaeltacht, the area’s heritage and the beautiful landscape of Conamara. The Centre and its newly developed facilities will complement Pearse’s Cottage as a national monument and will be an attractive destination for visitors to the Ros Muc area and to the Conamara Gaeltacht long into the future. The project had a €4.9m budget, which included €1m capital investment by An tÚdarás. Taoiseach, Enda Kenny, T.D., officially opened the Centre on Pearse’s birthday, 10 November 2016.
Social Employment Schemes
Social employment schemes (Community Employment Scheme, Rural Social Scheme & TÚS Scheme), managed by An tÚdarás play an important role in providing work experience and training for the Gaeltacht community. There was a slight decline in numbers, with 976 participants and 51 foremen employed on 47 schemes throughout the Gaeltacht. In 2016 a total of 330 new participants were placed on these schemes and 370 participants completed their scheme period.
Brexit and US Policies
Údarás na Gaeltachta will continue to participate in a coordinated cross-agency response to international affairs in 2017 in order to assess and prepare for the impact of Brexit and for any other changes in international policies. The United Kingdom is generally the first port of call for any company exporting for the first time. Nearly 25% of our client companies’ export sales, valued at €154 million, are to the United Kingdom and 38%, valued at €241m, are to North America. The majority of client company export sales (87%) to North America are in modern manufacturing.
Brexit may also have a major impact on the cost of client company raw materials, nearly 60% (€224m) of which are imported from or through the United Kingdom.
Client companies exporting to the United Kingdom depend heavily on this market and any uncertainty could pose difficulties for trade. Some €115 million of client company export sales to the United Kingdom come from the BMW region (Galway, Mayo, Donegal) and €39 million from the Southern and Eastern Region (Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Meath).
It is more important than ever to make strategic and adequate investment in Gaeltacht infrastructure and in the infrastructure of Údarás na Gaeltachta so that potential business opportunities, especially those involving Foreign Direct Investment, which may arise as a result of these geopolitical changes, may be fully exploited for the benefit of the Gaeltacht.
Language Planning Activities
At the start of 2016, some 18 Gaeltacht Language Planning Areas (LPA) were engaged in the language planning process and Lead Organisations were at various stages of preparing language plans. Notices in relation to 5 further LPAs were issued in 2016 – four in July and one in November. Draft language plans for the LPAs of Gaoth Dobhair, Rann na Feirste, Anagaire and Loch an Iúir, and for the LPA of Cois Fharraige were submitted to Údarás by year end.
In late 2014 a list was published of 16 towns which may potentially be recognised as Gaeltacht Service Towns upon Ministerial approval of language plans for these towns. Three towns will be given priority initially: Letterkenny, Galway City and Daingean Uí Chúis. Following a public consultation process, an official notice was issued in relation to the language planning process in these towns during 2016 and early in 2017. A Lead Organisation has been selected to undertake this work in Daingean Uí Chúis and applications have been sought from organisations in Letterkenny and in Galway City who may be interested in being selected as Lead Organisations for the purposes of preparing a language plan. Údarás na Gaeltachta works in close collaboration with Foras na Gaeilge in the implementation of the language planning process in Gaeltacht Service Towns.
Údarás na Gaeltachta provides continuing support to Lead Organisations in the preparation of language plans in LPAs throughout the Gaeltacht by holding national and regional workshops in addition to the development and launch of an online forum to facilitate communication among participants in the language planning process.
Údarás na Gaeltachta Chair, Anna Ní Ghallachair said, “By mid-2017 all the Language Planning Areas, as well as three Gaeltacht Service Towns, will be engaged in language planning at community level. Údarás na Gaeltachta warmly welcomes the recently published Policy on Gaeltacht Education, which, when implemented, will complement and support the language planning work undertaken by the communities. A delay in implementing the Gaeltacht education policy could have negative consequences for the entire process.”
She added, “Both Údarás client companies and An tÚdarás itself have overcome significant challenges in the four years since I took on the role of Chair of the Board. The Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta is encouraged by the positive employment trends in Gaeltacht areas and although there is still much work to do, I believe that significant progress can continue to be made, provided an tÚdarás receives the resources it needs to carry on its work, which permeates all aspects of life in the Gaeltacht.”
Focus for 2017
The Údarás na Gaeltachta Strategic Plan for 2014–2017 will come to an end this year. Údarás client companies have overcome significant challenges in the last few years, leading to a degree of stability in employment figures in the lifetime of this strategy. Notwithstanding the significant international changes in prospect, there is now an opportunity to build upon the recovery made in the Gaeltacht. It is within this context that a new strategic plan will be developed, which will set out the parameters for the work of Údarás until 2020.
For the coming year, particular efforts will be focused on attracting investment in innovation. Companies involved in innovation tend to establish themselves in areas in which there is a highly-educated and highly-skilled workforce, markets which are readily accessible, support services, including transportation, and in which there is a high standard of telecommunications and physical infrastructure. An tÚdarás believe that there are significant opportunities for innovation in all Gaeltacht areas, provided appropriate resources are available. In 2017, an tÚdarás will continue with our investment programme in the cornerstone of enterprise infrastructure through four innovation units in the regions of Donegal, Mayo, Galway and Kerry, as set out as an objective in the national Action Plan for Jobs. An tÚdarás will continue with its commitment to renewable energy and with the implementation of its energy efficiency strategy.
There will be a focus in 2017 on programmes and research projects which foster innovation and enterprise as a constant component of their development programme. As a basic principle, it is important that both new and established companies, small and large, undertake research & development programmes to ensure the stability and continued viability of their businesses. An tÚdarás will therefore support innovative programmes and initiatives.
In order for the organisation to support our client companies in dealing with the consequences of Brexit, An tÚdarás will continue detailed consultation with, and support for, companies operating, or wishing to operate, in the United Kingdom.
Údarás na Gaeltachta has set itself as an objective to significantly increase the number of small indigenous companies it supports by supplying space and by providing professional seminars for prospective entrepreneurs/owners, ensuring that the facilities and financial or service supports are available to them to develop and implement their business plans.
The development of natural resources and enterprise relating to natural resources is central to the organisation’s strategy. Planning work on the Páirc Nuálaíochta Mara (Marine Innovation Park) in Cill Chiaráin, Conamara will begin in 2017. Both research and commercial activities will be conducted in this facility.
The language planning process in the Gaeltacht has now reached a critical juncture. A draft of two language plans in two Language Planning Areas (Gaoth Dobhair, Ranna na Feirste, Anagaire and Loch an Iúir LPA and Cois Fharraige LPA) have been submitted to Údarás na Gaeltachta and we hope to submit them to the Minister in the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs for approval in the coming weeks. We would like to congratulate both Lead Organisations for undertaking this complex work and bringing it to the next important stage. We applaud the effort, time and commitment of members of the Lead Organisations and subcommittees in preparing these plans.
It is hoped that 11 more language plans will be ready for submission to the Department by the end of this year. An announcement regarding the three remaining LPAs in the Galway Gaeltacht area will be made in the coming months.
The Gaeltacht community, who are working voluntarily to ensure a future for the Irish language, should be commended for their commitment and dedication. We will work with the Department in the coming year to agree on a budget for this important work.