589 new full-time jobs were created in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies in 2018. This culminated in a net increase of 122 jobs on the previous year, which means that there were 7,625 full-time and 582 part-time jobs in companies in receipt of support from Údarás at year end. These figures show the highest level of employment in client companies since 2008. There has been a steady increase on the employment base in the Gaeltacht for six consecutive years as Gaeltacht companies become increasingly stable.
In 2018, another substantial step was taken in terms of Language Planning as the first Language Planning Officers were employed in different regions across the country and hence the commencement of implementation of the plans in those areas. At the end of the 2018, a language plans were prepared and approved for half (13) of the Language Planning Areas across the country. An investment of €1.49m has been approved for the implementation of the language plans with direct employment of 17 jobs when Language Planning Officers and Assistant Planning Officers are recruited.
Employment in the Gaeltacht
There was a measured increase in employment in Gaeltacht companies supported by Údarás na Gaeltachta for six consecutive years and an increase of 10% in the overall employment figures in that period. In the last number of years, an emphasis was placed on the recovery and stability of the companies. As a result, the rate of employment increased in 14% of Údarás client companies and the employment rate remained stable in 75% of client companies in 2018. During the year, 30 new companies were created and there was 76 people employed in these at the end of the year. These companies were operating in the fields of traditional manufacturing and medical devices, along with the TV sector.
Counties Donegal and Galway saw the largest increases in employment in 2018. Indeed 2018 saw the lowest ever number of job losses in the Donegal Gaeltacht where there was an increase of 4% on employment in 2018. Employment in client companies in Donegal is now at its highest level in 10 years. Údarás supported employment in County Galway is now at its highest level since 2000: A total of 237 jobs were created in 2018 mainly in the healthcare product manufacturing and medical device sectors, along with the film and TV sector. It is timely that Údarás na Gaeltachta in conjunction with TG4 have launched a new educational scheme with an investment of €160,000 from both parties to boost skills in this industry.
The largest increases in employment were evident in the food and drinks, medical device manufacturing and film/TV sectors, even though these sectors did not escape some employment reductions also. Employment reductions were primarily in the traditional manufacturing sector.
Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies have a significant economic impact on the Gaeltacht and the national economy. According to ABSEI research conducted in 2018, it is estimated that client- company total sales were in the region of €862m the previous year with direct expenditure in the Irish economy of €430m. This reflects the fact that the State is getting good value for its investment in employment creation in the Gaeltacht.
Údarás na Gaeltachta Chief Executive, Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh, said, “Employment levels are increasing in our client companies and are at the highest point in ten years. That said, our client companies must be cautious about the unsettled economic forecast for the year ahead, but we are hopeful that we have the appropriate strategies in place to support them in meeting the challenges and that the resources that are available to the organisation are increasing gradually. We particularly welcome increases in our capital budget and other external funding which has been announced and which will provide us with an excellent opportunity to start 2019 on a positive note and to invigorate the implementation of our strategy.”
With year one of our Strategic Plan complete, and in evidence of the specific targets laid out in Action Plan 2018–2022 for the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010–2030, we are very satisfied with the level of jobs created this year in the context of our current resources and the progress made in preparing and approving language plans. It is crucial for the Gaeltacht’s sustainable future, that enterprise and language development are promoted simultaneously and to that end that appropriate resources are being made available. This in itself is a considerable challenge but we remain optimistic in light of the progress we have made in recent years. It is encouraging to see the number of High Potential Start Ups that we have supported this year and the appointment of the first Language Planning Officers throughout the Gaeltacht is reassuring.”
Economic impact of Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies
Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies generate expenditure of €430 million, which flows directly into the national economy, on payroll, services and the purchase of raw materials. In 2017, client companies had a payroll of €184 million, with an average salary of €41,000 per employee in companies with ten or more employees. Figures from ABSEI research conducted in 2018 show that Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies had aggregated total sales of €862 million the previous year. A total of €522 million of sales consisted of exports, and the highest percentage of sales are attributed to the food and drinks industry.
525 new jobs approved for the Gaeltacht in 2018
The Board of Údarás na Gaeltachta approved a number of new projects which will create 525 jobs, with an estimated total investment of €42 million as the projects develop over the next few years. The majority of job approvals during 2018 were for projects in Counties Donegal, Galway and Mayo, with significant approvals for Counties Kerry, Cork and Meath also. It is worth noting that it was companies in the medical device, food, services and niche manufacturing sectors that saw the most development.
It is also significant that support of €1.51m was approved for seven High Potential Start-ups companies in 2018, located in counties Meath, Galway and Mayo. HPSUs are companies that are deemed to have development and rapid growth potential, and that will achieve 10 fulltime jobs and sales of €1m within 3 years.
Property Portfolio and upgrading of buildings
Gaeltacht areas are located in some of the most beautiful areas of the world; rural locations, many of which are remote. The private sector does not have the resources to provide the appropriate business facilities in these areas as would happen in urban areas throughout the country, therefore Údarás na Gaeltachta’s business model for these regions over the last 40 years functions more effectively. Údarás na Gaeltachta owns a wide range of properties and enterprise facilities available for businesses in order to attract them to these rural locations. Many of the properties have undergone significant upgrading works over the years and employment has increased as a result. However, a portion of the portfolio is not fit for purpose and require comprehensive renovations, and the 2018 announcement of additional capital resources will allow the organisation to undertake this work gradually.
Over 1000 participants in Social Employment Schemes
Údarás na Gaeltachta administers social employment schemes (Community Employment Scheme, Rural Social Scheme & TÚS Scheme), funded by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection which play an important role in providing work experience and training for the Gaeltacht community. There was an increase of 45 in the number of participants on Social Employment Schemes in the Gaeltacht during 2018, with 1,093 participants and 49 supervisors employed throughout the Gaeltacht.
Brexit Challenges and International Policies
There are not many certainties regarding Brexit, except that it will have a significant effect on the economy of this country. Whatever decision is made will also have an effect on Gaeltacht companies and Údarás na Gaeltachta is working closely with our client companies to ensure that they are prepared and improving company structures and markets as much as possible. The United Kingdom is often the first step in exporting for any Gaeltacht company as it enters the export market for the first time. For this reason, and with Brexit almost upon us, Údarás na Gaeltachta agreed a reciprocal Trade Office arrangement with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce at the end of 2018. The official agreement will be signed early in the new year when the dedicated reciprocal trade offices are established to provide business support services to companies and facilitate investment and trade opportunities. The arrangement will act as a valuable resource for SMEs looking to expand their international B2B partnerships.
Figures from ABSEI research show that 28% of client companies’ export sales, valued at €148 million, is to the United Kingdom. Up to 33% (€172m) is done in the European Union and 24% (€124m) in North America. With up to 60% of the client companies raw materials being imported, at a value of €233m, any customs tariffs would certainly have an effect on the bottom line. If a ‘no deal’ Brexit goes ahead it is possible that additional resources may be needed to support companies and to protect jobs.
An tÚdarás is working in cooperation with other State agencies on a coordinated approach to Brexit and will continue with its support scheme ‘Bí Réidh’ (Be Prepared), which Údarás is administering for its client companies. The majority of exports by Údarás client companies to the UK are from the Wood/Timber products (26%), Paper (18%), Basic and Fabricated Metal (18%) and Food/Drink (7%) sectors. The biggest exports to the European Union are products in Marine, Food/Drink, Computing Products and Medical Devices sectors.
Language Planning Activities
In terms of language planning, 2018 was an historic year from a language planning point of view with the achievement of significant milestones. At the end of the year 13 language plans had received approval and implementation of same had begun in nearly all LPA’s. In addition, another three plans have been submitted to the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht for language planning areas in the Tuaisceart Dhún na nGall LPA, Dún na nGall Theas LPA in Donegal and the Ceantar na nOileán LPA in Galway. It is hoped that a further 8 plans will be completed and submitted to the Department during 2019. This would mean that 24 plans will be underway in 23 LPAs and one Gaeltacht Service Town by the end of 2019.
This is an significant investment and source of encouragement for Gaeltacht communities around the country. Currently Language Planning Officers have been employed in 4 LPAs and a further 8 are being recruited. A budget of €1.49m has been approved for the implementation of the 13 language plans approved thus far, which will involve 17 jobs for Language Planning Officers and Assistant Language Planning Officers.
Údarás Chairperson, Anna Ní Ghallachair, said “The employment base of Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies has increased each year for the last six consecutive years and a significant milestone has been reached in terms of language planning also. It is due to the diligence of Gaeltacht communities in the preparation of plans for their areas that the benefits and fulfilment of their implementation can now be realised. This is now the true beginning of a campaign to preserve the language in the Gaeltacht and we welcome the resources that will be available to communities for the implementation of their plans. This is a great opportunity for Gaeltacht communities to receive direct investment and raise awareness of language issues in each area.
The development of gteic innovation centres and digital hubs throughout the Gaeltacht has created a stimulus and energy in these areas. There has been a lot of interest locally and nationally in this network and they will provide Údarás with more flexibility to support innovative companies that are either starting out or consolidating their base. The additional resources that have been granted to develop this technological ecosystem are greatly welcomed and will give us an opportunity to attract the Gaeltacht diaspora back to their communities.”
Outlook for 2019
Although the employment and job stabilisation is very important to client companies based in regional rural areas, the coming year is a crucial one for Gaeltacht companies and communities. Without any certainty thus far regarding Brexit, the year ahead could prove to be a difficult one for Gaeltacht companies who depend on UK markets, products and materials.
However, Údarás na Gaeltachta will continue to implement the objectives it has laid out in its Strategic Plan and in national strategic plans, including Action Plan 2018–2022 for the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010–2030, the Action Plan for Rural Development, the Action Plan for Jobs, Our Ocean Wealth – Integrated Marine Plan. Údarás na Gaeltachta is confident that the relevant policies, strategies and projects are being implemented to achieve the target of 8,000 fulltime jobs by 2020.
Among the initiatives which will be emphasised in 2019 are:
gteic – The Gaeltacht Digital Network
The development of 30 innovation and digital hubs – gteic –is a central aspect of Údarás’ strategy to promote remote working and to support innovative companies in locating to the Gaeltacht. Currently, four hubs are open in Gaoth Dobhair, An Cheathrú Rua, Béal an Mhuirthead and Daingean Uí Chúis and it is expected that hubs will open in Béal Átha an Ghaorthaidh, Carna, Na Forbacha, Árainn Mhór and Inis Mór shortly, which will further add to the new gigabit digital ecosystem budding in the Gaeltacht.
With the substantial support of €2.8M funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund announced in 2018, it is hoped that three projects will be completed before the end of 2019, which will greatly benefit the gteic network as follows:
Taskforces and Forums
The Uíbh Ráthach (Iveragh) Interagency Taskforce is a national objective of the Action Plan for Rural Development. It is directed by Údarás na Gaeltachta and aims to develop enterprise, increase employment opportunities and best use the resources available in the regions. The final report and the taskforce’s action plan will be published in early 2019. A new consultation model was implemented nationally for this taskforce and it is hoped to be replicated in other areas around the country.
The final report of the Enterprise Forum for the Meath Gaeltacht will be published in March 2019, which will include recommendations on how to bring a new focus to enterprise development opportunities in this area and how to benefit from its close proximity to Dublin.
On a local level, Údarás na Gaeltachta published the Implementation Report of ‘Ag Forbairt na Fiontraíochta ar Pháirc Ghnó Ghaoth Dobhair’ in May 2018 which was the final report of the Enterprise Development Forum that was established in 2014. The implementation report showed that the employment targets set out were achieved with the approval of 313 full time posts during the plan period.
The Iorras Aithneach 5 Year Action Plan has been developed by the Iorras Aithneach community in association with Údarás na Gaeltachta. The plan has been compiled to promote employment, enterprise and infrastructure in the Conamara Láir area, in which some electoral divisions were identified by the agency Pobal as disadvantaged areas.
The Gaeltacht na hÉireann Brand
The Gaeltacht na hÉireann brand, a new brand developed by Údarás na Gaeltachta, was launched in 2018. The brand was developed to promote Ireland’s Gaeltacht areas and the excellence of their products worldwide under one inclusive brand. The brand will act as a stamp of approval for everything that originates in the Gaeltacht and will be a visual representation of the vibrancy, enterprise, cultural richness, provenance and unique language of the Gaeltacht regions. We will continue the distribution and growth of the brand among companies, organisations and communities in the Gaeltacht in 2019.
There will be a specific focus in 2019 on the strategic development of tourism in the Gaeltacht, along with the enablement and development of tourist facilities and products. Support will continue to be given to 10 tourism officers under the Tourism Management Development Scheme established in all Gaeltacht areas in 2018. This scheme will result in an increase in skills and excellence in tourism offerings. It is vital that additional people with relevant skills are employed in this sector. A capital investment in tourist facilities will be pursued and various marketing campaigns will continue to be run to disseminate the Gaeltacht’s merit as a tourist destination. It is intended to commence the development of five strategic tourism projects as a partnership between local communities, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Fáilte Éireann and the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht as cited in the Action Plan 2018–2022 for the 20-Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010–2030.
The development of renewable energy initiatives, natural resources and enterprises based on natural resources are central to the organisation’s strategy and a specific focus will be placed on these matters in the next few years to avail of various European initiatives. The LECo, Safer, React, RegEnergy, Digi2Market and Horizon 2020 schemes are of significant benefit to Gaeltacht areas and will support the empowerment of communities in the areas of renewable energy, climate change, seafood resources and energy resources. Údarás na Gaeltachta is involved in and is a lead organisation at present for a number of European initiatives and it is hoped that other funding applications made recently will be successful also.
Páirc na Mara
In light of the significant progress being made on the environmental assessment study on the proposed site of Páirc na Mara, a marine innovation park in Cill Chiaráin, Conamara, it is hoped that planning applications for the overall Páirc na Mara initiative will be ready in the first half of 2019. A source of encouragement for the initiative was the capital funding of €2m approved for MICD Páirc na Mara, a collaborative project involving Údarás na Gaeltachta, University of Ireland, Galway, and Galway–Mayo Institute of Technology, to develop a marine innovation and development centre in Páirc na Mara. The approval of assistance was given under the second round of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund delivered through Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta will also provide equity of €400,000 for the project.
It is envisaged that Páirc na Mara will be an important facilitator for the entire marine industry not only in Cill Chiaráin and Conamara but at a regional and national level, and even at an international level.
As has already been stated, Údarás na Gaeltachta’s main aim is to preserve and strengthen the Irish language by developing the Gaeltacht, and to inspire and strengthen indigenous, confident Gaeltacht communities. Údarás na Gaeltachta has strategic responsibilities and duties to the Gaeltacht and has adopted an integrated approach with regard to the development of the Gaeltacht. An tÚdarás is in a unique position to undertake a leading role in furthering the development and expansion of the Irish language as a community language and to drive the integrated economic, social and cultural development of the Gaeltacht, commensurate with the resources at its disposal.