Údarás supported employment in Gaeltacht regions returns to Celtic Tiger highs
State agency says 630 new full-time jobs were created in 2017 as it warns of the Brexit challenge
Employment across Údarás na Gaeltachta supported businesses rose to its highest level since 2008 on the back of continued jobs growth across all regions. Photograph: Joe O’Shaughnessy
Employment across Údarás na Gaeltachta supported businesses rose to its highest level since 2008 on the back of continued jobs growth across all regions. However the state agency, which is responsible for supporting economic development in Gaeltacht regions, also warned that Brexit may be the biggest challenge faced in the years ahead.
Some 630 new full-time jobs were created in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies in 2017, up by 155 on 2016. This is the first time since 1996 that there was in increase in every county in any one year, with Donegal the out-performer, creating a “significant” 103 jobs in 2017, through expansions at companies like Vhi, Randox Teo and Arán Ard Teo.
Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh, chief executive said it was a “huge boost” to see that the agency’s development strategies have been a success and that it is achieving its employment targets.
“We will be implementing our new strategy over the next three years and we are very happy to add to the organisation’s positive results and consequently support the sustainable development of the Gaeltacht. We always welcome new businesses, both large and small, which will contribute to strengthening the employment base in rural Gaeltacht areas.”
As a result of the employment growth, there were 7,503 full-time and 606 part-time jobs in companies in receipt of support from Údarás at year end, the highest level since 2008. The food & drink, services, medical device and traditional manufacturing sectors reflected the highest net increase in employment levels.
“This is the fifth year in a row that the Gaeltacht employment base has increased, where there were four years of decline prior to that,” the agency said.
Twenty-five new companies were created in the Gaeltacht during the year, creating 57 jobs, while the average salary of Údarás client companies was € 41,000.
Údarás na Gaeltachta opened Digital and Innovation Hubs in Gaoth Dobhair and Béal an Mhuirthead in 2017, and, in conjunction with other partners, a further digital hub opened in Daingean Uí Chúis, as part of a strategy to establish a Gaeltacht Digital Network across 30 locations.
Nonetheless, while employment in Gaeltacht areas has recovered somewhat, “significant challenges lie ahead”, and the highest net loss in employment levels in 2017 was seen in the filming/television, fish farming/processing and data processing sectors.
The UK’s exit from the European Union “may well be one of the biggest challenges Gaeltacht companies will face in the years ahead” Údarás said, with almost 30 per cent, or about € 147 million, of client companies’ export sales going to both the United Kingdom (most of which are wood/timber products) and the European Union. The agency has prepared a “Bí Réidh” support programme for impacted companies.
Looking ahead, the agency’s strategy for the 2018 - 2020 period is based on two main principles: maintenance and development of the Irish language and the fostering of innovation and employment.
“An tÚdarás believes that there are significant opportunities here for all the Gaeltacht areas so long as the appropriate resources are provided to implement its strategy in its entirety,” the agency said.