Enabling Údarás na Gaeltachta feature in the new government's Jobs Budget

Issued : Wednesday 30 March, 2011

Údarás na Gaeltachta

 

Údarás na Gaeltachta is the state’s regional development agency for the Gaeltacht. The Údarás promotes enterprise development and job creation, with the overall aim of ensuring the survival of Irish speaking communities in counties Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Meath and Waterford. The agency also has some Irish language, social, cultural and community responsibilities.

 

The Board of the Údarás has 20 members. The Chairperson and two other members are appointed to five year terms by the Minister for the Gaeltacht but the remaining 17 members are directly elected from seven electoral areas (drawn from among 10 Dáil constituencies). Representing the Labour Party, I was elected to the single seat for the Ring and Old Parish (Co. Waterford) Gaeltachtaí in 1999 and re-elected in 2005. Elections due in 2010 were postponed for at least two years, pending legislation on the restructuring of the authority.

20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language

 

The 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language was approved by the Government in November 2010. The Strategy envisages the Údarás having a central role in its implementation.

 

The “Progress” section of the Programme for Government (“Government for National Recovery 2011-2016”) on page 59 states:

“We will support the 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language 2010-2030 and will deliver on the achievable goals and targets proposed.”

 

Current employment supported by the Údarás

 

There are 7,074 people employed in Údarás client-companies in various parts of counties Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Meath and Waterford. This figure accounts for one in five of Whole Time Equivalent jobs in Gaeltacht area and, in terms of total impact on local economies, more than 14,000 jobs are estimated to be directly or indirectly supported through the Údarás.

 

Ring and Old Parish, as unique communities in Co. Waterford, have a combined population of less than 1,500. Up to 300 jobs in these communities are directly or indirectly supported by Údarás na Gaeltachta.

 

Údarás active in sectors not supported by other state enterprise agancies

 

There are other public entities charged with job creation and support in the state. However, 60% of employment (4,200 jobs) in Údarás client-companies are in sectors not supported by other enterprise development agencies such as the IDA and Enterprise Ireland. Such sectors feature:

  • Audio-visual and digital media.
  • Aquaculture and fish Processing.
  • Primary Sector (Forestry, etc).
  • Cultural Tourism.
  • Language-based Enterprises.
  • Arts/Cultural-based Enterprises.

Potential in each of these sectors in the Ring and Old Parish areas has been realised through the involvement of Údarás na Gaeltachta, since its establishment 30 years ago.

 

Growing overall employment levels and reduction of Capital Budget

 

A percentage (up to10%) of the employment-base in Gaeltacht areas is lost annually as a typical part of the business lifecycle, due to sectoral trends (shift from traditional to new and emerging industries) and enterprises restructuring/streamlining to improve competitiveness. Since 2009, there have been insufficient job approvals by the Údarás to maintain and grow overall employment in the relevant parts of counties Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Meath and Waterford.

 

There has been a reduction in the agency’s Capital Budget (i.e. for enterprise and job creation supports) from €25.5 million in 2008 to just €6 million in 2011. Notwithstanding that every public agency had less resources in that period, the 80% reduction in such support to Údarás na Gaeltachta is exceptional.

 

When the Údarás began 30 years ago, its Capital Budget was £17 million (€22 million) and equivalent – in today’s terms – to some €80 million.

 

The costs of sustaining and creating employment

 

In recent years, pursuant to advice of the serving Minister for the Gaeltacht, the potential from sale of Údarás assets (e.g. part of its factory building stock and land) or recovering grant monies due to default has been realised and possibly saved the organisation from further reduction in state support. Some 86% of the Údarás’s enterprise properties are currently occupied. The organisation’s use of a capital budget would provide for “fit for purpose” accommodation for new projects and employment opportunities.

 

Taking the IDA and Enterprise Ireland’s established yardstick, €12 million is required for every 1,000 jobs created. By the same measurement, once an approval of a project is made, a three year period is allowed for full realisation of job creation. In 2008, the Údarás approved 1,269 jobs and 1,024 were created. The estimate for 2011 is for approval of just 500 jobs and about 400 to be created in that year. However, the contractual obligations on the Údarás (based on outstanding project approvals) this year and into 2012 and beyond, would effectively see a state’s annual Capital Budget allocation of €6 million used up by the agency to service those commitments and leaves no scope for new job approvals going forward.

 

There are up to 90 instances in which the Údarás has invested directly in companies (e.g. shares) and this is accounted for through the Capital Budget.

 

Investment priorities

 

Since July 2010 and the approval by the previous government (at its Farmleigh House meeting) of “Infrastructure Investment Priorities 2010-2016: a financial framework”, produced for the government by the Dept. of Finance July 2010 (subsequently incorporated in “Investing for Growth and Jobs” programme published by government) – as described on page 100 – there is no more of a guarantee to the Údarás than a €6 million estimate as a Capital Budget.

 

Recent indications from the Department of Arts, Heritage and Gaeltacht Affairs to the Údarás are that the capital budget allocation for 2012 and 2013 may not be greater than €6 million. Unless that is altered by the new Fine Gael/Labour administration, such allocations will prove very prohibitive to the Údarás.

 

To reasonably implement its aims in the Gaeltacht communities of Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Meath and Waterford, the Údarás says creation of up to 1,000 new jobs annually is necessary. This would require a minimum €12 million per year of a Capital Budget. Effectively, taking the Ring and Old Parish area in Co. Waterford, the creation of up to 30 new jobs a year would be in doubt.

 

Ensuring a full enterprise role for the Údarás in the Gaeltacht

 

The 20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language does envisage an ongoing role for Údarás na Gaeltachta (or “Údarás na Gaeilge agus Gaeltachta” if the organisation is expanded to include a cultural promotional remit nationwide) and specifies that its enterprise development role would continue. There had been speculation previously as to intentions on this question, as the McCarthy/Bord Snip Report recommendations envisaged that enterprise role being removed from the Údarás altogether. It seems, however, that the previous government in its day to day workings of the Dept.of the Gaeltacht, interpreted policy from the 20 Year Strategy as restricting the Údarás to the promotion of Irish language based enterprise only. Should the new government follow in this interpretation, it would seriously undermine the basic functions of the Údarás. Those of all political hues and none represented on the current Board would be anxious that support for the fuller remit in the Gaeltacht be clarified as a matter of urgency.

 

The 20 Year Strategy envisages Foras na Gaeilge being an All Island/cross border entity (as part of an Foras Teanga with the Board of Ulster Scots) and expanding the Údarás to take on Irish language promotion matters in non Gaeltacht areas – hence, proposed name change to Údarás na Gaeilge agus na Gaeltachta. Should this proceed, it should not be done to the detriment of a focus on enterprise development within the Gaeltacht or the representation on its Board for small Gaeltacht communities like Ring and Old Parish in Co. Waterford.

 

The economic impact of the Údarás

 

In addition to the 7,074 full-time jobs in the Gaeltacht areas of Cork, Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Mayo, Meath and Waterford, and the agency’s ongoing close, working relationship with such client companies, the economic impact of Údarás client companies is:  

  • €734 million total sales by client-companies.
  • €421 million in direct expenditure in the Irish Economy.
  • €365 million in export sales (almost 50% of total output).
  • €198 million payroll to Gaeltacht-based employees.
  • €27.7 million repaid in income tax to the exchequer.
  • €42 million total tax paid to the Exchequer
  • €19.9 million on Research and Development expenditure (€2 million of it supported through Údarás grants to companies).

 

Total impact of the Údarás

 

In terms of the total impact on the Irish economy, the contribution of Údarás client-companies (in terms of the 14,000 full-time jobs directly or indirectly supported) are:

  • €1.5 billion in total sales.
  • €907 million of direct expenditure in Irish economy.
  • €697 million contribution to GDP.

There is a significant contribution by Údarás na Gaeltachta client-companies to the Irish economy, roughly €1.5 billion of total economic impact. Such companies are operating successfully in a challenging linguistic and rural environment.

 

A good track record in creating jobs

 

Údarás na Gaeltachta does have a track record of creating around 1,000 jobs annually. It covering a wide range of sectors, providing sustainable employment, less exposed to sectoral slumps and declines. The net contribution to the state ensures value for money – as evidenced in the Indecon Report.

 

Whilst the Údarás continues to be “open for business”, the concerns about the adequacy of the Capital Budget remain (language promotion and community development, support for tourism initiatives and administration within the organisation come under the Current Budget).

 

I would be very grateful if you would ensure that Údarás na Gaeltachta is not disadvantaged in its role of supporting existing employment and the promotion of further job opportunities.

 

(ends)

 

Notes (for further information):

 

For copy of Annual Report and other information on the activities of Údarás na Gaeltachta, see: www.Udaras.ie

 

For copy of “20 Year Strategy for the Irish Language, 2010-2030” (approved by the Government, November 2010), see: http://www.pobail.ie/en/IrishLanguage/Strategy/StrategyEnglish.pdf

 

For copy of “Infrastructure Investment Priorities 2010-2016: a financial framework”, produced for the government by the Dept. of Finance July 2010 (subsequently incorporated in “Investing for Growth and Jobs” programme published by government), see:

http://www.merrionstreet.ie/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Capital-Expenditure-Review1.pdf

 

For a report on the Údarás na Gaeltachta (Amendment) Act in July 2010, which postponed elections to the body, see: http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0708/1224274268327.html

 

For evaluation of Údarás na Gaeltachta in the “Report of the Working Group on the Creation of Employment in the Gaeltacht, see: http://www.pobail.ie/en/AnGhaeltacht/UdarasnaGaeltachta/Otherdocuments/ReportWrokingGroup.doc

 

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