Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Question 45: To ask the Minister for Community; Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs if he will indicate the initiatives that have been introduced to prevent unemployment and stimulate job creation in Gaeltacht areas; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [19058/10]
It is a primary aim of Údarás na Gaeltachta to reverse the downward employment trend in the Gaeltacht and to effect the transition from a declining manufacturing sector to employment in services, including Irish language-centred employment. The organisation also provides supports for community-based projects in the areas of language development, child care, youth services and rural development. Atotal of €30 million has been allocated to Údarás na Gaeltachta from my Department's Vote for the year 2010. It is worth noting also that extra funding of €2 million was provided as an additional support to the organisation at the end of 2009, bringing the overall allocation for 2009 to €37.6 million. Thus, over the two year period, 2009-10, an tÚdarás will have received €67.6 million from my Department's Vote in order to allow it to pursue its objectives.
In addition to Exchequer voted funding, an tÚdarás also has access to other sources of income that enable it to promote and stimulate employment creating initiatives, for example, income generated from schemes such as the community employment scheme and the rural social scheme, and income from dividends, fees and the sale and lease of assets. Funding is also made available to an tÚdarás by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment through the employment subsidy scheme and the enterprise stabilisation fund. These supports are important to businesses in the Gaeltacht and help them to continue trading and to protect jobs. Last year, for example, these two schemes safeguarded 605 jobs.
I am acutely aware of the challenges and the obstacles facing an tÚdarás in the difficult economic environment currently being experienced at both the national and international level. In this context, it is encouraging to note that 710 new jobs were created in Údarás client companies in the Gaeltacht in 2009. I would also like to draw Deputy Ring's attention to the fact that the rural development programme, RDP, 2007-13 is being delivered by Meitheal Forbartha na Gaeltachta, MFG, in Gaeltacht areas. While the key RDP measure providing direct support for investment and job creation is the support for business creation and development measure, other RDP measures also have job creation targets and aim to support opportunities for job creation in rural areas. Under the RDP, MFG has an overall programme allocation of almost €17.3 million, including a specific allocation of €1.68 million for business creation and development.
Comhar na nOileán, the Leader partnership company for the island communities, most of which are in the Gaeltacht, has been allocated a total budget of €4.6 million under the RDP. Finally, a further allocation in my Department's Vote in 2010 for Gaeltacht and islands development amounts to €33 million. This expenditure on various schemes, including infrastructural improvements, cultural and social schemes and island transport services, is an important stimulus for the Gaeltacht economy.
I wish to ask the Minister a number of questions. The first concerns jobs losses in the Gaeltacht. He said some 710 jobs were created but forgot to say that we lost 721. We had a gain of ten or 11 jobs in the Gaeltacht areas. Since then we have had major lobs losses in Erris in Belmullet, Donegal and Glenties.
Was the decision to grant a bonus of €3,900 to the head of Údarás na Gaeltachta correct, given the situation the country is in and the job losses it has suffered? Was it approved by the Department of Finance?
I have a very important question. Has the Minister had any bilateral meetings with his colleague, the Minister, Deputy Ryan, on wave and wind energy, in particular in Gaeltacht areas? People are prepared to spend millions of euro. They want to come into Gaeltacht areas and rural Ireland, but the major problem is that we have no national grid.
Has the Minister, Deputy Carey, had meetings with the Minister, Deputy Ryan, to discuss how we will get a national grid and companies into rural Ireland, in particular, and Gaeltacht areas? If he had not had such meetings, will he have them to see how we can create jobs in Gaeltacht areas? It is one way we can do it.
On the Deputy's final question, as he knows, I was in Mayo on Saturday, with the Minister, Deputy Ryan, and the Minister, Deputy Ó Cuív. In the context of discussions with the north-west Mayo forum, the issue of job creation was fairly central to the debate. The issues of job creation, sustainable jobs and using new technologies was part of that discussion. In the lead-up to the meeting on Saturday I had three, if not more, meetings with the Minister, Deputy Ryan, at which we discussed a wide range of issues and initiatives which will be required to support jobs, not just in the north-west Mayo area but in the Gaeltacht generally. It is proposed that we continue with those.
On the bonus paid to the príomh fheidmeannach of Údarás na Gaeltachta, I have explained the situation. The figure, as I recall, applied to a portion of, I understand, 2009. The board had take a decision that no bonus would be paid for the rest of 2009 and it took a decision, as a board, not to pay bonuses before the Department of Finance issued its directive in March or April 2009.
On job losses and job creation, it is acknowledged that-----
Would the Minister publish copies of the minutes of the meeting he held with the Minister because I am very anxious that the Minister, Deputy Carey, would have bilateral meetings with the Minister, Deputy Ryan? The only hope we have of creating jobs will have to involve wind energy and wave power. If these jobs could be created in Dublin city the Minister would not be coming to rural Ireland. We are lucky to have the water and sea at our backs because if the jobs could be created in Dublin, the Minister would have them there. I want the Minister, Deputy Carey, to put pressure on the Minister, Deputy Ryan, regarding the national grid because an American company is prepared to spend millions to create jobs in wind and wave energy.
I will certainly continue my discussions with the Minister, Deputy Ryan. Further to meetings I have had with him, I had a meeting with the príomh fheidmeannach and the cathaoirleach of Údarás na Gaeltachta. I was very encouraged to hear that the pipeline for high-end jobs was quite positive and Údarás na Gaeltachta is confident that, with the introduction of high-speed broadband and other technologies, it will be possible in the Gaeltacht to roll out a number of new technology jobs. These will replace the lower level jobs that had been traditional in the Gaeltacht over a relatively short period as part of the employment creation strategy.