Thursday, 5 November 2020
Ceisteanna - Questions - Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
1. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development the number of jobs created under the previous Action Plan for Rural Development 2017-2019 in counties Roscommon and Galway; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [34473/20]
I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The Action Plan for Rural Development 2017-2019 was a whole-of-government initiative to support the economic and social progress of rural Ireland. One of the objectives of the plan was to support enterprise growth and job creation in rural areas.
A key target of the action plan was to increase the number of people in employment outside of the Dublin region by 135,000 by 2020, using 2015 as the baseline. Between 2015 and 2019, employment in the regions increased by 222,400 outside of Dublin, greatly surpassing the target in the action plan.
Specific figures for employment by county are not captured in the quarterly labour force survey of the Central Statistics Office, CSO. However, the CSO's data show an increase in the number of people in employment in the NUTS 3 western region, which includes counties Roscommon, Galway and Mayo, of 41,800 between quarter 1 of 2015 and quarter 4 of 2019. That is the number of extra people who have been employed in those three counties.
Over the period of the Action Plan for Rural Development 2017-2019, the enterprise development agencies successfully focused on growing regional employment. In 2019, 66% of new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland client companies were outside the Dublin region, while 57% of jobs in IDA Ireland's client companies have been created outside the Dublin region. Regional jobs growth was also achieved through the work of Údarás na Gaeltachta and the local enterprise offices, while my own Department contributed to job creation in rural areas through programmes such as LEADER, the town and village renewal scheme, and the rural regeneration and development fund.
I will shortly be publishing a new rural development policy which will succeed the Action Plan for Rural Development 2017-2019. This policy will place a strong emphasis on supporting job creation and maximising the potential of remote working.
Go raibh maith agat, a Aire. The creation of more than 222,000 jobs between 2015 and 2019 is welcome, as is any job. However, stating that those jobs are outside the Dublin region does not narrow it down. I appreciate that the Minister has given a figure of 41,000 jobs for Roscommon, Galway and Mayo but we need to see more of a breakdown of those numbers for job creation, particularly in regions such as the west. The west is already in trouble because its EU status is now that of a region in transition and no longer developed.
The Minister cited the new rural development plan. Can she give us an indication whether that will be published before the end of the year? Will it include specific targets for job creation? The Minister referred to the IDA but in counties such as Roscommon we tend not to see the IDA too often, which is a major problem. Can we see more targets for job creation per county?
The northern and western regions have been recognised as regions in transition and I was glad to receive conformation from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Michael McGrath, that the Northern and Western Regional Assembly will be implementing the relevant funding on behalf of the Government. That is important because we want to see funding targeted at the area. It is also important that local people are involved in that because they know where the funding needs to go and what difficulties need to be addressed.
I am currently working on the rural development policy and hope to have it published by the end of this year or early next year. That is my plan. It is at an advanced stage and will look at things like optimising the opportunities for rural communities through high-speed broadband, supporting improved quality employment and career opportunities in rural areas, assisting the regeneration, repopulation and development of rural towns and villages, and enhancing the participation, leadership and resilience of rural communities.
Will the developmental plan for rural areas include more specific targets for job creation? I presume the plan was supposed to run from 2020 to 2025 but given that we are now at the end of 2020, will it roll over into 2021? It sounds as if it might.
It is important when we look at job losses in counties such as Roscommon and Galway to note that many rural towns have lost major industries. Aptar is closing its facility in Ballinasloe. A cigar factory and Dawn Meats factory closed in Ballaghaderreen in years gone by. Those jobs have never been replaced and that is a problem. There is a quality of life in the likes of counties Roscommon and Galway that is second to none but we must have the basic infrastructure, including broadband, to attract people to live and work in those areas in the western region and to attract emigrants to come home.
The Northern and Western Regional Assembly has put forward positive ideas for job creation. Will the Minister engage with its representatives? Will she confirm job creation targets? We need better data collection on employment in the regions.
On a local level, I can tell the Deputy that in Galway alone, 1,182 jobs were supported by local enterprise offices in 2019. A total of 897 jobs were supported by local enterprise offices in Roscommon. I do not have the figures for Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.
The regional enterprise development fund, which comes from the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, is specifically targeted at strengthening the regions. Some €16.7 million was invested under that fund since late 2017, early 2018. All that funding has gone into providing the right infrastructure to attract investment.
The record of the IDA in Galway is very good. I do not have to tell the Deputy that. Only last week, in the middle of the pandemic, 200 local jobs were created across several business functions in diligent co-operations in Galway. Those jobs were a boost to Galway and will lead to add-on jobs. It is not just those direct jobs but also those that accrue as a result of their creation. There has been much investment in Galway city. We must feed off those good job announcements and create ancillary jobs in the rural parts of Galway and Roscommon.