Seanad debates

Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Employment Action Plan

5:00 pm

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Sinn Fein)

I welcome the Minister to the House. The matter relates to the south east employment action plan which has been launched by the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. The action plan was developed in response to serious job losses in Waterford city. In recent months and years there have been some high profile closures such as Waterford Crystal and more recently TalkTalk. Much was promised by the Minister. The Government indicated that an action plan would be put in place to help not just Waterford city but the south-east region. I welcome the publication of the plan and that the Minister has brought together stakeholders from across various enterprise agencies and boards, development boards, city and county managers and many others. However, the big problem with the plan is a lack of specifics and measurable elements. For example, there is reference in the document to the rate of unemployment in the south-east region being 18.2% while the national average is 14.5%. The gap is almost 4%. In parts of Waterford city the unemployment figure is more than 20%. The document does not specify whether the Government is going to set a target of reducing unemployment from 18.2% to at least bring the south east into line with the national average. That would still be unacceptable, but at least it would be a specific measurable action contained within the document but that is absent.

Reference is made in the document to the IDA and Enterprise Ireland being committed to pursuing job opportunities. They are doing that anyway; so there is nothing new in that respect. The document also indicates that a strong, regional value proposition, a marketing strategy built around key regional strengths and areas of opportunity, should be developed by means of a co-ordinated approach involving the enterprise agencies, local authorities and other regional stakeholders. What does that mean? To be honest, it is a lot of waffle in terms of what is said and what is not said. The document indicates that there will be a review of the planning and land use and transport strategy, PLUTS. In terms of the enterprise agencies it states that IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland will continue to convene additional first flight workshops and initiate a marketing campaign. There are no measurable goals and few specific actions in the plan.

Reference is made in the plan to a number of areas where Waterford could potentially major in terms of job opportunities such as clean tech, life sciences and tourism. Clean tech and life sciences are two areas where it is suggested that the region could prosper. Another difficulty I have with the document is that it says the agencies will have a spotlight on Waterford. What does that mean? The Minister is saying that the region needs to perform better and the enterprise agencies need to deliver for the region, including the IDA, but does that mean that when there are opportunities for the IDA to attract foreign direct investment and other employment opportunities to this country that they will ring-fence those opportunities for the south east? That is what should be in the plan because if it is taken in isolation to the national plans of Enterprise Ireland and the IDA then the plan is not worth anything. There needs to be measurable and specific goals and real, actionable points to which the people of Waterford can refer and say the Government is serious about job creation in Waterford and ensuring that in life sciences, clean tech and a number of other areas that have been identified, the enterprise agencies will respond accordingly.

The action plan is a regional plan. It is not about Waterford city but if the region is to succeed then Waterford city needs to succeed. One of the things the Government could do immediately is to designate Waterford Institute of Technology as a university for the region. That will not solve all of our problems but it would certainly lift Waterford city and the region. If the city does not perform economically and does not get the opportunities and jobs that we need then, unfortunately, the region will not perform either. The figures in the document prove that.


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