Thursday, 15 October 2020
Department of Trade, Enterprise and Employment
I propose to take Questions Nos. 31, 53 and 63 together.
I can assure the Deputy that jobs and enterprise in the regions is a priority of Government. I want to see a situation where all towns, counties and regions across the country are enabled to realise their potential as contributors to economic recovery and growth, and thereby reduce regional disparities.
The Deputy will be aware that my Department’s nine Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020 which were launched by my Department in early 2019 play a central role in supporting the delivery of balanced regional enterprise development and in ensuring that employment growth is spread across all regions. The Plans are maintained as ‘live’ agendas which aim to be agile and responsive to both new opportunities and new challenges, for example: Brexit, Climate Action, Digital Economy, and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic economic impacts.
The principle behind the Plans is collaboration between regional stakeholders on initiatives that can help to realise the region’s enterprise development potential. These stakeholders include: Local Authorities, the LEOs, the enterprise agencies, the Regional Skills Forum, tourism bodies, private sector ‘enterprise champions’, the Higher Education Institutes and others.
The Plans have a strong relevance for rural Ireland with actions focused on areas such as skills development, tourism, the food sector, agri-tech, the marine and maritime, regional enterprise co-working and remote working spaces, talent retention, and place-making.
At the end of June this year my predecessor as Minister, Heather Humphreys TD met with the Chairpersons of the nine Regional Enterprise Plan Committees on a conference call and invited them to work with their Committees to identify proposals that would help to address economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic in their region. These groups have met in virtual format and are reporting back to my Department with a view to contributing to the development of the National Economic Plan.
It is worth noting that the Government has put several funding streams and supports in place to support regional development and job creation. For example, the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund will provide investment of €1 billion into rural areas over the period 2019-2027 which will support projects that will have a transformational effect on towns, villages and rural areas across Ireland and further support job creation. In addition, under my own Department’s regional funding streams, over €100m in funding has been provided under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) for projects across every region and over €980k awarded under the Regional Technology Clustering Fund.
The Deputy will also be aware of the Government’s July Stimulus which introduced a €7 billion package of supports, designed to help businesses across all regions to open, to help those already open to remain open, to get staff back to work and for those who cannot go back to their old jobs, to secure new opportunities.
I can also advise the Deputy that my colleague, Minister Heather Humphreys T.D., Minister for Community, Rural Development and the Islands is currently developing the next phase of rural development policy, which will set out measures to support the economic and social needs of rural areas over the period 2020-2025, including actions to support employment in rural areas. As was the case with the Action Plan for Rural Development 2017-2019 which was published in 2017, the new policy will reflect a whole-of-Government commitment to rural Ireland.
The Department of Community, Rural Development and the Islands also contributes directly to job creation in rural areas through programmes such the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and LEADER.
It is important to note that over the last five years, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland have focused on supporting enterprise growth and job creation throughout the regions. 65% of new jobs created by Enterprise Ireland client companies in 2019 were outside the Dublin region, while regional investment increased by 50% over the past five years of IDA Ireland’s strategy “Winning - Foreign Direct Investment 2015-2019”.
Guided by the Regional Enterprise Plans, and with all regional stakeholders working together, the regions are well positioned to realise their enterprise potential and see better quality, sustainable jobs and investment.