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Doherty demands Government action on Donegal unemployment

18 October, 2007

Sinn Féin Senator Pearse Doherty, speaking in the Seanad today, demanded that the Government address unemployment and infrastructure problems in Donegal and the North West region. The Donegal Senator called for Donegal to be designated as an area of exceptional economic need and criticised the Government for failing to acknowledge the economic crisis in the region.

He said, "This Government is failing to acknowledge that in Donegal we are enduring an economic crisis. In fact Minister Martin dismissed it as a "so-called crisis".

"Well here is the reality. Donegal's unemployment rate, at 18 per cent, is the highest in the 26 Counties. The situation is deteriorating as the region is haemorrhaging jobs. No decentralisation jobs have appeared in Donegal. It is a low wage economy with employment at present heavily reliant on the construction and low paid service sectors. Over reliance on the construction sector in Donegal, as elsewhere in the state, is problematic in the longer term. But the Government do not seem to have any plan in place.

"Over 39 per cent of the unemployed in Donegal have no formal or primary education and the county has the second highest educational dropout rate in the state with 25.5 per cent of students not completing their Leaving Certificate.

"If an area with the highest levels of unemployment, the highest levels of poverty, the highest levels of early school-leaving and the lowest levels of disposable income does not constitute a region in need of special economic assistance from the government then I don't know what does. It is an unemployment black-spot and it is in crisis Minister.

"Employers will not be attracted to the area without proper infrastructure being put in place. Donegal has major infrastructural deficiencies. It is the derailed county with no rail links and poor broadband provision with coverage patchy at best, a legacy of another Fianna Fáil privatisation debacle. So-called infrastructure is crumbling, literally, with three bridges in my constituency collapsing within the space of three years.

"The Government must stop treating Donegal as an afterthought and ensure that the North West region is designated as an area of exceptional economic need. Adequate infrastructure is key to the development of indigenous industry and attracting foreign direct investment.

"We expected recommendations and subsequent action from the Government led initiative in the1998 'Task Force report', which set a job creation of 815 net jobs per year over the following seven years, yet we actually lost jobs. We now have the Interdepartmental report, merely telling us what we know already. I am truly shocked at the obvious lack of commitment from this Government to solving the economic crisis in Donegal and I demand they address unemployment and infrastructure problems in the North West region." ENDS

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