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Minister must recognise Gaeltacht jobs crisis - Doherty

9 April, 2008

Sinn Féin Gaeltacht Affairs Spokesperson Pearse Doherty has described the refusal of both the Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs and the Chief Executive of Údarás na Gaeltachta to recognise the jobs crisis in Gaeltacht areas as a major obstacle to be overcome if there is to be any chance of even maintaining the current levels of employment in the Gaeltacht.

Senator Doherty, speaking after attending a meeting of the Oireachtas Committee on Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, said both the Department and Údarás need to move beyond the position of trying to maintain jobs and start engaging in exercises to increase levels of employment in the Gaeltacht.

He said, "While most other parties are congratulatory of Údarás for managing to maintain existing levels of employment in Gaeltacht areas I would describe the past year as a disappointment given the very low base we started at.

"It is not good enough for the Department and Údarás to have as a target the maintaining of existing levels of employment in the Gaeltacht. They need to start engaging in exercises to increase levels of employment. Their refusal to recognise the jobs crisis in the Gaeltacht is a major obstacle that will have to be overcome if we are to achieve this.

"One out of every eight employees in companies supported by Údarás na Gaeltachta lost their jobs last year. This is not unique to last year. The high turnover of jobs means that workers are not able to develop their careers, seek promotion or avail of redundancy packages. This has also helped to create the current situation were a disproportionate number of jobs in the Gaeltacht are low paid jobs.

"Both the Minister and Údarás need to wake up to the jobs crisis in the Gaeltacht. Some areas currently have up to 20% unemployment yet today in the Committee they both refused to acknowledge that there is a crisis.

"There needs to be investment in urgently required infrastructure in Gaeltacht areas particularly transport and internet access. But this is only playing catch up. We really need to be investing in next generation networks if we are to become leaders in information technology. These networks provide speeds of up to twenty-five times higher than normal broadband connections. By the time broadband is brought to the Gaeltacht it will be a thing of the past.

"At today's meeting I also proposed the establishment of an agency that would help indigenous people who have good business ideas to develop those ideas into fully operational businesses. Many people in the Gaeltacht are turned off by all the red tape that surrounds applications for grants for small and medium businesses. This new agency would help to walk people through all of that and help them to draw down the supports required. I welcome the Chief Executive of Údarás' acceptance that this is something that could be done.

"The bottom line is that there is a jobs crisis in the Gaeltacht. The refusal of the Minister and Údarás to accept that only helps to sustain that crisis." ENDS

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