12 December 2006
Council for West presses issues with Enterprise Ireland
Continuing its campaign for infrastructural improvements and job creation in the region, the Council for the West has described as 'productive' its recent meeting with Enterprise Ireland in Galway.
Some months ago a delegation from the Council met Taoiseach Bertie Ahern for comprehensive discussions on a range of issues and is due to meet the Taoiseach again early in the New Year. Meanwhile talks are continuing with Minister Eamon O'Cuiv and all Ministers have been written to by the Council expressing fears that a large chunk of the NDP allocation for the region remains unspent.
Council for the West members Sean Hannick, Chairman, Declan O'Callaghan, Vice-Chairman, and Ray O’Donoghue, Chairman Community Fora, West of Ireland, joined with Oireachtas members from the Council's Liaison Group, Michael Kitt, T.D., Michael D. Higgins, T.D., and Paul Connaughton, T.D., in discussions with Enterprise Ireland Chief Executive Frank Ryan. The meeting was chaired by Deputy Kitt.
There are 138,000 people employed in Enterprise Ireland-supported Irish companies which compares to 133,000 employed in IDA-supported companies. The Enterprise Ireland-supported companies spend 60 billion euro in the Irish economy — the same figure as spent by IDA-supported companies.
There are 17,208 people employed in companies under the EI umbrella and 825 client companies which have seen a 400% increase in exports in the last 10 years. They are now focusing on new start-ups and the growth of existing companies. 11.5m euro has been spent on Enterprise Centres in the Western region. There is an 85% occupancy rate. There are now 40 Enterprise Centres in the West and North West with 9 new ones approved under the 2006 Scheme. There are 90 such Centres in the whole country, with an occupancy rate of 86%.
Deputy Michael D. Higgins raised the issue of having a National Transport Authority to be supported by appropriate legislation. This would be along the lines of the Dublin area Transport Authority but would be in the part of the country outside of Dublin and would seek to promote an integrated transport strategy including rail and other forms of public transport, as well as roads. He believed this was essential to the development of the area.
Deputy Higgins also suggested that the Government be lobbied to expand the Higher Education Grant system to ensure that graduates branching out into other areas after their primary degrees, such as design and other creative works, would be covered by grants. He said that such activity was not regarded as “progressitivity” for the purpose of grants at present.
Community Fora group chairman Ray O’Donoghue stressed the importance of communicating with people on the ground insofar as EI supports were concerned, and urged Enterprise Ireland to liaise with the widely representative Fora Group on an ongoing basis. He also stressed the importance of mentoring as a service to be provided by Enterprise Ireland for existing businesses.
Mr O’Donoghue urged EI to be proactive in going out to the Community and potential entrepreneurs and explaining their services as opposed to merely waiting for them to come in to EI.
Council for the West Chairman Sean Hannick underlined the importance of retaining BES funding for Enterprise Ireland projects. He also suggested that EI considered locating offices in Mayo or Roscommon to focus more on these regions.
The Council for the West delegation again stressed the potential of developing Knock Airport Business Park and urged that EI give priority to examining that proposal.
Michael D. Higgins highlighted the potential available in investing in publishing, film making, etc. in the region. He pointed out that the Film Board Headquarters was located in Galway and said that when he was a Minister he had made efforts to focus more investment on these areas.
It was agreed that there be ongoing contacts between the Liaison Group, the Council for the West and Enterprise Ireland.
Council for the West Chairman Sean Hannick said the meeting was most useful and productive and talks would continue with definite objectives in mind.
Note to Editors:
The Council for the West is a voluntary, independent, non-political body which monitors and reports on the socio-economic state of the West and acts as a lobby group promoting the development of the West. The Council for the West was set up by the Western Bishops and has successfully campaigned for retention of Objective 1 Status for the region.
It continues to campaign for balanced regional development and highlights issues of major concern for the region.
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Sean Hannick: Co.Mayo, Tel: 096 32255 / 087 2564824, email: email@example.com
Ray O'Donoghue: Oranmore, Co. Galway, Tel. 091 794 241, 087 2798122, email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Declan O'Callaghan, Ballaghadereen, Tel: 09498 60013, 087 2435011, email: email@example.com