COMPANIES based in the Gaeltacht lost more jobs than they created in the last year, amid warnings that the lack of infrastructure in Irish-speaking areas was holding back investment.
In its end-of-year statement, Udaras na Gaeltachta said its client firms shed 37 more jobs last year than it had created during 2012. Companies backed by the agency took on 700 staff last year but continued to cut jobs at a higher rate.
Despite the decline in employment, the authority said it was the lowest in more than 10 years and was evidence of that the jobs market in its regions was stabilising.
Even with the improved performance though, Udaras said the lack of broadband access in parts of its areas was hurting its ability to attract investment to Irish-speaking areas.
"To attract inward investment, the Gaeltacht needs to be in a position to offer modern enterprises the most up-to-date physical business and telecommunications infrastructure.
"The absence of access to high-speed broadband is still a challenge for companies in some Gaeltacht areas," the authority said.
A spokesman for the Department of Communications could not comment specifically on broadband access in the Gaeltacht, but highlighted the government's National Broadband Scheme, which he said has brought fast internet to rural areas.
Overall, the end-of-year statement paints an improving picture in the Gaeltacht.
Client companies contributed 3pc more to the local economy than in 2011, and now employ 7,553 people. Export-led businesses like pharmaceuticals and food continue to thrive but, as in the wider economy, companies that are focused on the domestic market are struggling.
Despite what it called a "stabilising" of the employment market, the body acknowledged the number of jobs being created was too low.
"The fall-off in job approvals was due to a number of factors, including the state of the global economy, companies deferring expansion, and a substantial reduction in budget provision to Udaras," it said.
Its budget for capital expansion was down by about 75pc since 2008, Udaras added.