Thursday 17 October 2019

Government warns that regional job initiatives will be crucial after Brexit

Business Minister Heather Humphreys. Photo: Steve Humphreys
Business Minister Heather Humphreys. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Ralph Riegel

THE Government warned that regional jobs initiatives which have slashed the unemployment rate by 50pc over recent years will now be crucial in Ireland adapting to the challenges posed by Brexit.

Enterprise Minister Heather Humphreys stressed that Ireland must adhere to a 'ground up' jobs strategy where the traditional strength of the regions is harnessed and exploited.

“Jobs growth has been strong in all regions, including the south-west," she said.

"There are 29,800 more people at work today in counties Cork and Kerry than at the beginning of 2015, when the Government first launched regional jobs plans, and the unemployment rate has almost halved, reducing from 10.5 percent down to 5.3 percent today."

“Notwithstanding this huge success, it is clear that there are new challenges emerging for enterprises in the external environment."

Ms Humphreys, speaking in west Cork where she launched the South West Regional Enterprise Plan, said it was vital all stakeholders in Ireland's regions now work together.

She is unveiling nine new regional enterprise plans aimed at maximising business development and job creation over the next decade.

"The regions can adopt a leadership position through driving initiatives from the ground-up," she said.

Under the south west programme, six objectives have been identified - build capability and resilience in the region’s enterprise base; develop the region’s enterprise hubs; leverage opportunities through business clustering and internationalisation; increase the capacity of the tourism sector; support growth in the region’s marine and maritime sector; and ensure the availability of skills and talent to underpin growth potential.

Ms Humphreys said the Government was providing support funding to ensure such regional goals can be achieved ranging from €1bn under the rural regeneration fund to €500m in the climate action fund and a further €500m under the disruptive technologies fund.

She acknowledged that Brexit will pose major challenges both for urban and rural Ireland.

“My Department will continue to highlight the key issues that businesses need to be aware of in the run up to Brexit, and the Government supports that are available to them to mitigate its impacts”, she said.

Agriculture Minister Michael Creed, the first Cabinet minister to warn that there was no upside of Brexit for Ireland, said Ireland's regions face impending challenges.

“It is clear that there are new challenges emerging for enterprises and the agri-economy in rural Ireland, whether it is Brexit or the transition to a low carbon economy," he said.

"It is critical that as a Government we do all in our power to support resilience in the businesses that we have and ensure that there is a pipeline of new opportunities so that regions and rural communities can positively cope with changes that lie ahead."

He said it was critical that such regional development plans lay emphasis on traditional engines of rural development such as farming, fishing and the maritime sector.

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