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Monday 21 January 2019

Unemployment figures rising in `black triangle'

By BRIAN McDONALD

A `BLACK triangle' of unemployment exists in the west of Ireland, where the number of jobless is actually on the increase, despite a continuous drop elsewhere in the country.

And there are towns in counties Mayo and Roscommon which have not seen new investment in more than two decades.



While the overall number of jobless of fell by 888 people around the country last month, unemployment grew in Galway (+131) and Mayo (+33), and in parts of the mid-west.



And the region, which has performed worst of all areas in the Live Register figures for August, is going to have to brace itself for further grim news on the employment front.



Chief Executive of the Western Development Commission, Liam Scollan warned yesterday that the reality for industry in the West was that things would get worse before they got better. Mr Scollan pointed to the recent closure of the Warner lingerie manufacturing plant in Belmullet with the loss of 113 jobs and predicted that more such casualties would be witnessed in the near future. He said: ``Existing industries in the West, particularly in the textile and food areas are prone to closure. This is because the underlying structure is weak with regard to technology and reliance on traditional markets.''



Overall the numbers on live register increased by 0.8pc in the West and 0.5pc in the mid-west, compared to significant falls of 1.8pc and 1.1pc in the mid-east and Dublin respectively. Mr Scollan also pointed to problems in the tourism industry in the West, an area constantly highlighted as having considerable growth potential. About 80pc of the area of the West was classified as rural, but tourists were not being attracted to such areas in sufficient numbers.



``There are major problems in attracting tourists into these areas and while there is a political will to redirect jobs to the West, the challenge facing everyone is to come up with fresh thinking and new ways of developing the textile, food and tourism sectors,'' he added.



A team of international economic consultants who helped prepare the Western Development Commissions Development Plan for the West 2000-2006 has insisted the Live Register is not a perfect indicator of underlying unemployment trends as it includes part-time, seasonal and casual workers.



Indecon International Economic Consultants pointed out that unemployment data on a regional authority basis based on the Labour Force survey more accurately indicated the slow progress made in the western counties in bringing down unemployment in recent years.



These figure reveal that from 1990 to 1997 the unemployment rate in the West went from 9.5pc to 10.4pc. Figures for all other areas of the country decreased over the period.



Yesterday Fine Gael spokesman on Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Denis Naughten TD repeated his call to the government to reassess the view that the Live Register was a true measure of economic growth andemployment. While the West was not getting near its share of inward investment, industrial executives appeared to have a fear that they would not get sufficient technical staff to work in the Border, Midlands and West.



Deputy Naughten proposed the establishment of a skills register of technically competent workers who wanted to return to work in these areas. ``This would allow the IDA and Enterprise Ireland to target investment in these specific areas,'' he said.



Mr Naughten and his fellow Front Bench spokesman Jim Higgins TD yesterday identified areas in the West that had been completely ignored as Ballinasloe, Co Galway, Crossmolina and the `Black Triangle' of Knock, Swinford and Kiltimagh in Co Mayo, and Roscommon town.



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