ENTERPRISE Ireland figures for 2013 show that the Mid-West was the agency’s worst performing region and client companies delivered a net gain of just one additional job in the Banner County.
While much has been made of Ireland’s prospering export sector, the figures show the benefits are not being seen in Clare to the extent they are in some other parts of the country.
County Councillor James Breen has reacted by claiming Clare is becoming a “poor relation” in terms of jobs and that the county’s Oireachtas members are not delivering.
Enterprise Ireland is the government organisation responsible for the development and growth of Irish enterprises in world markets. It published its annual report and accounts on Thursday of last week, which showed 2013 results as the best performance in over a decade in terms of net job creation.
The report showed a net increase in full-time employment of 3,620 across its six regions. While each one showed some level of increase, the Mid-West (Clare, Limerick and North Tipperary) saw far less growth than the other five.
There were 10,756 in full-time employment in client companies in 2013, up by 127 on 2012. The Border region was the next worst, but that still saw an increase of more than twice that of the Mid-West, the numbers there increasing by 306.
Jerry Moloney, regional director for the Mid-West, told The Clare Champion the county only saw a tiny increase in jobs in 2013. “In Clare last year, we had a gain of 156 and a loss of 155. In Tipperary, there was a gain of 161 and a loss of 20, which gave a net of 141. In Limerick, there were 439 gains and 454 losses. There is movement in the market, the companies that are exporting are doing quite well and those focussed on the domestic market are finding it more difficult.”
He said many of the Enterprise Ireland client companies in the Mid-West are not only involved in exporting but also have a large focus on business in this country and the frailty of conditions here is hindering their development.
Mr Moloney said 2009 was a real low point for the agency, but things have been moving in the right direction, gradually.
“In relation to growth and jobs, it’s cyclical. Going back to 2009, which was probably our worst year, we had a major drop across all three counties, varying from about 227 in Clare to over 950 in Limerick. In the years since, there was a steady levelling off and a gradual increase.”
When companies were hit by the recession, some staff were left under-occupied at work he said, which meant that when recovery began, the businesses had some spare capacity. However, he feels a good deal of recruitment is likely in the near future.
“When they looked at their business, they downsized somewhat and retained some staff that weren’t 100% productive. Then when the upturn came, while we got an increase in activity, we didn’t get an increase in jobs. This year, we’re seeing an increase in jobs starting to kick in. The spare capacity that was in the businesses is now being used up and they’re now hiring again. Most of the companies are in hiring mode again,” he added.
There are around 1,000 jobs in Enterprise Ireland client companies in Shannon and around 1,500 in other parts of Clare. Mr Moloney said the agency is currently working on some projects, which aim to create jobs in Ennis and Shannon, in aviation-related industries and manufacturing.
However, Councillor Breen claimed Clare is being left behind other parts of the country and he put much of the blame on the county’s Oireachtas members.
“We’re the poor relation when it comes to jobs. Unfortunately, our Oireachtas members aren’t punching their weight, there’s no notice being taken of them and that was evident in the reshuffle. We have five members of the Government at the moment and nothing is being delivered to the county; we’re being treated with contempt as far as I’m concerned.”
He claimed the numbers signing on the live register have only shown a decrease because of emigration.
Clare TD Joe Carey acknowledged the figures are disappointing but said there have been some other positive developments locally. “I think we’re faring very well in terms of tourism and through-put at Shannon Airport and the benefits of that can be seen. Shop owners and hoteliers are reporting that this year is positive and business is up.”
He said some companies in Shannon are currently recruiting, which will give a boost, while he said the numbers on the live register in Clare have dropped over the last couple of years.
However, he acknowledged that more needs to be done to bring employment to more peripheral areas. “It shouldn’t be just Dublin and Cork where there are these huge jobs announcements, they should be spread out to the regions.”