Unemployment in East Clare has increased by 272%, or 662, people between 2006 and 2011 and a group aiming to identify ways to reduce that stark statistic will hold its first public meeting next Wednesday.
The East Clare Development Group, together with CEDRA (Commission for the Economic Development of Rural Areas), will hold a meeting aimed at identifying job creation activities in the East Clare area at Scariff GAA Hall on Wednesday next from 7.15pm.
CEDRA was set up to examine the issues affecting rural Ireland. It is asking rural communities to give their recommendations advising the Government on practical steps to ensure economic recovery reaches rural Ireland and at the meeting they will be inviting the East Clare community to get involved.
Speaking about the effect the recession has had on East Clare, Sean Bugler, chairman of the East Clare Development group said, “Finsa has closed down, there were a lot of people involved in construction who are now unemployed, a number of other enterprises like E Teams went into liquidation recently and a lot of the young people have left.
“We have identified unemployment as a central issue that needs to be tackled. To address this, we will hold this meeting, chaired by Pat Spillane, who works for the Government and CEDRA. We are looking for people in the area to come along and share their ideas, what they want and use it as a basis for mobilising the community. We are a movement of the community, we cannot rely on the Government or the EU to do anything for us, we have to do it for ourselves,” Mr Bugler said.
Committee member Joan Crotty said ultimately what the group would like to see coming out of next Wednesday’s meeting are potential job creation ideas for the East Clare area and to identify the barriers preventing people recognising those opportunities.
Finding a support structure for these opportunities will form the next step and to do so, these ideas will be taken on board as part of a national initiative by CEDRA. This organisation is holding workshops across the country, gathering information that will form the basis for a report offering Government recommendations for rural jobs 2013-2015.
The group is encouraging people across all employment sectors, as well as the general public, to come along and have their say.
“We are hoping our structures will help to support these people and encourage them to seek the resources necessary to create this employment. It’s for the whole community. It is born out of a strong desire of the community to help themselves, because we know that we cannot rely on the Government or the EU to come here and create jobs,” he said.
Following the successful campaign to keep the Scariff Teagasc office open, the development group is confident that by doing things for themselves, East Clare can have a bright future.
Speaking to The Clare Champion at the thriving Teagasc office in Scariff, committee member Michael MacGrath said, “Two years ago, Teagasc proposed closing their centre here and if you look around here today and you see the amount of cars outside, it’s a different world. There’s a training programme going on here in horticulture. Clare Local Development Company has offices here, Teagasc are based here and we have a masters student, Micheál Kelly, who started a research project on the development of agriculture in East Clare.
“When the Troika arrived in Ireland and inflicted all this pain, the Irish people took it, our factory here closed and we took that and we suffered it and then they dismantled the factory.
“Then out of the blue, they decided to close these offices. Teagasc has provided an advisory service for us here for over 100 years and spontaneously the people said no and they said yes and we battled with them. To the eternal credit of the director of Teagasc, Professor Gerry Boyle and the board, they decided this office would remain open. Not alone that but it has been recapitalised and refurbished and we have three organisations here, Teagasc, CLDC and UCD,” he said.
The input of University College Dublin is something the development group is delighted with. Micheál Kelly, a masters student from Ardrahan, who has already started the research element of his degree, will be joined by a second student, yet to be appointed, who will undertake a research PhD as part of the Walsh fellowship programme.
He or she will be researching the effect of the recession on the East Clare area and what needs to be done to combat the negative effects of the recession.
The research conducted by the two students will help the development group form a comprehensive rural development plan for the East Clare area.
“Our objective is to turn austerity into prosperity for the area. This research will be integrated and will form part of the development programme for the area,” Mr Bugler added.
“We were determined to prepare the development plan within the confines of this set-up in the Teagasc office, which has now expanded into a community facility. As far as we are concerned, after two years of involvement, we feel the phrase ‘They should do something’ is never going to happen. It’s ‘we’ that are going to do things by working together in a partnership approach. This is our answer to austerity. This meeting on April 17 is a vital part of that and we are reaching out to the whole community,” Michael added.
The group has been working together for the last two years and has harnessed the support of many volunteers across all sectors in the business and local community. Joan said it will be a long road from now onwards but they are looking forward to hearing from the people on the ground on Wednesday.
The group are adopting a holistic approach to employment, which will focus on the uniqueness of the East Clare area as a place to work, settle and invest.
“We will be targeting tourism where we will hold a series of meetings on the potential for tourism, to create a unique brand of the area taking a long term view on how we are going to develop the area. We will also hold a series of meetings on enterprise initiatives and job creation.
“We want to bring them all together and create a total package based on the unique identity of the area,” Mr Bugler explained.
Ms Crotty added that the group is very keen to get young people involved and they aim to liaise with the local secondary schools and invite young pto the meeting on Wednesday.
As tackling unemployment is not an issue they believe can be solved overnight, the group want to cultivate an enterprise culture in East Clare and to do this they would like to see younger generations involved.
“We want to get young people thinking rather than expecting people to create a job for them, we want them to start thinking about how they could identify their own job ideas,” she said.
The committee members acknowledged the support they are getting locally from Teagasc, CLDC and Doirín Graham their CEO, UCD, local politicians and the general public and they look forward to their continued support.