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Economic recovery must equally benefit the west



Joe Gilmore

By Joe Gilmore of IBEC

The economy is recovering much faster than many expected. When the EU Commission recently forecast that Ireland would be the strongest growing European economy in 2014 and for the next two years, many international observers were surprised.

Ireland is on the way back, but not all parts of the country are benefitting. For many around the country, impressive economic statistics have not translated into real life improvements. Recent figures released by the Central Statistics Office highlight the disparity in disposable income between the capital and those in rest of the country.

At € 18,264 the average disposable income in Galway is 20% less than in Dublin and more than thousand euros a year below the national average.

The recovery has firmly taken hold in Dublin. Traffic counts have already exceeded their pre-crisis levels; a housing shortage has emerged; retail and hospitality is doing much better and even construction is bouncing back.

All of this is driven by strong job creation. Dublin remains a location of choice for high-end technology and other services jobs. Over half of all the new jobs announced since the start of last year were in the capital.

Although unemployment is falling, at 10.2% in the west it’s still too high especially when compared to unemployment of 8.6% in Dublin. We need an urgent debate on how best to ensure all parts of the country feel the benefits.

We know from previous recessions that there is always a lag between a recovery in Dublin and the rest of the country. This time it seems that the lag is much longer. More worryingly, we can’t be sure that prosperity will actually flow from the main cities to elsewhere.

The future economic fate of Ireland’s regional and rural areas can’t be left to chance. It must be planned for and invested in.

So what can be done? Firstly, we need ambition. Government, business and society in general can rebuild a prosperous regional and rural economy. We should aim high.

Ireland will have by far the strongest growing population of any EU country over the coming decades. A return to net immigration and continued high birth rates can help revitalise every county in Ireland. Urban growth does not need to come at the expense of rural areas.

Secondly, government must have a detailed plan to support balanced regional development. Previous attempts at a national spatial strategy failed because the political system refused to make the difficult decisions on the prioritisation of limited resources.

Local politics trumped proper regional planning when it came to the tough decisions. With the next general election at most a year away, we cannot afford to let this happen again.

We urgently need a new strategy that sets out a blueprint for a better balance of social, economic and infrastructure development across the entire country. It must be supported by more effective and integrated planning.

A relatively small number of strategically located growth centres must be identified, which can in turn attract economic activity to their neighbouring towns and rural catchment areas.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune

New President for Local Ireland



Left to right, Bob Hughes, Executive Director, Local Ireland, Dan Linehan, Head of Irish Times Regionals and Declan McGuire, Operations Manager of the Connacht Tribune.

The new President of Local Ireland, the association representing local news publishers around the country, is Head of Irish Times Regionals Dan Linehan.

Mr Linehan takes over the presidency from Declan McGuire of the Connacht Tribune. His appointment was confirmed at the recent Annual General Meeting of Local Ireland at Bloomfield House Hotel near Mullingar, Westmeath.

Mr Linehan, who has served as Vice President of the organisation for the last two years, said: “The coming years are a very important time for local publishers with many important issues to be addressed, including the implementation of the Future of Media Commission recommendations, defamation reform, the role and support for local publishers in public service reporting and helping publishers develop commercial digital offerings.”

Speaking at the AGM, Mr McGuire acknowledged the work done by the Executive in the past two years under the direction of Executive Director, Bob Hughes, on several projects related to the publishing industry but most especially the successful conclusion of the long-running campaign for the abolition of VAT on newspapers.

He also wished Mr Linehan the very best in his new role as President of the association for the next two years.

Mr Hughes thanked Mr McGuire for his leadership and support during his term of office and said he looked forward to working with Mr Linehan on the key policy priorities for the association, including Government supports, Government advertising, fair remuneration for content from the tech platforms and the reform of the legislation for defamation.

Local Ireland members also elected Seán Mahon, Managing Director of the Southern Star, as Vice President for the next two years.

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Connacht Tribune

Employers’ group hears of key challenges facing businesses in the region



Pictured at Regional Insight Series in the Galmont Hotel are: Trevor O’Rourke, (CEO, Fibre Networks Ireland); Senan Colleran, (Head ESB Assets, Generation & Trading, ESB); Eilish O'Sullivan, (Human Resources Director, Medtronic); Danny McCoy, (CEO, Ibec); Helen Leahy, (Head of Regional Policy, Ibec); Ruairi Conroy (Diligent Corporation) and Fergal O’Brien, (Executive Director of Lobbying & Influence, Ibec). PHOTO: Michael Dillon.

The shortage of affordable housing is the single biggest impediment in attracting and retaining workers in the West, according to business group Ibec.

At a ‘Regional Insights Series’ meeting in the Galmont Hotel in Galway last week, employers were told that capacity constraints and labour supply are the key challenges facing business growth in the region.

Ibec Head of Regional Policy Helen Leahy said: “There must be greater focus by government on enhancing quality of life issues such as housing and infrastructure which are driving labour shortages in the region.

“Ibec’s vision for the West is to realise its potential to become a globally competitive location. An inadequate supply of affordable housing is now the single largest impediment to attracting and retaining talented workers, without whom business investment and expansions are not possible.

“Labour shortages are a real concern for businesses in the region. People decide where to live and work based on quality of life and access to high quality services and amenities. Industry tends to follow talent, and in this regard, the region needs to have all the building blocks in place as the attraction and retention of world-class talent becomes increasingly competitive on a global level,” said Ms Leahy.

Amongst Ibec’s priorities for the West are:

  • Addressing housing and infrastructure challenges
  • Transitioning towards a new growth model with Net Zero energy powered by Atlantic offshore wind resources
  • Adapting businesses to the new economic realities
  • Enhancing capacity and skillsets to achieve sustainable development objectives
  • Investment in people and skills
  • Creating competitive advantage through digitalisation
  • Innovation as a key driver of productivity growth




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Connacht Tribune

Survey finds one in five retailers in Galway want to go fully cashless



Conor Quirke of BOI Payment Acceptance: move to card payments.

One in five Galway businesses want to go fully cashless, as the move towards card payments and tapping continues unabated post-Covid.

In all, 22% of Galway businesses would like to be fully cashless, according to a survey carried out by BOI Payment Acceptance (BOIPA), a provider of payment technology solutions, which asked Irish businesses about the current payment landscape as well as business confidence and concerns.

Over one-third (36%) of Galway businesses were unaware there is no contactless limit on mobile wallets – just below the national average – while 54% believe the increase in card over cash transactions has helped them run their business.

Six out of ten Galway businesses expect to grow this year despite the cost-of-living crisis and running costs dominating as key concerns; 62% believe their business will grow over the next twelve months despite global economic uncertainty.

Unsurprisingly cost-of-living increases and running costs were the main concerns the majority of businesses had.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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