Programme focussed on ‘strengthening research and innovation in region’
Sligo News File Online
Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited Ballaghaderreen on Thursday to welcome the launch of an EU backed €320 million investment package for the BMW region. The programme was previously announced by Public Expenditure Minister, Brendan Howlin seven months ago, in December 2014.
Howlin, who accompanied Kenny in Ballaghaderreen, said the programme, operational for the period 2014 to 2020, was about “strengthening research and innovation in the region.”
Kenny said the programme represented “a key milestone on our path to secure recovery of all of Ireland.”
Department considering newly submitted financial plan in consultation with the Council.
Sligo News File Online
Sligo County Council’s massive debt pile has again been raised with Environment Minister Alan Kelly.
Clare Daly, TD highlighted the issue after members of the council heard CEO, Ciaran Hayes speak of investment plans which could see the authority now also taking responsibility for debts of the regional airport at Knock.
According to reports, the airport is currently in the red to the tune of €9 million, a sum it would seem the government wants a few neighbouring local authorities to take over. It’s reckoned Sligo’s share in the plan would cost it upwards of €2 million when bank loan fees and interest charges are taken into account. The plan is being promoted as an investment in the airport. Sligo’s stake would only amount to a few percent.
It’s not clear whether, to date members of the Council have been given copies or sight of the “due diligence” statement or report it is understood a firm of consultants was commissioned to carry out some months ago. In the absence of this, other documentation and draft contract, it is hard to see how councillors would be sufficiently informed to progress the deal.
Another issue is who and how many will be representing the council on the board of the airport.
However, a core matter councillors will have to grapple with is whether Sligo, a local authority already up to the tonsils in millions of euro of debt, is realistically in a position to take on what many feel should be government responsibility for the airport’s prevailing €9 million debt. The airport is in the Mayo constituency of the Taoiseach, Enda Kenny whose Coalition has reportedly bailed out Shannon – a rival of Knock – with millions of euro in debt write offs and a plethora of other valuable concessions. In contrast to its support for Shannon, the same Coalition is now looking to local authorities – the people of the North West and West- to pay off the Knock debt.
Environment Minister Alan Kelly has reacted strongly to Sligo’s ongoing financial problems.
Clare Daly, TD asked in a Parliamentary Question submitted earlier this week if his attention had been drawn to a new financial plan the council had submitted to his Department on 29 April 2015 showing the council had borrowings of in excess of €23 million on which it was only capable of paying the interest; if his attention had been drawn to the fact the council has had a deficit in its revenue account in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014, if his attention had been further drawn to the fact that the council’s cumulative deficit currently stands at more than €26 million with long term debt in excess of €120 million; if his attention had been drawn to the fact that Knock Airport, Co. Mayo, has current debts of approximately €9 million; if his attention had been drawn to the fact the Chief Executive of Sligo County Council has recommended that the council provide financial assistance of approximately €1.6 million to Knock airport.
The Minister said that “the continued deterioration” of Sligo County Council’s financial position is of “serious concern” to him. He said that while it was a matter for individual local authorities to manage their own day-to-day finances in a prudent and sustainable manner, his Department was “in regular consultation” with Sligo County Council in relation to its financial position, “including in relation to the agreement of a long term financial plan to address these issues.”
His Department, he said, received a financial plan from Sligo on 29 April “and is considering its contents in consultation with the Council.”
Government ‘has done little to secure investment for the region’
Sligo News File Online
Fianna Fáil Senator Marc Mac Sharry says the latest economic data from the CSO is further confirmation that the economic recovery is not happening in the North West. Despite claims from the Taoiseach and senior Ministers that there has been an increase in jobs but the figures from the CSO reveal a rise in the unemployment rate in the Western region from 10.9% in 2014 to 11.6% in 2015 with 8,000 more people now out of work.
Senator MacSharry commented, “These figures reveal what I have been saying for some time. While a recovery may be underway in Dublin, it is not being felt across the country. Only recently we have had job losses Elanco pharma plant in Sligo and there are now concerns about the future of jobs at the State Veterinary Lab following a Department of Agriculture review which recommended a more centralised model, which would lead to the closure of the site in Sligo.
“This Government has done little to secure investment for this region, and in fact has been chipping away at important supports that are essential to rural and farming communities in the North West. There were 359 IDA site visits made across Ireland last year, however there were only 16 visits carried out across Sligo, Leitrim, Donegal and Cavan. This demonstrates very clearly the Government’s lack of commitment to this region.
“The focus over the last four years has been on high end highly skilled jobs, and while these jobs are important to the country, Ministers have neglected small and medium businesses, which are the lifeblood of many towns and communities across the country. Instead of developing incentives to grow and expand these SMEs, or to even fight their corner when it comes to access to credit, Ministers have chosen to their time wooing multinationals to other parties of the country instead of supporting the regions and growing indigenous enterprise.
“There needs to be a radical rethink of the approach to job creation, particularly here in the North West. The Government has allowed the North West to fall behind the rest of the country in terms of employment and this has to change. Long term unemployment remains high by international standards and is not being addressed adequately. We need to see more engagement with organisations like the IDA and Enterprise Ireland, and I along with my colleagues at local and national level will be pushing for a better and more co-ordinated investment strategy over the next weeks and months”.
Resort one of the country’s leading golfing and tourist attractions
Sligo News File Online.
It made for a great photo occasion when Tony McLoughlin led Public Works Minister, Simon Harris on a walkabout of Rosses Point. On hand at McLoughlin’s invitation were officials of the county council, chamber of commerce, local business representatives and TDs and councillors
Afterwards McLoughlin spoke of the prospect or hope of grants to follow for local remedial works, and the involvement of the County Council and OPW in preparatory activity for what was expected would be an early start on a programme of improvements
However, it now seems the best the Minister has apparently seen fit to approve is just the bare cost of a study, €60,000. Despite the need for prompt attention to coastal erosion and other equally pressing issues in what is one of the country’s leading golfing and tourist attractions, it looks that no undertaking has been given on the allocation of further financial support for works in the area.
It’s reported meanwhile that Enniscrone has lost both its Blue Flag and Green Coast Award. Other resorts understood to have lost the Blue Flag include Skerries in north Dublin, Rathmullan in Co Donegal, and Ballycastle in Co Mayo.
Sligo would need hundreds more jobs just to replace those lost pre 2010 alone
Mass of business closures and job losses across the town and county
Continuing emigration from North West
Sligo News File Online.
Figures released by Jobs Minister Richard Bruton show that Sligo has secured only 270 of the 580 jobs it lost between 2008 and 2010.
The Minister states that the number of people at work in Enterprise Ireland and IDA supported companies has increased by 7% since 2011, but this is contradicted by his own statistics which indicate Sligo would need another 310 jobs just to replace those lost pre 2010.
Sligo has been further undermined by job losses at Elanco, the announcement by JennaValve that it is no longer interested in proceeding with the development of a manufacturing facility in the town and the transfer of the Aurivo milk processing plant from Barnasraghy to Donegal.
The town’s retail and service sector has been shattered by business closures, by work that in many cases is relatively poorly paid and continuing migration and emigration from the area, and the wider North West region.
It is hardly an exaggeration to say that the region has been brutally neglected in the lifetime of the current Coalition government.
Bruton, incidentally, was replying to queries from local government party TD, Tony McLoughlin.
MEP and other public representatives to attend ICSA organized event
ICSA also calling for review of barriers to entering forestry
Sligo News File Online
Sligo ICSA will host an important meeting on land eligibility issues on Friday, May 29th, at 8.30pm at the Glasshouse Hotel.
MEP Matt Carthy and other local public representatives will be in attendance.
For further information and comment, please contact ICSA Connacht/Ulster vice-president Paul Brady at 086-8127897.
BARRIERS TO ENTERING FORESTRY SECTOR MUST BE REVIEWED
ICSA president Patrick Kent has said that the replanting rule and the protection of the hen harrier are serious barriers to farmers diversifying into forestry.
“The compulsion to replant land after clearfelling is discouraging many farmers, particularly those on good land, from getting involved in forestry,” he said.
“If such farmers had the option of returning their land to grass after a single crop of trees, this might prompt more of them to go down that route.”
“Forestry can be a very profitable enterprise, and farmers may find that they want to continue in it long-term, but at least removing the compulsion to re-plant offers them the security of knowing they or their children can return to other types of farming if they wish to do so in the future.”
“The hen harrier is a serious issue in whole swathes of the country where land is particularly suited to growing spruce and not suitable for many other farming systems, and where the forestry option could provide farmers with a much-needed extra source of income if it were not for the stringent regulations on hen harrier protection.”
“ICSA is now calling on Minister Coveney to review these two issues immediately with a view to encouraging more farmers to get involved in forestry,” concluded Mr. Kent.
Decision ‘not an indication move will lead to closure of any library’
Sligo News File Online.
Curtailment of library services in Sligo should not be taken as an indication the action will lead to any library facility being closed, Sligo County Council has stated.
Concerns have been raised following the unavailability of service at the library in Sligo town last Saturday.
The council has said Saturday closure is a temporary measure, owing to staff shortages where it may not be possible to maintain the service for the same number of hours as at present.
A Financial Plan is under review to address the council’s prevailing multimillion euro debt load.
Meanwhile, there have been questions as to whether the council can afford to proceed with a proposal to shoulder the debt load of the airport at Knock if it is so financially hard hit that it hasn’t the manpower resources to sustain Saturday services at libraries in the county.