MINISTER MICHEAL RING, MINISTER FOR RURAL AND COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, ADDRESSES INAUGURAL BOARD MEETING OF THE WESTERN DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION (WDC) IN BALLAGHADERREEN.

On Friday 8th September the inaugural meeting of the new Board of Directors of the WDC, which was recently appointed by Minister Micheal Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development, was held at the WDC Head Quarters in Ballaghaderreen.

Minister Ring addressed the meeting saying that “having an organisation that is focused on the development of the West of Ireland provides us with an opportunity which we must fully exploit”.

Minister Ring said: “The WDC has had some great success in helping to generate jobs and investment and I believe there is a lot more which can be achieved for the West of Ireland through the WDC.

“I have put in place a high quality board and I’m excited about the skills and experience they can bring. Today’s first meeting of the board represents a new chapter for the Western Development Commission.

“In the last three years, there have arguably been more changes in the regional development arena than in the preceding ten years.  An early challenge for the incoming Board will be to review the Commission’s position in the changed landscape and consider how best it can pursue its core objectives and make a wider contribution in the context of these new structures. I am looking forward to working more closely together to ensure that we have a shared vision for economic and social development in the West and that our objectives are aligned.”

Acting CEO of the WDC, Mr. Ian Brannigan welcomed the new Board Members and in particular the Chairperson Dr. Deirdre Garvey who is a returning member from the previous board.   Mr. Brannigan said:  “On behalf of the whole WDC team we look forward to working with you all to increase the impact of our regional development remit in the western region.”

Mr. Brannigan also congratulated Minister Micheal Ring on his new appointment under a new Department. “I am delighted to have a Minister for Rural and Community Development in the West.   I am positive that the board and staff of the WDC together with the Department, we can make a difference in progressing the economic and social development of the Western Region.”

The Chair of the new board Dr. Deirdre Garvey said: “I am delighted to chair the new board of the WDC. Since its formation in 1998, the WDC has played a significant role in the economic and social development of this region.  The analysis of 2016 census data highlights the challenges facing this region, some on-going and some new. However, there is also great opportunity in this region to develop a sustainable competitive advantage building on the strengths of the region. The WDC has sought to build a capability and capacity for future growth. I look forward to working with the new board, the WDC staff and our regional stakeholders on the economic, social and cultural development of the region. We look forward to working with Minister Ring and the Department and welcome his commitment in the Programme for Government and the role of the WDC.”

Ends

For further information please contact:

Ian Brannigan, Acting CEO
Western Development Commission
086 6048012
094 9861441

info@wdc.ie

Notes to editors on the Western Development Commission (WDC)

The WDC is the statutory body promoting economic and social development in counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare.

The WDC’s strategic goals are:

  1. Contribute to balanced regional development by ensuring that the Western Region maximises its full potential for economic and social development.
  2. Promote the benefits of living, working and doing business in the Western Region.
  3. Support the sustainable economic and social development of the rural economy.
  4. Provide risk capital to SMEs and social enterprises.

www.wdc.ie and www.lookwest.ie

 

 

Employment by Sector in the Western Region & its counties

The Western Development Commission today (6 Sept) published two new WDC Insights publications:

Both are based on an analysis of data from Census 2016 on employment by economic sector (industrial group).  The first looks at the sectoral pattern of employment in the Western Region as a whole compared with that elsewhere in the country, while the second focuses on the sectoral profile of employment in each of the seven individual counties in the Western Region.

Some of the main findings are:

  • Total employment in the Western Region grew by 7.5% between 2011 and 2016; substantially less than the 11.8% growth experienced by the rest of the state.
  • Five of the six counties in the country with the lowest employment growth are located in the Western Region.  Sligo had the smallest employment growth nationally.
  • The region had stronger employment growth than elsewhere in four sectors (Industry, Health, Transport & Storage and Other Services) but performed less well in the other ten sectors with declining employment in Financial services, Public Administration, Agriculture and Wholesale & Retail.
  • The Western Region and its counties tend to rely more on traditional sectors, public services and some local services while it has far lower shares working in knowledge intensive services, though these are growing in the region with the exception of Financial.
  • Public Services (Health, Education and Public Admin) is the largest area of employment in all western counties with Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon and Donegal having the highest shares working in Public Services nationally.
  • Industry was the best performing sector in four of the seven western counties (Leitrim, Galway, Roscommon and Mayo). Knowledge services grew strongly in Donegal with Administrative & Other Services the best performing in Clare and Sligo.  Agriculture was the poorest performer in all counties but Sligo.

Both publications can be downloaded here

Minister Ring Appoints 11 New Board Members to the Western Development Commission

The WDC welcomes the appointment of a new Board by Minister Micheal Ring, Minister for Rural and Community Development.

The following members were appointed  on 18th August 2017:

 

Dr. Deirdre Garvey                   Senior Lecturer,  Mayo Campus, GMIT

Mr.  Ian Barrett                         MD, Care About You; former MD Resilience Healthcare

Mr. Noel Brett                           CEO, Banking & Payments Federation Ireland; ex-CEO Road Safety Authority

Professor Mary P. Corcoran    Head of Dept. of Sociology, Maynooth University

Mr. Michael Frain                     MD, First Class Office, Co. Roscommon

Mr. Gerry Finn                           Former Directory of the Border and Western Regional Assembly

Mr. John Kelleher                     Head of Department, Computing and Creative Practices, Sligo IT

Mr. Christy Loftus                     Retired Communications Advisor and journalist

Mr. Henry McGarvey                Secretary/Financial Controller, LYIT;   former MD, Pramerica Systems Ireland

Ms. Auveen O’Neill                   MD, AO Business Consultants; former mentor for Enterprise Ireland

Ms. Yvonne Shields                  CEO, Commissioner of Irish Lights; non-Executive Director, SmartBay Ltd;

 

See full Press Statement here:  http://www.merrionstreet.ie/en/News-Room/Releases/Minister_Ring_appoints_new_Board_to_the_Western_Development_Commission.html

Capital Infrastructure priorities – Broadband remains top of the list!

Engineers Ireland recently published The State of Ireland 2017, which focuses on the state of Ireland’s infrastructure and the extent to which it is fit for purpose. This is timely as the Government are in the process of considering the capital infrastructure priorities to be funded over the next few years.

This State of Ireland 2017 report, download here (3.4MB), is the seventh in a series of annual independent reports, on the state of the country’s infrastructure, informed by panel discussions and expert advisory groups.

This year’s report focuses on two key sectors, transport and communications though the report also makes separate recommendations on the infrastructure areas of energy, water supply and wastewater; flood management, water quality and waste infrastructure.

Transport

Ireland’s transport system was awarded a ‘C’ grade – meaning it is of mediocre standard: It is inadequately maintained, and / or unable to meet peak demand, and requiring significant investment. The report notes that investment in Ireland’s transport infrastructure is simply too low to support economic growth and jobs and more investment is needed to reduce congestion and increase sustainability.

Communications

The WDC was a member of the Communications Advisory Group which considered the coverage and connectivity of Ireland’s communications network and how Ireland’s communications network rates with the country’s needs.

As is evident from the report, unlike any other infrastructure considered, the quality of the broadband and communications network was graded spatially. A different grade was awarded depending on whether the infrastructure was located in urban, intermediate urban or remote rural areas which highlights the different quality of the infrastructure depending on location.

The urban areas are classed as the five major cities of Cork, Dublin, Galway, Limerick and Waterford. Intermediate urban areas are those other urban areas and surrounding townlands. The third category, rural including remote rural are the hinterlands of towns and remote locations.

Considering the question How would you rate Ireland’s communications network with the country’s needs, urban and intermediate urban were awarded a ‘B’ grade, whereas rural areas were awarded  ‘D’, conveying a poor, below standard poorly maintained, frequent inability to meet capacity and requiring immediate investment to avoid adverse impact on the national economy. The report notes that in rural and remote rural areas, State intervention is needed and the Government’s NBP programme must intervene for 542,000 premises representing 21% or one million of the national population.

For those of us who have long advocated that intervention is needed and that the National Broadband Plan needs to be implemented speedily and comprehensively, none of the report’s finding are a surprise. However the fact that the Communications Advisory Group, composed of companies such as the main telecoms providers, the telecoms regulator and Google among others, highlights the universal agreement that investment is needed as a matter of urgency.

Census 2016

Elsewhere, publication of Census 2016 data provides county data on broadband use in households.

Census 2016 Summary Results Part 1 Section 9, download here (1.1MB) shows the increasing take-up of broadband nationally, from 20% in 2006 to 70.7% in 2016.

The report also highlights the rural – urban divide where 61.1% of households in rural areas have a broadband connection compared to 76.2% of urban households. Looking at counties in the Western Region, all have a broadband rate lower than the state average of 70.7%, apart from Galway city, see Fig 1 below. Leitrim and Roscommon have the lowest broadband rates across the Region with 58% and 59.8% respectively.

Fig 1. Percentage of households with broadband internet access, Western counties 2006-2016

The National Broadband Plan

These same counties are relatively poorly served with broadband infrastructure. As the State of Ireland 2017 report shows the more rural areas are often the least well served. Under the National Broadband Plan the Western Region counties are among those requiring the most state intervention in rolling out high speed broadband networks. While 23% of premises nationally will be included in the National Broadband Plan ‘Intervention Area’, the rate is much higher across the Western Region with an average of 36.5% of all premises. Counties such as Roscommon and Leitrim are particularly dependent on the National Broadband Plan with 48% and 51% of premises respectively in the NBP Intervention area. The state intervention area in the other counties of the Western Region extends to 44% of premises in Mayo, 36% in Sligo, 34% in Donegal, 34% in Clare and 29% in Galway.

How Ireland Compares Internationally

Data recently released from the OECD highlights the need for urgent investment in Ireland’s fibre based broadband infrastructure. As Figure 2 below shows, Ireland is nearly at the bottom of the pile for the percentage of fibre connections as a share of total broadband subscriptions.

Fig 2. Percentage of fibre connections in total broadband subscriptions, December 2016

Located 4th from the bottom of OECD countries, this data published in July 2017 relates to December 2016 and there is likely to be an improvement since then, however the relative position of Ireland in the OECD group shows how far we are from being in the top tier. Without a doubt, investment in fibre connectivity throughout the country is needed. These data and additional comparative data across the OECD are available for download here.

 

Deirdre Frost

Western Region’s Top 10 Employment sectors

Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2, included data on the number of people working in different sectors.  We’ll be publishing our first analysis of this data for the Western Region shortly, but in the meantime here’s a taster.

Top 10 sectors

At a detailed sectoral level (NACE Rev 2, detailed industrial group), the top 10 employment sectors in the Western Region in 2016 are:

Table 1: 10 largest employment sectors in the Western Region in 2016, by detailed industrial group.

Source: CSO, Census 2016 Summary Results – Part 2. Table EZ011 http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=EZ011&PLanguage=0

Farming and work in residential care and social work, which includes child and eldercare, both employ over 20,000 people.

Five of the Western Region’s top 10 sectors are largely public sector, though there is significant private sector involvement in some cases e.g. residential care, hospitals. Medical devices manufacturing, non-specialised retail (including supermarkets), hotels and restaurants are the largest private sector employers.

The performance of the region’s top employers varied considerably between 2011 and 2016. Farming, Secondary Education, Public Administration and Retail all had declining job numbers; while employment in Medical Devices, Restaurants and Residential Care grew substantially. A growing older population, strengthening tourism and an internationally competitive medical devices cluster have contributed to this growth.

Further analysis of employment patterns in the region is on the way.

Pauline White

 

WDC and ProAir sign Innovation Support Agreement

WDC and ProAir sign Innovation Support Agreement to help develop the Pro Air enthalpy product as part of the WDC aim to grow the  Renewable energy sector in the West of Ireland. This is funded under the EU FREED project which seeks to support start-up and SME’s to utilise and develop innovative energy technologies.   

See full article here:  http://www.freedproject.eu/freed-project-wdc-supporting-energy-innovation/

Meeting on the Edge of Europe: 9 Filmmakers from Northern Europe participate in Galway Film Fleadh

‘Attending Galway Film Fleadh was a great experience in how to market your films and make new contacts. The Masterclasses really helped me in my creative thinking and I finally got inspiration to finish my latest feature film script,’ according to Joonas Pirttikangas of Hepola Films, one of the Finnish filmmakers who took part in the Galway Film Fleadh. ‘I also had the opportunity to attend the premiere of ‘Michael Inside’ which went on to win Best Irish Feature and discussed filmmaking with the Director Frank Berry.’

Nine filmmakers from Finland, Sweden, Iceland and Northern Ireland were supported by the Western Development Commission (WDC), NUI Galway and their international partners in ‘a creative momentum project’ to participate in the Galway Film Fleadh.  The project showcases and connects creatives working across Europe’s Northern Edge.  As Ireland’s leading film festival, the Galway Film Fleadh was an amazing opportunity for these international filmmakers to meet and do business with film and TV professionals from Ireland and further afield.

Six of the filmmakers took part in ‘The Marketplace’ where they had scheduled one-to-one meetings with TV executives, film financers, production companies and distributors to pitch film and TV projects in development. ‘We came here excited and moderately optimistic. We were seeking funding for our documentary Drift, and a possible co-producer. We were very happy with our meetings as the feedback was positive.  Although no promises were made, we are engaging in further conversations with a few of the producers,’ says Birna Pétursdóttir, of Icelandic production company Fluga Hugmyndahus.   ‘What we thought was amazing, was the willingness amongst almost everyone to give advice and pointers. That was extremely valuable for us.’

To make sure they got a good taste of what the West of Ireland’s film and TV industry has to offer, the group were also treated to a tour of the Telegael production offices and studio in An Spidéal. All the filmmakers spoke about their work at the ‘Screen Industries on the Periphery’ seminar organised by NUI Galway.

‘The Galway Film Fleadh was a great chance for us to connect with other filmmakers from around the world, people with similar ideas on low budget moviemaking, as well as people who’ve been in the business for a long time,’ says Simon Bergström of Sweden’s Mountain North Pictures. ‘The whole experience broadened our view of the business of making films, that will be very useful as we move on to bigger productions in future. After the Fleadh we drove along the entire western seaboard in four days, the first real step in the photography/on-the-go-filmmaking project that we’ll be doing right around Europe.’

‘a creative momentum project’ is co-funded by the EU Interreg Northern Periphery & Arctic (NPA) Programme.  One of the project’s main activities is the www.MyCreativeEdge.eu website to showcase Arts, Crafts, Design and Media & Technology companies working across Europe’s Northern Edge.

For more information contact:

 

Note for Editors:

The nine filmmakers supported to attend the Galway Film Fleadh were:

a creative momentum project is a three-year (2015-2018) transnational project with a total budget of €2m.  It is co-funded by the EU Interreg Northern Periphery & Arctic (NPA) Programme 2014-2020.  The NPA is a cooperation between nine programme partner countries; Finland, Ireland, Sweden, the United Kingdom (Scotland and Northern Ireland), Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and Norway. The NPA 2014-2020 is part of the European Territorial Cooperation Objective, supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and ERDF equivalent funding from non EU partner countries.

 a creative momentum project is operated by six partner organisations:

  1. Western Development Commission (WDC), Ireland
  2. National University of Ireland, Galway (NUIG), Ireland
  3. North East Iceland Cultural Council, Iceland
  4. Armagh City, Craigavon and Banbridge Borough Council, Northern Ireland
  5. Technichus Mid-Sweden Ltd, Sweden
  6. Lapland University of Applied Sciences, Finland

It is being implemented in five regions:

  1. North East Iceland
  2. Mid-Sweden
  3. Northern Finland (Lapland, North Ostrobothnia)
  4. South East of Northern Ireland (Armagh City, Banbridge & Craigavon Borough Council, Ards & North Down Borough Council, and Newry, Mourne & Down District Council areas)
  5. West of Ireland (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare)

For more see www.MyCreativeEdge.eu

Self-employment – What does the Census tell us?

Regular followers of the WDC Insights blog will know that self-employment is a topic we’ve examined a number of times before, drawing on Quarterly National Household Survey data.  However this can only tell us what is happening in the Western Region as a whole, not in the individual counties.

The publication of Census 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, included some initial data on labour force status including self-employment. Again, as mentioned in our previous post on Principal Economic Status, it must be remembered that the labour market definitions used in the QNHS and in the Census are different, so the figures are not directly comparable.  In the Census, self-employed are referred to as ‘Employer or own account worker’.

Share of self-employed in workforce 

In 2016, according to the Census, there were 61,107 employers or own account workers (self-employed) living in the Western Region. This was 18.3% of all working people in the region. As we’ve mentioned before, self-employment is a particularly important source of employment in the Western Region.

From Fig. 1 it is clear that there is a very strong spatial pattern to self-employment. The State average is that 15.6% of those in employment are employers/own account workers.  The cities are where this is least common. Only 10% or less of workers in Cork and Dublin cities are self-employed. Galway city is next lowest at 11.1% and shows a very different pattern to the rest of the Western Region.

Besides these three cities, it is the other Dublin local authority areas, counties in the Greater Dublin Area and the other two cities (Limerick and Waterford) which have the lowest incidence of self-employment. Indeed the 11 areas with the lowest share of self-employment are the five cities and the Mid-East.

Fig. 1: Percentage of all ‘at work’ who are employer/own account worker by county, 2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003: http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=EZ003&PLanguage=0

 

At the other end of the spectrum are the most rural counties. Co Kerry has the highest share of self-employment nationally at 21.1%, followed by Leitrim (20.3%), Cavan (19.9%) and Roscommon (19.9%).  In total, five of the Western Region counties are in the top  ten in terms of share of self-employment, with Mayo (19.6%), Galway county (19.5%) and Clare (19.5%) also having almost 1 in 5 of their workers self-employed.

The strong spatial pattern of self-employment in Ireland is related to many factors but notably the sectoral and occupational pattern of employment. Agriculture is a major influence, with construction trades also having high shares of self-employed. These sectors play a more significant role in the economies of rural counties. The relative lack of alternative employment opportunities, especially in the more remote rural areas, means that more people choose (or are necessitated) to turn to the self-employment route.  The WDC will be conducting further analysis of the sectoral and occupational data from the Census and its link with employment status, over the coming months.

Change in the share self-employed

In every county in Ireland, a smaller share of the workforce was self-employed in 2016 compared with five years earlier.  The national average declined from 16.9% of workers to 15.6%, with a decline from 19.9% to 18.3% in the Western Region (Fig. 2).

Leitrim, Galway county, Roscommon, Mayo and Clare all had shares above 20% in 2011, with only Leitrim remaining over 20% by 2016.  Among the western counties, Sligo had the smallest change in the share self-employed, declining from 18.2% down to 18%. From Fig. 2 it is also clear how strongly Galway city differs from the rest of the region.

 

Fig. 2: Percentage of all ‘at work’ who are employer/own account worker in western counties, Western Region, State and Rest of State, 2011 and 2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003: http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=EZ003&PLanguage=0

 

One of the key reasons for the declining share of self-employment in the inter-censal period is the recovery in the jobs market.  During the depth of the recession 2008-2011 employment declined hugely.  Self-employment was not quite as impacted as some people who lost their job turned to self-employment, existing employers and own account workers may have been able to sustain their own jobs while having to let to employees, and there was the continuation of the trend of some jobs becoming contract/self-employment that would previously have been employees. Therefore as overall job numbers fell, the relative importance of self-employment as a share of total employment remained strong. As the jobs recovery began from 2012 and more employment opportunities emerged, the relative importance of self-employment declined.

Change in numbers self-employed

From Fig. 3 it is clear that between 2011 and 2016 the number of employees grew far more strongly than the number of self-employed. Nationally the number of employees in 2016 was 12.9% higher than in 2011, whereas the number of self-employed was only 2.3% higher.  In the Western Region the number of self-employed actually declined in this period, down -1% while the number of employees grew by 9.8%.  It is notable that for both forms of employment, the Western Region’s performance was weaker than the State average and the Rest of State.  The decline in the numbers self-employed in the region is of some concern given its continuing greater significance in the labour market, especially in more rural counties (see Fig. 1 above).

 

Fig. 3: Percentage change in number of employer/own account workers in western counties, Western Region, State and Rest of State, 2011-2016. Source: CSO, Census of Population 2016 – Summary Results Part 2, Table EZ003: http://www.cso.ie/px/pxeirestat/Statire/SelectVarVal/Define.asp?maintable=EZ003&PLanguage=0

 

Across the region, Mayo, Galway county, Roscommon and Leitrim, the four counties where self-employment continues to play the largest role in their labour market (see Fig. 1) and the most rural, experienced declines in the actual number of people self-employed between 2011-2016.  All other western counties had some growth in the numbers self-employed with the strongest growth in Galway City (2.8%), which nevertheless continues to have a low share of self-employed.

In all cases the growth in self-employment was always substantially less than the growth in the number of employees.  The main exception to this was Sligo, which had very low growth in employees at only 2.6%. Indeed Sligo had the lowest growth in employee numbers in the State in this period.

Conclusion 

While the relative importance of self-employment within the labour market declined between 2011-2016, largely due to the strengthening jobs market, it remains a very significant form of employment. In the five most rural western counties of Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway county Clare, 1 in 5 of those at work, work for themselves.  Nationally there is a very strong spatial pattern of higher rates of self-employment in rural counties, with the lowest shares in the cities and Mid-East.

Some of the region’s most rural counties experienced a decline in the numbers self-employed between 2011 and 2016, the underlying reasons for this will only be apparent when the sectoral and occupational pattern of employment change in these counties is explored.

 

 

Pauline White

 

 

 

Home-Based Working in the Western Region

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has published its latest WDC Insights Home-Based Working in the Western Region,

download here (267 KB):, which is the third in a series examining the current nature of work, focussing on work which is often home based.

Working at or from home can take different forms:

  • The WDC Policy Briefing No.7 e-Working in the Western Region: A Review of the Evidence (download here – PDF 748KB), examined the extent of e-working in the Western Region, examining those in traditional employer-employee relationships, but who work from home, whether full-time or for a period during the working week. This form of working is also illustrated with several case studies of the practice, (download here – PDF 484KB).
  • The second publication in the series, WDC Insights ‘New Work’ – the Gig economy in the Western Region, (download here – PDF 254KB), examined the nature of the gig economy and the extent to which it exists in the Western Region.
  • This WDC Insights on Home-Based Working in the Western Region examines the data on those people who work ‘mainly at or from home’ derived from the Census question ‘how do you usually travel to work?’ with one of the answers being ‘work mainly at or from home’
  • According to the Census, nationally, in 2011[1] excluding those working in the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industries[2], the share of the state’s working population reported as working mainly at or from home was 2.8% (47,127).

In the Western Region the share was higher with 3.2% (8,994) stating they worked mainly at or from home.

There is a higher rate of self-employment in the Western Region and this is likely to be a contributory factor.

  • Those working mainly at or from home represent a broad range of workers; the self-employed, employees, ‘gig’ workers and e-Workers across a broad range of sectors. They may have very little in common except their place of work, which is less visible than traditional work places.

Better data is needed to capture and measure the incidence of all types of work so as to ensure that our policy focus is not limited to the traditional workplace-based employer-employee relationship.

Policies are needed to support all employment types and evidence of the nature and extent of work that occurs in the home is required to inform this.

 

Deirdre Frost

[1]Census of Population 2011, the most recent Census data available. Census 2016 data will be available in September 2017.

[2] The rest of the data presented in this WDC Policy Briefing exclude those working in the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industries, in order to understand the prevalence of e-working in the wider economy. The WDC wish to thank the CSO for a special run of data excluding those working in the Agriculture, forestry & fishing industries.

European Union names Ireland’s Northern and Western Region as Entrepreneurial Region 2018

The European Union will tomorrow (WEDNESDAY) name Ireland’s Northern and Western region as European Entrepreneurial Region 2018, recognising the ‘enormous strides’ the region has taken to foster entrepreneurship and reverse decades of decline.

The award, to be made a ceremony in Brussels, is a huge boost for a region, the EU’s Committee of the Regions said, that has developed policies that are transforming the area ‘from adversity to advantage’, making it one of the most resilient and ambitious places in Europe.

The European Entrepreneurial Region 2018 designation will be marked with a series of keynote events and initiatives all through next year to support and build on existing and new job creation projects and innovation across the Northern and Western region.

The award comes at a crucial time for the region as looks for ways to insulate itself from the unpredictable impacts of Brexit and offer an alternative economic focal point to Dublin and the east coast.

Commenting, Mr. Marc Kiwitt of the Committee of the Regions, the EU’s assembly of Regional and Local Representatives, said: “The European Entrepreneurial Region (EER) is a project that identifies and rewards EU regions and cities which show an outstanding and innovative entrepreneurial policy strategy, irrespective of their size, wealth and competences. The Northern and Western Region must be congratulated on the successful achievement for 2018.”

In 2015, Northern Ireland was named European Entrepreneurial region. Other previous winners have included cities such as Glasgow, Barcelona and Lisbon. All have used the year to establish successful programmes and schemes to encourage innovation and job creation.

David Minton, director of the Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) today accepted the award on behalf of the NWRA region which comprises seven counties; they are Donegal, Mayo, Galway, Sligo, Roscommon, Leitrim and Cavan.

He said: “This is an amazing honour and an opportunity for a part of Ireland that has been traditionally marginalised to emerge stronger and more attractive as a place to live and work for our young people, a viable alternative to living on the hugely overburdened east coast.

“The past eight years has seen regional and national policy invest in innovation; invest in people; and invest in education.  Eight years ago, employment levels in the construction industry were decimated due to economic stagnation. Out of this stagnation has emerged a commitment not to repeat the mistakes of the past’. In committing to resilience and investing in sustainability, this region has become truly entrepreneurial.”

Ian Brannigan, CEO, WDC said this spirit of entrepreneurship was driven by the efforts of a collaborative alliance to nurture regional entrepreneurship. This included unique offerings like the WDC western investment fund ( which has supported 2700 jobs ), innovative regional promotion platforms (www.lookwest.ie), a regional focus and a network of collaborative Local Enterprise Offices supporting over 45,000 businesses. The concept of ‘entrepreneurship as a career’ has also come from smart programmes such as Young Entrepreneur of the Year and New Frontiers, Enterprise Ireland’s national entrepreneur development programme for innovative, early-stage startups.

The Government has warmly welcomed the award. Commenting today, Minster for Community and Rural Affairs Michael Ring TD said: “For me this award is about recognizing the risk taker – from entrepreneurs, to small business owners and indigenous enterprises growing in scale. The Northern and Western region is now finally being recognised as one of the most vibrant, responsive and entrepreneurial places in Europe. Innovative and creative entrepreneurs across the region have led the way for young people, inspired a generation and now are operating at a global level; all from the west of Ireland. This is just one example reflected in every corner of this region.”

“2018 will be an incredible opportunity to celebrate entrepreneurship as a career – not just for some people but an opportunity for everyone. Ireland has produced some of the world’s leading entrepreneurs and business people. They are in every sector and industry. This award is another opportunity to tell their story.”

For more information, contact Ciaran Byrne at StoryLab on 01 685 3029 or 086 173 9523.

Please also see http://cor.europa.eu/Pages/welcome.html

and http://nwra.ie/