New Literary Tourism Project to Provide Up To €10,000 to Support Developing Literary Tourism Products or Services 

  • New series of workshops announced in Galway, Mayo and Sligo
  • Local businesses and organisations urged to sign up
  • €10,000 fund available for businesses

Are you an entrepreneur, culture vulture, or community group? Join a Spot-lit workshop this month in Galway, Mayo or Sligo to discover how to create new products for the untapped literary tourism market in the West of Ireland and bring even more tourists to your region.

Spot-lit, a new EU Funded innovation programme, will shine a light on literary tourism over the next three years, with a focus on developing new literary tourism products or services.

Workshops are being held in Sligo at The Glasshouse Hotel on November 26th, in The Ellison Hotel, Castlebar, Co. Mayo on November 27th, and in The Maldron Hotel, Galway, on November 28th. Attendance at the workshops is free of charge, though registration is essential at

The Western Development Commission (WDC) are the Spot-lit  Irish partners and through the programme are working to develop and support organisations and businesses in this culturally-rich region to grow, collaborate and engage with wider audiences and customers.

CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin of the Western Development Commission said: 

‘The west has a fantastic story to tell; an area of arresting physical beauty, centres of innovation and economic growth, however Spot-Lit is an opportunity to focus on some of the stories as yet untold. I would urge communities, groups and SMEs to engage with the Literary Business Support Programme, one aspect of the work of the WDC in supporting the Creative Economy.’

Focused on the coastal counties along Ireland’s western seaboard, the Spot-lit programme is open to small businesses, social enterprises, community groups and literary associations with a unique idea for the development of literary tourism in their area. A series of monthly engagement workshops, learning journeys, business advice clinics and individual mentoring supports will be available. Attendance at one of the initial workshops is essential for any organisation that wishes to proceed to the next stage.

Literary Tourism is an emerging niche sector within the wider cultural tourism sector, where places with literary heritage offer author and fiction-related literary tourism opportunities along with opportunities arising from literary festivals, trails and book shops.

In Ireland, this would include literary rich locations such as Sligo, synonymous with the poet WB Yeats, Seamus Heaney and Bellaghy in Derry, Cuirt International Festival of Literature in Galway, Doolin Writers’ Weekend in Clare.

Following on from the workshops, micro-enterprises/SMEs from the West of Ireland, which show potential for the development of their business and the wider region through literary tourism, will be invited to apply to the Spot-Lit programme.  The programme provides up to €10,000 per participating business to support their development over the project duration.

Further information on the Spot-lit programme is available online from or follow on social media @spot_lit_eu


Notes for Editors:

Media Queries: Contact Allan Mulrooney, Head of Communication at the Western Development Commission on or +353 87 334 3713

Spot-lit is a new EU-funded programme for the literary tourism industry in the NPA Region.

Partners in this project include:

  • Western Development Commission (Ireland) (Communication Lead Partner)
  • Irish Central Border Area Network, Arts Over Borders (Northern Ireland) (Project Lead Partner)
  • Arts Over Borders (Northern Ireland)
  • Wigtown Festival Company (Scotland)
  • Kajaani University of Applied Sciences (Finland)
  • Lapland University of Applied Sciences (Finland)
  • Regional Council of Kainuu (Finland)
  • Reykjavik UNESCO City of Literature (Iceland) (Associate Partner)
  • Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature (Associate Partner)

About the NPA Region

The Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme 2014-2020 forms a cooperation between 9 programme partner countries. 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.  Despite geographical differences, the large programme area shares a number of joint challenges and opportunities that can best be overcome and realised by transnational cooperation. It is the programme’s vision is to help to generate vibrant, competitive and sustainable communities, by harnessing innovation, expanding the capacity for entrepreneurship and seizing the unique growth initiatives and opportunities of the Northern and Arctic regions in a resource-efficient way.

Regional Profiles 

Ireland, known to many as the land of saints and scholars, is today home to numerous writers, poets and dramaturgs. The Spot-lit region in Ireland is the West of Ireland coastal counties and is renowned for its literary heritage; it is synonymous with the internationally recognised poet William Butler Yeats, songwriter Percy French, writer Pádraic Ó Conaire and many more. The region celebrates its literary heritage through modern-day festivals and events such as the Yeats Summer School, Tread Softly Festival, Doolin Writers Festival, Letterfrack Poetry Trail, Baboro International Arts Festival for Children, and the Lady Gregory Autumn Gathering, amongst others.

The Kainuu Region in northern Finland is another partner region where Spot-Lit project partner The Regional Council of Kainuu is working with the literature associations. Cultural life in Kainuu is regarded as lively with year-round professional and amateur theatre, musical training, modern dance, music festivals and the Kajaani poetry festival. The Kalevala is a national poem of Finland featuring old Finnish ballads, lyrical songs, and incantations that were a part of Finnish oral tradition. Today, it inspires place names, business names, contemporary culture and art and is celebrated at events throughout the year. The Juminkeko Culture Center is of national importance and showcases Kalevala heritage. Significant literary figures from this region include Elias Lönnrot, Eino Leino, Ilmari Kianto, Veikko Huovinen and Isa Asp.

Uniquely rugged, Northern Ireland provides an untapped resource of literary talent, history and heritage. The birthplace of Seamus Heaney, the region has connections with Patrick Kavanagh, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde. A rich calendar of cultural and literary festivals and events each year include the Bard of Armagh, the Happy Days Enniskillen International Festival and The Wilde Weekend. Arts Over Borders present literary festivals which celebrate a strong sense of place, both rural and urban, throughout border communities and landscapes – what is now regarded as the northern literary lands.

The Scottish town of Wigtown is well known for its Wigtown Book Festival with a wide programme of over 300 events, but it is also Scotland’s designated ‘National Book Town’ due to its high concentration of bookshops. The Georgian townhouse Moat Brae also inspired the author JM Barrie, creator of Peter Pan and most recently the house opened in July 2019 as a visitor centre –  Peter Pan’s Enchanted Land –  along with a National Centre for Children’s Literature and Storytelling. Big DoG, a children’s book festival, also takes place in Wigtown. Scotland is also home to Robert Burns, Scottish poet and lyricist widely regarded as the national poet of Scotland.

Western Development Commission Leads 3 County Delegation to visit Community-led Renewable Energy Projects in Germany


  • 31% of total renewable energy production in Germany owned by its citizens compared to 0.14% in Ireland.
  • Western Development Commission is hosting a conference on December 11th to discuss the lessons learned from both Denmark and Germany regarding community owned projects within the renewable electricity auction process.
  • Mayo, Clare, and Leitrim represented on EU project visit.

The Western Development Commission (WDC) along with communities from the West of Ireland joined others from Norway, Sweden and Finland recently in the Aller-Leine-Tal region of Germany to explore best practice community owned renewable energy projects. This was the second trip that was facilitated through the NPA funded Local Energy Communities (LECo) project. While in Germany the team were hosted by the German Renewable Energy Agency and visited community owned wind farms, an electric car sharing energy co-operative, a community owned biogas plant and a range of energy efficient building upgrades. One of the key learnings for the group was to see first-hand how local communities are raising the finance required to bring a multitude of renewable energy projects to fruition and how this could be replicated for rural areas in the west of Ireland.

Dr Orla Nic Suibhne, LECo project officer with the Western Development Commission stated that “Germany is leading the path with community owned energy and this was an excellent opportunity to learn first-hand how to bring these projects to a financial close, and also how renewable energy can be a significant economic factor in rural areas.”

The Aller-Leine-Tal region has experienced greater added value in agriculture and forestry, more tax revenue from energy incomes, additional wealth locally as the energy is produced domestically and not imported from abroad, an increased number of local jobs in the sector and more income from land leases. It’s worth noting that there is an extremely low opposition rate to solar PV and wind farms, with almost 31% of total renewable energy production in Germany owned by its citizens compared to 0.14% in Ireland.

WDC CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin said ‘these EU projects and visits help to inform the conversation about climate change and renewables in Ireland at a time, when the state, local authorities and citizens are all trying to find methods to make the most efficient use of limited resources while also reducing carbon emissions.’

The renewable electricity market in Ireland is about to fundamentally change for communities with the introduction of the new Renewable Electricity Support Scheme (RESS). As part of this new auction based scheme, there will be a ring fenced capacity for 100% community owned projects from 2020 onwards. There will also be an opportunity for citizens to purchase and own shares in new renewable projects. Whilst the final RESS details from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and the Environment (DCCAE) are due next month, the following supports are anticipated for communities:

  • 10% of auction capacity allocated to community owned projects.
  • Supports in place for communities such as: technical assistance, planning assistance, risk free financial assistance for possible applications, independent advisors etc.
  • Priority grid access for community owned schemes.

Joe Lowe, Head of the Leitrim Local Enterprise Office, who also attended the study visit on behalf of the Local Authority, stated “This was a fantastic opportunity to see how community owned energy projects can participate in the energy transition, and we are looking proactively at similar opportunities in Sustainable Energy Communities within the County”.

As a direct result of this visit, the WDC are organising a conference in the Raheen Woods Hotel, Galway on December 11th to discuss the lessons learned from both Denmark and Germany regarding community owned projects within the renewable electricity auction process. The conference will be chaired by Paul Kenny CEO of the Tipperary Energy Agency and will feature speakers including Craig Morris Renewable Energy Agency Germany, Dr Louise Krog Aalborg University Denmark, Enda Gallagher Dept. Communications Climate Action & Environment, Ian Kilgannon Gas Networks Ireland, Xavier Dubisson XD Consulting and Prof Jerry Murphy and Dr Richard O’Shea, MaREI centre, ERI, UCC.

Tickets for the conference are free and guests can register HERE through Eventbrite.



For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact 


Allan Mulrooney, Head of Communications or +353 87 334 3713




  • LECo is a 3 year, €1.95m project, that aims to bring together the combined experience, knowledge and expertise of the project partners and provide conditions for the creation of energy self-sufficient Local Energy Communities.



  • The WDC is a State agency established under statute to foster and promote the economic and social development of the Western Region (Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare).
  • The work of the Western Development Commissionfocuses on investment, lending, regional development and policy analysis.
  • LookWest.ieoffers an overview of business activity and life in the Western Region including an up to date jobs platform.
  • The WDC is leading on The Atlantic Economic Corridor initiative. The AEC is an initiative to attract investment, support job creation and improve the quality of life in the West from Kerry to Donegal. This includes the Enterprise Hubs Project which is a 3-year project to create an interconnected community network from the 101 hubs identified as either operating or in development, in the AEC region.


About the investment Fund

  • The SME Investment Fund provides both equity investment and loan finance for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) across a range of sectors.
  • The Community Loan fund provides term loans and bridge finance to community projects and social enterprises in the Western Region.
  • The Creative Industries Micro-Loan Fund is open to sole traders, partnerships, businesses, co-operatives and groups operating in the creative industries sector, and provides loan finance ranging from €5,000 to €25,000.
  • The Western Region Audio-visual Producers Fund (WRAP) is a Regional Fund committed to strategic investment to support film, television, animation and games.

Minister Sean Canney launches twelve-month progress report and outlines next steps for The Atlantic Economic Corridor


  • Minister Sean Canney announces new phase for the Atlantic Economic Corridor task force.
  • Two key events to take place in Limerick and Sligo next week as a consultation for hubs development as part of the €1m allocated from the dormant accounts fund.

The Minister of State for Community Development, Natural Resources and Digital Development, Sean Canney this morning launched a twelve-month progress report of the Atlantic Economic Corridor and outlined the next phase for the project. The launch took place at this morning’s task force meeting in the Corralea Court Hotel, Tuam, Co. Galway attended by key stakeholders from across the region. Minister Canney also announced the winners of a recent competition for nine trips along the AEC including hotels, access to co-working hubs and other activities in each region.

The aim of the Atlantic Economic Corridor is to facilitate the delivery of the National Development Plan by promoting collaboration within the AEC that attracts investment and creates jobs and prosperity in the region. The Department of Rural and Community Development is responsible for co-ordinating the AEC project and developing a collaborative road-map for delivery of the objectives.   Speaking at this morning’s event the Minister said “The first AEC Taskforce Progress Report is a timely moment to take stock on the progress that has been made in establishing the AEC Taskforce as an effective vehicle forstakeholders to collaborate in identifying and developing projects that can help to better balance future development, attract investment and add real value to the economy of the West.”

This morning’s event outlined a new phase for the taskforce as it takes a project focused approach to delivering for the AEC region. The first of the projects announced today is the development of a hubs network across the region. The AEC Enterprise Hubs initiative will be a three-year project to create an interconnected community network from the 101 hubs identified which will be coordinated by the Western Development Commission (WDC). Speaking on the project the Minister said “The AEC Enterprise Hubs Network has the potential to deliver significant achievements under all three of the key pillars of the wider AEC Initiative; developing connectivity, promoting innovation and supporting the growth of a robust and diverse economy in the region. Working with the AEC officer network across all local authorities, the WDC has already established strong partnerships and collaborative relationships. We have now employed a new hubs development manager, Stephen Carolan who will help to co-ordinate the project alongside Allan Mulrooney, Head of Communications and AEC Development and the wider WDC team. We have organised two key stakeholder events taking place next week in Limerick and Sligo and we are encouraging all hubs managers and stakeholders to attend. This process will ensure the strategy developed supports the hubs and co-working spaces in every community along the AEC.”

Next week’s events will bring together key stakeholders including IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Grow Remote and all hubs managers from across the region to begin building a strategy. The focus of each event will include hubs infrastructure, business development, technology that will enable growth including an online booking system, promotion and marketing, funding, sustainability and remote working.

The events are open to the public and they can register on Eventbrite below.

  • Workshop 1. November 19th – Radisson Blu Hotel & Spa Limerick. Click HERE for tickets and more details.
  • Workshop 2. November 21st – Sligo Park Hotel, Co. Sligo. Click HERE for tickets and more details.




For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact 

Allan Mulrooney, Head of Communications and Atlantic Economic Corridor Development or +353 87 334 3713



Western Development Commission appoints Gavin Doherty as Investment Executive with special responsibility for the North West.

Western Development Commission appoints Gavin Doherty as Investment Executive with special responsibility for the North West.

  • Investment Executive with special responsibility for the North West, Gavin Doherty joins the WDC.
  • The WDC Investment Fund will be holding a series of monthly clinics in Donegal, Leitrim and Sligo to outline funding supports available to businesses and community groups in the North West.

The WDC is pleased to announce the appointment of a new investment executive with special responsibility for the North West .Gavin Doherty is an experienced corporate finance professional and chartered accountant. Prior to taking up the position of Investment Executive with the WDC, Gavin worked as a corporate finance manager with Grant Thornton and a financial advisor to various government departments with the NTMA.

The WDC Investment Fund has to date invested over €55 million in 166 SMEs, Micro and Social/Community Enterprises in the region with over 5,000 people employed directly and indirectly in portfolio companies. This investment has leveraged an additional €250m for these portfolio
companies and a realised acquisition value of over €500 million. Recent investments/lending include Atrian Medical in Galway, Lough Gill Brewery in Sligo and Cerebreon Technologies in Donegal.

The WDC Investment Fund has also invested in three accelerator programmes which have supported 40 pre-seed companies across the ICT, MedTech, and AgTech sectors. Due to the success of its Evergreen Strategy the WDC now has significant funds to reinvest in enterprises in the Western Region.

Speaking on the appointment, Western Development Commission CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin said; The North-West Region is one of the organisations key focus areas. Since the launch of our strategy ‘Work Smarter, Live Better’ last March we have taken on a number of new staff members to ensure we are delivering on our commitments. Gavin has the right breadth and scope of experience for this important role and I believe he will be a significant asset to us in working to engage with businesses and communities in the North West.”

The new investment executive is looking forward to taking up the role. “I’m delighted and looking forward to beginning the all-important engagement with SMEs and communities. The investment fund can help drive job creation and support enterprise resilience in the North West.”

The WDC Investment team will be at IT Sligo on Monday 25th November in room G1031 from 10am to 4pm.  They will also be at the CoLab in Letterkenny IT on Tuesday 26th November from 10am to 4pm and The Hive, Carrick On Shannon on Friday 22nd November from 10am to 4pm.

If you believe your business or community project may fit the WDC investment or lending criteria, please get in touch with Gavin to make an appointment on or visit


For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact 

Allan Mulrooney, Head of Communications or +353 87 334 3713

Ghost nets and plastic pirates – The emerging opportunities from marine plastic recyclates off our Western shores

The Western Development Commission (WDC), met with an international group of experts at a transnational workshop on ways of engaging SMEs in novel opportunities for recycling marine waste plastics e.g. end of life fishing nets, and using them as a valuable feedstock for new or regenerated products.

“The issues of responsibility for our marine environment and opportunities for regional SMEs that such an approach represents is something the WDC is pursuing with other EU maritime facing organisations” said Ian Brannigan, head of regional development , WDC.

This workshop on the grounds of the Danish Technical University (DTU), in Copenhagen, reviewed issues of marine plastic recyclates such as “ghost nets” or end of life fishing gear as well as novel solutions to the issue of marine plastics such as the “plastic pirates” initiative.


Speaking at the meeting, Siv Marina Flø Grimstad (Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NTNU) outlined to the gathering the concept of “how we need to contribute to a more sustainable society” in our approach to marine plastic recycling and how initiatives such as the Blue Circular Economy ( may achieve this through identifying and engaging marine plastic recycling clusters in the identified regions (Norway and Ireland).

Neil James (Environmental Research Institute) outlined the impact of plastic upon our habitat and fauna “Over 56% of our bird species globally has been negatively impacted by waste plastics, ingestion, entanglement etc”.

Esther Savina (DTU), outlined emerging possibilities on biodegradable fishing nets based on biodegradable resins, which offered potential longer term solutions.

At the conclusion it was outlined how under the auspices of the Blue Circular Economy initiative , potential SMEs will be identified and engaged in the coming 18 months to support the development of marine plastics recycling clusters. The WDC will lead this work, with regional stakeholders, in the West of Ireland.



About Blue Circular Economy.      

Established in 2018 the Blue Circular Economy is a partnership between Western Development Commission, Technical University of Denmark, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, The Centre for Sustainable Design® at UCA, and the Environmental Research Institute.  The three year programme is funded by the Northern Periphery and Arctic 2014-2020 programme.  Full details on 


The Business of Literature – Major Literary Tourism Initiative Set to Enhance Commercial Capacity in Northern European Region

Major new three-year literary tourism pilot programme set to launch across four Northern European countries this Autumn.

Spot-lit is a new three-year project that aims to grow the literary tourism sector in the Northern Periphery and Arctic region by supporting the organisations and businesses in this culturally-rich region to grow collaborate and better engage audiences together. Literary Tourism is an emerging niche sector within the wider cultural tourism sector, where places with literary heritage offer author and fiction-related literary tourism opportunities along with opportunities arising from literary festivals, trails and book shops.Funded by Interreg Northern Periphery and Arctic Programme, the regions participating in the Spot-lit programme area are Western Ireland, Northern Ireland, Eastern Finland and South-West Scotland.

All share a number of common features such as low population density, low accessibility, low economic diversity, abundant natural resources, and high impact of climate change.

Collectively, the region is home to world-class literary icons and landscapes, however, research suggests there is potential for this sector to work together and grow significantly. Current low levels of joined-up literary tourism activity in the Northern Periphery and Arctic Region make it a sector that is ripe for development.

Spot-lit addresses the need for shared development and marketing of existing assets and the development of new ones, which respond to emerging literary and cultural consumer needs. This will result in a better cultural tourism offering and deliver greater economic impact than projects developed in national isolation.

The programme will include the development of a cluster network across the regions, a series of support workshops, the development of 20 new literary products or services and shared learning and transnational marketing.

Some of the Spot-lit partners at a recent partner meeting in Scoltland (left to right) Filip Sever, Mary Keaveney, Minna Mustonen, Helena Aaltonen  Marlene Kohllechner-Autto, Shane Campbell.

Speaking on the occasion of the launch of the project, CEO Tomás Ó Síocháin of the Western Development Commission said: “We are delighted to launch this programme today following an extensive period of research and development. Spot-Lit has the capacity to deliver tangible benefits to under-tapped regions across Europe through the literary tourism sector which we know has the potential to be a major economic driver. We encourage any organisation or business in the literary tourism sector to visit our website and sign-up for our information roadshows in early October.”

This Autumn, the Spot-lit partners in Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Finland will deliver a series of workshops for businesses interested in Literary Tourism development.

Workshop 1: Building Successful Literary Tourism Experiences for Visitors
Workshop 2: Designing and developing your Literary Tourism product or service
Workshop 3: Knowing and growing your market

Following on from the workshops, businesses will be invited to participate in a Literary Business Support Programme. The programme will be open to SMEs, social enterprises, community groups and literary associations with a unique idea for the development of Literary Tourism in their area. This bespoke programme will involve a series of monthly engagement workshops, learning journeys, business advice clinics and individual mentoring supports. The programme will engage with 5 businesses in each country and will include a €10,000 innovation voucher. The focus of the business idea/product will be for the development of Literary Tourism.

The project will officially launch on September 25th with a new website at, dedicated social media channels @spot_lit_eu, followed by a call out for literary businesses and organisations to register their interest for upcoming events and workshops.






58,000 Enterprises in Western Region employing 250,000 people

  • 92.9% of all enterprises in Western Region are micro-enterprises (10 or fewer people)
  • Largest number of enterprises in Construction, Wholesale & Retail and Professional Services
  • No. of enterprises in Western Region fell 4.3% between 2008 and 2012 but grew 6.5% (2012-2017)

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has today published new analysis of enterprises in the Western Region.  Based on recent CSO Business Demography data, the WDC has released an infographic ‘Enterprise in the Western Region 2017’ with accompanying data for the seven counties within its area (Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo).

The newly released data shows that in 2017, there were 57,951 enterprises registered in the Western Region. This accounted for 17.1% of all enterprises registered across Ireland at the time.  In total, 255,261 people were working in these businesses, including both owners and employees.  In the Western Region, employees accounted for 84.6% of everyone working in enterprises. This was lower than the 90% state average meaning that owners accounted for a larger share of the enterprise workforce in the region.

The data for the Western Region highlighted that 92.9% of enterprises were micro-enterprises (employing fewer than 10 people). However, because of their small size micro-enterprises only accounted for 35.8% of everyone working in enterprises in the region.

The data shows that micro-enterprises play a more significant role in the Western Region than nationally, both in terms of their share of all enterprises (92.9% in the Western Region, 92.1% nationally) and their share of employment in enterprises (35.8% in the Western Region, 26.5% nationally).

While larger firms (with 10 or more people) only account for 7.1% of enterprises in the Western Region, they employ 64.2% of people working for the region’s businesses.

The number of enterprises registered in the Western Region fell by 4.3% between 2008 and 2012. This was weaker than the national performance where the number of enterprises grew marginally (0.1%) over this period.

With economic recovery, the number increased again, growing by 6.5% in the Western Region between 2012 and 2017 (11% nationally).  Much of this growth occurred in more recent years and particularly between 2016 and 2017.

Author of the report, WDC Policy Analyst Pauline White says:

‘Clearly micro-enterprises play a very significant role in the Western Region’s enterprise base.  There is a higher share of owner-managers working in enterprises in the region which is important to keep in mind when designing and planning business supports. While enterprises in the region were hit very hard during the recession, there has been recovery, accelerating in recent years. There were more enterprises registered in the Western Region in 2017 than a decade earlier.’  

In terms of the number of enterprises, Construction is the largest sector in the Western Region accounting for 20.4% of all enterprises registered in the region.  Wholesale & Retail (15%) and Professional, Scientific & Technical activities (9.4%) are next largest.  All three sectors include many sole traders and micro-enterprises e.g. construction trades, solicitors, architects, small shops and they are also the three largest sectors nationally.

Considering the number of people working in enterprises however shows a different pattern.  Wholesale & Retail is the largest enterprise sector in employment terms (17.8% of all people working in enterprises in the Western Region) followed by Industry (manufacturing) (17.2%) and Accommodation & Food Service (13.4%). These three sectors include many larger businesses e.g. factories, hotels, large retail stores, so account for a greater share of employment than of enterprises.

According to Tomás Ó Síocháin, CEO of the WDC:

‘Enterprises form the backbone of the local and regional economy.  Supporting the establishment and growth of sustainable enterprises across the Western Region is one of the three strategic themes of our recently launched WDC Strategy 2019-2024.  This analysis of enterprise data helps to inform the WDC’s work in supporting enterprises through the WDC Investment Fund, creation of a network of Enterprise Hubs across the Atlantic Economic Corridor area and a number of other sectoral initiatives.’ 

Download ‘Enterprise in the Western Region 2017’ and key statistics for each county of the Western Region from


For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact Allan Mulrooney, Head of Communications, WDC on or +353 87 334 3713

Notes to Editor:

  • The Western Development Commission (WDC) is a statutory body promoting social and economic development in the Western Region. It was established in 1998 to cover counties Clare, Donegal, Galway, Leitrim, Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo.
  • The WDC’s Policy Analysis Team analyses regional and rural issues, suggests solutions to regional difficulties and provides a regional perspective on national policy objectives. This publication is part of a suite of WDC Insights publications which aim to provide accessible information for people in the Western Region, based on analysis of key socio-economic data and providing insights on important issues for the region and its counties. Other outputs of the WDC’s Policy Analysis Team include Policy Briefings, Reports, Submissions and the weekly WDC Insights Blog.
  • Data Source: All data sourced from CSO, Business Demography 2017 Tables BRA08 and TableBRA18. Analysis of data was undertaken by the Western Development Commission.
    • The geographical breakdown for enterprises is an approximation. The county breakdown is based on the address at which an enterprise is registered for Revenue purposes, rather than where the business actually operates from. In particular, where an enterprise has local units in several counties (e.g. a supermarket chain), but one head office where all employment is registered, all its employees are counted against the county where the head office is located.
    • Data on total enterprises, total persons engaged and enterprises/persons engaged by Sector are based on a figure for ‘total enterprises’ which includes all economic sectors (NACE Rev2) except Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing and Public Administration & Defence.
    • Data on enterprises and persons engaged by enterprise size (micro-enterprises etc.) and data on changes over time are based on a figure for ‘business economy’ enterprises which includes all economic sectors (NACE Rev2) except Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Public Administration & Defence, Education, Health & Social Work, Arts/ Entertainment/ Recreation and Other Services.

The Western Development Commission convenes meeting in Galway to discuss the issues of marine plastics arising from waste fishing gear, the circular economy and the economic opportunities.

Caption- WDC, their EU partners and regional stakeholders meet to discuss forming solutions to the issues of waste fishing nets, ropes and components.From left to right: Ian Brannigan(WDC), Anita McKeown(UCD), Mike Devane(AEC), Lucy Hunt(UCD)Catherine Barrett(BIM), Siv Marina Flø Grimstad(NTNU), Martin Charter(CfSD), Richard Glavee-Geo(NTNU),Neil James(ERI), Stephen McCormack(WDC), Clodagh Barry(WDC), Margaret Rae(Marine Institute

International experts from Norway, Denmark and the UK gathered in Galway on June 12/13 at a special symposium convened by the Western Development Commission (WDC), to debate and share views on marine plastic waste and the development of a blue circular economy, focusing on Fishing Nets, Ropes and Components.

The partners from the Blue Circular Economy initiative met with academics, researchers, representatives from the fishing industry as well as national stakeholders with involvement with our coastlines to discuss the opportunities for the local innovation ecosystems and for SMEs to attain greater market reach from their locality. This was the first time for this consortium to meet in Ireland.

“We learned from today that there is a significant opportunity to apply circular economy principles to thousands of tonnes of marine plastics through recycling and repurposing, which could lead to opportunities for marine communities” said Ian Brannigan , Head of Regional Development WDC. “The WDC see this as an ideal way to shepard resources to grow and safeguard for the region’s future”

A special briefing was organised in the Harbour Master Boardroom overlooking Galway Bay on Wednesday, where current and potential Irish stakeholders were given the opportunity to understand the model of Marine Innovation Clusters from Innovation Norway.

Údarás na Gaeltachta kindly played host to the consortium at their headquarters in Furbo on day two, where Mark de Faoite(Director of Enterprise, Employment, Property & Engineering) outlined their plans for the Páirc na Mara Marine Innovation Park in Galway. The group then heard from Professor Martin Charter and Associate Professor Richard Glavee-Geo, who discussed the Blue Circular Economy project in more detail and what the next steps in developing local innovation systems and supply chains are, and, how potential products might be marketed. The group will be hosting an innovation workshop in Galway sometime in January 2020.

About Blue Circular Economy:

Established in 2018 the Blue Circular Economy is a partnership between Western Development Commission, Technical University of Denmark, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, The Centre for Sustainable Design® at UCA, and the Environmental Research Institute. The three year programme, with partners in Ireland, UK, Demark and Norway, will promote and support companies to create sustainable industries in the recovery and recycling of used fishing netting into commercial products. The Blue Circular Economy project is funded by the Northern Periphery and Arctic 2014-2020 programme.

For further information, please contact Stephen McCormack, BCE Project Officer or call   087 7113621

Smaller Labour Catchments across the Western Region

Travel to Work Areas and Labour Catchments

Analysis of travel to work data can be used to identify the geographic catchment from which a town draws its workforce, otherwise known as its labour catchment. Measurement of labour markets based on Travel to Work Areas (TTWAs) has been well established in the UK for many years, helping to inform various public policies ranging from employment to transport provision. Companies and large employers use TTWAs to help identify optimal locations to access labour supply.

The use of TTWAs is less well established in Ireland, and where used has largely been focussed on the larger cities especially Dublin. There has generally been little focus on labour catchments in other centres or more rural regions.

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has worked with the All Island Research Observatory (AIRO) to examine the labour catchments of towns across the Western Region based on Census of Population data 2006 and 2016. The town labour catchments show that area from which a town draws most of its labour supply; each catchment is based on the inclusions of Electoral Divisions (EDs) that are assigned to a town, based on commuting to work flows.

Last year the WDC published the findings on the labour catchments of the principal towns of the seven counties of the Western Region (Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon). The full report Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments is available for download here (14.2MB). Each of the individual town reports are also available to download separately (Galway City, Sligo Town, Ennis,  Letterkenny, Castlebar, Carrick-on-Shannon, Roscommon).

The WDC is now publishing the findings of the other smaller catchments across the Western Region. This is the first time such detailed labour market analyses have been undertaken for the smaller centres across the Western Region. These data and findings can inform local and regional economic development and help support appropriate policies to ensure optimal local and regional development.

Smaller Catchments

The WDC identifies 26 labour catchments, which complement the 7 labour catchments of the principal towns in each of the counties which were published in 2018, see above.

In these 26 publications, the WDC draws on Census 2016 POWCAR (Place of Work Census of Anonymised Records) data to examine the travel to work patterns in centres with a population greater than 1,000 across the Western Region.

These 26 smaller catchments provide insights into the travel to work patterns of workers living there which are then used to generate labour catchments which show the geographic area from which each town draws most of its workers. Each town’s labour catchment has many more workers living there than the Census measure of the town’s resident workforce and it is a better measure of labour supply. This is particularly useful when considering employment and investment decisions.

Socio-economic profiles

Each of the reports identify the place of work of the resident workforce and provides detailed analysis of the socio-economic profile of workers providing information on age, gender, education levels, and sector of employment. There are comparisons with the rest of the Western Region and the State Average. There is also trend analyses indicating the extent of change between 2006 and 2016.

For ease of presentation the 26 smaller catchment reports are presented by County. Below are links to each of the 26 reports. In practice labour catchments extend across county boundaries, indeed that is one of the rationales for considering labour catchments rather than administrative boundaries; people travel to work regardless of county boundaries and these patterns and catchments provide a better evidence base for informing policy.

Some key points include:

  • Labour Supply: All the town labour catchments have significantly more people at work than the Census population at work for that town and have therefore access to a larger labour supply than normal Census definitions would indicate.
  • Profile of ‘Rural’ employment: The profile of employment in these smaller centres provide important insights into ‘rural’ employment, which is much are complex and varied than the perception of rural as largely agricultural employment.
  • Trends: Changes over time, in both place of work and the socio-economic characteristics of workers indicate little change in the geography of labour catchments but much change in the profile of resident workers, most notably in their age and education levels.

County Clare

The two labour catchments within Co. Clare have both recorded an increase in workers resident in the catchments. The Shannon labour catchment is concentrated around the Shannon Free Zone and Shannon Airport and is geographically compact. The Kilrush labour catchment is more extensive and now incorporates a previously separate Kilkee labour catchment. In both there is evidence of longer distances travelled to work than previously.

County Donegal

There are 8 smaller catchments located within Co. Donegal, reflecting the large size of the county, its geography with an extensive border both with Northern Ireland and the sea, and the relatively small size of some of the catchments.

Of the 8 labour catchments, 5 recorded a decline in the number of resident workers in the decade between 2006 and 2016. The three that recorded an increase in resident workers are Donegal, Dungloe and Carndonagh,  illustrating that some more remote areas are experiencing growth.

Each report identifies the top 10 work destinations for residents living in each labour catchment and the extent of cross border commuting is presented.

County Galway

There are 4 smaller catchments located within Co. Galway and just one, Gort labour catchment, recorded a decrease in the number of workers living there over the decade 2006-2016. Clifden, Tuam and Loughrea labour catchments recorded increases of varying degrees. The data presented also shows the extent of commuting between catchments, for example from Tuam, Loughrea and Gort labour catchments to Galway city.

County Leitrim

Apart from the county town labour catchment of Carrick-on-Shannon, there is just one smaller catchment located within Co. Leitrim, namely Manorhamilton. The number of resident workers in the Manorhamilton labour catchment increased over the ten year period and there is data to show more people are now working in Manorhamilton . The influence of some key employers is evident. Data on dross border commuting is also presented.

County Mayo

There are 8 smaller catchments located within Co. Mayo. Just two of the eight recorded a decline in the numbers of resident workers between the period of 2006 and 2016, these were Belmullet and the Charlestown/Knock Airport catchment. The other 6 recorded increases of varying degrees from 31% increase in the Westport labour catchment to an increase of 2.4% for the Ballina labour catchment. The most important places of work across each catchment are presented along with the labour market profiles of workers living there.

County Roscommon

There are 3 smaller catchments located within Co. Roscommon. All 3 recorded a decline in the numbers of workers resident there. In the case of Boyle and Ballaghaderreen, the geographic size of the labour catchments also decreased slightly. The data presented show the sectors in which people worked, the extent to which people worked inside the town and those who worked outside the town but within the wider catchment and the changes over the 10 years. Across all catchments there is a very significant increase in the level of third level education among the workforce.


Deirdre Frost

Travel to Work Areas and Border Labour Catchments

The WDC will present analysis on Travel to Work Areas (TTWAS) and the smaller labour catchments located along the Border at a conference in Derry, organised by NERI on 1st May see here for more details.

This work is part of a larger piece of work examining the smaller labour catchments across the Western Region which in turn is part of the WDC programme of research on Travel to Work Areas and Labour Catchments which has been a key element of the WDC Policy Analysis work programme for the last 10 years.

The work on smaller labour catchments follows on from the WDC report published in 2018, Travel to Work and Labour Catchments in the Western Region, A Profile of Seven Town Labour Catchments (2018). This provides a detailed labour market profile of the principal towns in each of the seven counties of the Western Region, based on travel to work patterns, namely: Galway, Ennis, Sligo, Letterkenny, Castlebar, Roscommon and Carrick-on-Shannon and is available for download here. (14.2MB)

The map below illustrates all the labour catchments across the Western Region, arising from the analysis of Census 2016 data.

Map 1 Labour Catchments across the Western Region 2016

The analysis of smaller labour catchments reviews the remaining 26 complete labour catchments contained within the Western Region and the 26 reports will be published shortly. Here is a sneak preview of some findings and points of interest.

The 26 complete smaller labour catchments are distributed across each of the counties of the Western Region as the table below shows.

Table 1 The 26 smaller Labour Catchments in Western Region Counties, 2016














The smaller labour catchments range in size from the largest, Ballina in Co. Mayo with 9,034 resident workers, to the smallest, Charlestown-Bellahy with 962 resident workers.

Each labour catchments has a greater number of workers living there compared to the figure reported in the Census for the town at its core, indicating a greater labour supply available than might otherwise be considered.

Of the 26 smaller labour catchments 15 reported an increase in numbers over the 10 year period from 2006 to 2016, while 11 of the smaller labour catchments reported a decline in numbers over the same period.

Generally, those that reported a decline are somewhat remote, for example five of those that reported a decline are located in Co. Donegal, namely, Ballybofey-Stranorlar, Buncrana, Killybegs, Bunbeg and Ballyshannon. Belmullet in west Mayo also recorded a decline in the number of resident workers living there over the 10 year period. A further four catchments in east Mayo/Roscommon reported a decline; namely Charlestown, Ballaghaderreen, Boyle and Castlerea, while Gort in co. Galway also had a decline in resident workers living there over the 10 year intercensal period.

In the case of the labour catchments in Co. Donegal, the larger labour catchments of Donegal town and Letterkenny, both recorded an increase over the period indicating move from the smaller more rural catchments in the county to the larger centres and this in part accounts for the changes.

For the centres in Mayo and Roscommon which reported a decline in numbers, some of this can be accounted for by growth in adjacent centres such as Castlebar and Carrick-on-Shannon but further analysis is needed to explain the changes in detail.

There is also some evidence of greater levels of longer distance commuting to Dublin and other locations, for example, the numbers travelling from the larger catchments of Galway city, Sligo and Ennis to work in Dublin has more than doubled over the 10 year period. This trend is likely to be evident for the smaller centres also.

However, it is also true that rural areas remain very important places of work. Across many of the 26 labour catchments the second most important place of work after the town itself is the rural parts of the county. Smaller centres and rural areas are very important employment centres and the analysis will show that this employment extends across sectors such as Education, health and Social Work, Manufacturing and Wholesale, Retail and Commerce.

Further detail will be available following the presentation at the NERI conference and will be posted here


Deirdre Frost