Tomás Ó Síocháin appointed as CEO as the WDC welcomes renewed focus on Regional Development


Tomás Ó Síocháin appointed as CEO as the WDC welcomes renewed focus on Regional Development

The Western Development Commission has today (Tuesday 25th September 2018) announced that Tomás Ó Síocháin has been appointed by the Board of the WDC as Chief Executive Officer. Tomás joins the organisation from NUI Galway, where he was External Engagement Programme Manager, having previously spent more than 14 years as an editor and journalist with RTÉ and TG4.

The Western Development Commission, established by statute in 1998, advises the Government on policy for the western region, plays a key role in regional development, supports small and medium business through the Western Investment Fund and raises the social, cultural and economic profile of the west through and other initiatives;

  • Investment in the region – Since 2010 the WDC has sourced and directed over €13M in total funding towards regional enterprise and employment development
  • Regional Policy and analysis – in critical areas such as census analysis, broadband rollout and the creative economy
  • Western Investment Fund – 2700 direct jobs and 5000 in total (indirect and direct) supported by the WDC in the region in recent years
  • EU project work to total value of €12m (FY2017) in areas such as renewable bioenergy, the creative economy, cultural tourism and micro and SME enterprises

The appointment is timely, given the renewed focus on Regional Development as part of the National Planning Framework and the announcement of €4 billion in funding under the Ireland 2040 project. These developments build on the establishment of the Department of Rural and Community Development, and the appointment of a new Board to the WDC.

Dr Deirdre Garvey, Chair of the Board of the WDC, welcomed the appointment saying; “On behalf of the Board, I am delighted to announce the appointment of the CEO and welcome Tomás to the WDC. It is a time of significant opportunity for the WDC in context of the National Planning Framework. I look forward to working with Tomás and the staff as we build on the success of the WDC and develop these opportunities for the Western region.”

A native of Co. Clare and living in Co. Galway, Tomás Ó Síocháin sees first-hand the opportunities for the policy, development and financial support offered by the Western Development Commission: ‘In terms of work-life balance, opportunity and physical beauty, the west of Ireland has few if any parallels on a global stage. I am privileged to lead an organisation that has done so much in facilitating and supporting growth in this region. A significant opportunity now exists to build on the work of the WDC and others in a collaborative and cohesive way; supporting economic, social and cultural growth, not only for those who currently live and work here but to help to inform the decision making of those that will ‘look west’ and choose a better quality of life in the future.’

Read more about the work of the Western Development Commission at or what living and working in the west offers on

 Note for editors:

Further information contact: Caroline Coffey, WDC 094 9861441 |

 Brief biography: A native of Quin, Co. Clare, Tomás Ó Síocháin holds degrees in law (B.Corp & LLB) a H.Dip in Applied Communications (Gaeilge) and an MBA from NUI Galway. As External Engagement Programme Manager in NUI Galway, he led the incorporation of Shannon College of Hotel Management into NUI Galway, was the inaugural Chair of the Regional Skills Forum West and is currently Chair of the Communications Committee of the Atlantic Economic Corridor Task Force.

He worked for over 14 years in public service broadcasting, as a broadcast journalist covering business, news and sport for RTÉ and as a programme editor working across Nuacht RTÉ and Nuacht TG4. He was Executive Producer of the 2011 TG4 General Election Leaders’ Debate and Presidential Debate and is an External Assessor for the Broadcast Authority of Ireland’s Sound and Vision Scheme.




A Snapshot of the Western Region – WDC publishes a series of county infographics

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published a series of eight infographics showing of key statistics for the Western Region and each of its seven counties.  The data is from the CSO’s Census of Population in 2016 with analysis by the WDC.


The infographic shows

  • The population of the county
  • The percentage living in rural areas.
  • The percentage of the working age population is in the labour force
  • Average time to travel to work in minutes

There is a different infographic for each county and there is also one for the Western Region.   The Region’s infographic  shows the Western Region population growth since the last Census in 2011 (1.0%) and the growth over the last ten years (8.7%).

The Region has more females (50.4%) than males and that 15% of the population are over 65 and more than a fifth are under 15 (21.1%).

Infographics are an entertaining way to provide information about the Region and its counties.  They show important county characteristics and information in an accessible and lively way.  We hope they will be used in schools and in workplaces and anywhere that people want to know more about the places where they live or are visiting.

There is a good mix of statistics highlighted on the infographics, showing access to broadband in the Western Region (64%) and also that most of the population consider themselves to be in very good health (57.6%).

The infographics also give information about work and education.  In the Western Region the average time taken to travel to work is 24.8 minutes.  59% of the working age population is in the work force and 39% have a third level qualification.  Two employment sectors are also shown.  Almost 14% of the Region’s workers are in Industry and 6.8% working in agriculture.

You can download the infographics for the Western Region and for the seven counties here:


Helen McHenry

LECo Project Launch and Community Energy Awareness Event

The Western Development Commission launched their Local Energy Communities (LECo) project in IT Sligo on Friday April 6th. The launch was combined with a community energy awareness day.

LECo is funded by the NPA programme with partners in Ireland, Finland, Sweden and Norway. The goal is to combine new innovative technologies with locally available natural resources, and to raise awareness of energy efficiency and identify possibilities to use renewable energy.

The event was organised and Chaired by Dr Orla Nic Suibhne from the Western Development Commission, and the speakers included:

Paul Kenny CEO of Tipperary Energy Agency
Ruth Buggie Sustainable Energy Community (SEC) Programme Manger with SEAI
Pauline Leonard GREBE Project Coordinator Western Development Commission
Mel Gavin R&D Coordinator IT Sligo
Aisling Nic Aoidh LECo Project Officer Údarás na Gaeltachta
Martin Keating Mayo County Council’s Climate Change Regional Office

At the event, Ruth Buggie from SEAI announced details of a new grant programme specifically designed for communities within the SEC network. This new programme will go live mid April 2018 and aims to develop community skills to a level where they can manage their own capital projects, lead small to medium scale project in their own communities, build and maintain energy awareness and knowledge locally, and also provide funding for small scale demonstration projects to showcase innovative energy solutions. There is €3m available for this new funding programme for communities in 2018.

Please click here for more information

Energy Innovations for SMEs

Are you interested in Energy Innovations for SMEs?

Join us on 25th June 2018 for the upcoming conference at Limerick Institute of Technology.

Register HERE!

For more information please visit FREED Project event page.

WDC Insights Publications on County Incomes and Regional GDP

The Western Development Commission (WDC) has just published two WDC Insights: How are we doing? County Incomes in the Western Region and What’s happening in our regional economies?  Growth and Change in Regional GVA.

Both of these examine data from the most recent CSO County Incomes and Regional GDP publication for 2015 (with preliminary data for 2016) and they have a particular emphasis on the counties of the Western Region and on our regional economy.

These two page WDC Insights publications provide succinct analysis and commentary on recently published data and on policy issues for the Western Region.  Both of these WDC Insights are shorter versions of the series of blog posts on County Incomes and Regional GVA which you may have read previously.

How are we doing? County Incomes in the Western Region

In this WDC Insights data on County Incomes in 2015 are examined with a focus on the difference among Western Region counties and changes over time.

Five Western Region counties had Household Disposable Income per Person (Disposable Income) of less than 90% of the state average, while Galway and Sligo were both 93%.  They  had the highest Disposable Incomes in the Western Region in 2015 (Galway (€18,991) and Sligo (€19,001)).

Donegal continues to have a significantly lower Disposable Income than any other county in Ireland (€15,705 in 2015).  Disposable Income in Roscommon was also significantly lower than the state average at €16,582 in 2015. This was the second lowest of any county in Ireland, while Mayo had the fourth lowest.

Regional divergence was at its least in 2010 when all parts of the country were significantly affected by recession. Since then, incomes in some counties have begun to grow faster and divergence has again increased, particularly since 2012.

The WDC Insights How are we doing? County Incomes in the Western Region can be downloaded here  (PDF 260KB)


What’s happening in our regional economies?  Growth and Change in Regional GVA

The most recent regional GVA and GDP data (for 2015 and preliminary 2016) published by the CSO is discussed in this WDC Insights with a focus on the regions which include the seven Western Region counties.

Between 2014 and 2015 there was very significant growth in GVA and GDP nationally (a level shift which occurred for a variety of reasons). It is therefore valuable to examine how this rapid economic growth was spread among regions. While data for the largest regions of Dublin and the South West has been suppressed by the CSO, to preserve the confidentiality, variation in growth and disparity in the other regions continues to be of national and regional importance.

The data shows that disparities are widening and economic activity, as measured by GVA, is becoming more and more concentrated.  The smaller contribution to national GVA from other regions highlights their significant untapped potential.

The WDC Insights What’s happening in our regional economies?  Growth and Change in Regional GVA can be downloaded here  (PDF  350 KB)


If you find these WDC Insights on County Incomes and Regional GVA interesting and would like to read more detailed discussion of the data please visit these recent WDC Insights blog posts:

Leprechauns in Invisible Regions: Regional GVA (GDP) in 2015

What’s happening in our regional economies? Growth and change in Regional GVA.

How are we doing? County Incomes in the Western Region

I hope that you find these WDC Insights useful.  Let us know what you think.  We’d welcome your feedback.


Helen McHenry

Grebe Conference

Preparations are underway for our next Big Conference! Action Renewables is hosting a GREBE Conference on 21st June 2018 in Belfast. The marketing team here at Action Renewables are working hard to come up with a new concept of delivery that will keep the audience engaged and provide an enjoyable day of events. Here is a short preview of what is to come:

The Conference aims to showcase policy in 7 EU Renewable Energy Projects in Northern Ireland with a particular focus on the GREBE EU Project.
Guest speakers will demonstrate the most recent developments in Renewable Energy Technologies.
An outline on how the GREBE project has identified elements of good policy which could be applied to Northern Ireland.

Pauline Leonard, Western Development Commission Lead Partner, will disseminate the overall results and impact of the GREBE EU Programme across the region.
Roisin Deery, Action Renewables will present GREBE Policy findings across the regions.

Una Porteous, Fermanagh & Omagh District Council will provide an overview on the success of the SME mentoring scheme throughout all the partners regions in ROI, NI, Scotland, Finland and Iceland.
The second part of the Conference will showcase other EU Renewable Energy Projects currently running in Northern Ireland: RECENT, SEAFUEL, REDAWN, SPIRE2, GENCOMM and Renewable Engine.

Click here for more info

Western Region Audiovisual Producers Fund (WRAP Fund) Guidelines

WRAP is committed to strategic investment that encourages regional production activity across the film, television drama, animation and gaming sectors, to support local talent, create sustainable employment, build the audio-visual infrastructure and contribute to the cultural veracity of the region. The region encompasses counties Clare, Donegal, Galway (City and County), Mayo, Roscommon and Sligo (Region).

These guidelines are intended to assist Content Producers (Producers) in making a submission to the Western Regional Audiovisual Fund (WRAP) for Production Support.

Download the WRAP Fund Production Guidelines HERE

Find our more about the WRAP Fund HERE

Annual Conference of Regional Studies Association

The WDC is sponsoring this year’s Annual Conference of the Irish Branch of the Regional Studies Association. The theme of this year’s conference is ‘City Led Regional Development and Peripheral Regions’ and takes place on Friday, 7th September at IT Sligo

Submission themes

The call for papers for the conference is now open. Abstracts of no more than 250 words can be submitted here. Presentations from policymakers, academia and practitioners active in the field of regional studies, as well as post-graduate students are welcome. Presentations may deal with, amongst others, the following themes:

  • Cities as a source of economic growth
  • Development in peripheral regions
  • Urban centres and economic development
  • The National Planning Framework and governance
  • The National Planning Framework and housing
  • Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies
  • Local and regional economic forums
  • New approaches to regional development
  • International comparator cases

Other contributions dealing with the topic of regional studies are invited and may be included in focussed sessions.


Two international speakers have already been confirmed:

Dr Andrew Copus, The James Hutton Institute, Scotland: Andrew Copus joined the Social, Economic and Geographical Sciences Group of The James Hutton Institute in March 2013. For the previous eight years he was a Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio (Nordic Centre for Spatial Development, Stockholm) and the Centre for Remote and Rural Studies, University of the Highlands and Islands.

Andrew is an economic geographer by training, whose research interests relate to the changing rural economy and rural/regional policy. Much of his work has been based upon analysis of small area or regional secondary data and indicators. He has a long-standing interest in territorial rural development and regional disparities, which through recent projects is presented as “rural cohesion policy”.

Much of Andrew’s work has had a European perspective, variously funded by Framework Programmes, ESPON and as a consultant for the European Commission. He has studied the role of rural business networks, the changing nature of peripherality and most recently, patterns and trends in poverty and social exclusion.

Professor Mark Partridge, ​Ohio State University, USA: Mark Partridge is the C. William Swank Chair of Rural-Urban Policy at The Ohio State University and a Professor in the AED Economics Department. He has published over 125 peer-reviewed journal papers in journals such as the American Economic Review, Journal of Economic Geography, Journal of Urban Economics, and Review of Economics and Statistics. He co-authored the book ‘The Geography of American Poverty: Is there a Role for Place-Based Policy?’

Dr. Partridge’s current research interests include investigating regional economic growth, urban spillovers on rural economies, why regions grow at different rates, and spatial differences in income equality and poverty.  Dr. Partridge has consulted with OECD, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, and various governments in the U.S. and Canada, as well as with the European Commission. He has presented to the U.S. Congress and the Canadian Parliament on regional issues.


The conference fee will be €70, including lunch, and online registration will open in the coming months. In the meantime any queries regarding registration should be sent to or

Importance of rural areas as employment locations revealed in new analysis of Western Region

  • More people living in the Western Region and at work – up by 6% in 10 years
  •  Over a quarter of all workers in the Western Region live in Galway city catchment
  •  Workers in the Western Region leave for work later than national average

A new report carried out by the Western Development Commission (WDC) examining the labour trends in the Western Region has highlighted the importance of rural areas as employment locations.

The report found that a large proportion of the labour catchment residents are in fact employed in rural areas – centres with less than 1,000 people – depending on the location of the county town and the proximity of nearby urban areas.

In general, this rate is greater than 22% with the exception being in the Sligo town labour catchment where only approximately 17% are employed in rural areas.

Ennis labour catchment has the highest level of rural employment with 26.9% employed in the Clare rural area, reflecting the low number of urban settlements within Clare.

The WDC report also shows that in the past decade, there has been little change in the geographic and population size of the largest labour catchments. The seven county town labour catchments account for an increase of only 0.5% in the total population at work and residing in the Western Region.

 “This shows the limited change that has occurred in these catchments over a long period and the need for very strong policy intervention to effect change,” noted WDC Policy Analyst, Deirdre Frost.

The report identified 42 labour catchments in the Western Region (April 2016), ranging in size from the largest – Galway city with over 70,000 resident workers, to centres with fewer than 1,000 resident workers.

 It found that there was over a quarter of a million (260,261) people living in the Western Region and at work, up by 6% on 2006, a decade earlier. Over a quarter of all workers in Western Region, from Donegal to Clare, live in the largest catchment – the Galway city labour catchment.

And all the town catchments are larger, with many more people working there than the numbers at work in the town at its centre, highlighting the larger labour supply available.

For example, Galway city labour catchment has a population at work more than double the number of resident workers identified in the Census population while Carrick-on-Shannon labour catchment has a population at work around 4.6 times the Census population of resident workers.

In terms of ranking, the Sligo town labour catchment (21,834) is now second largest, slightly larger than the Ennis labour catchment (21,409).

The age profile of the working population has been increasing and there has been a decrease in the rate of young workers (aged less than 30 years); this pattern is also evident across the State. Letterkenny (17%) and the Galway City (16.8%) catchment have by far the highest rates of young workers while Carrick-on-Shannon catchment recorded the lowest rate of workers aged less than 30 years (12.8%).

Letterkenny has the lowest rate of workers leaving for work before 7.30 am (19.1%), followed by Sligo (20.6%), Carrick-on-Shannon (23.4%), Castlebar (23.5%) and Roscommon 23.9%.

Galway city labour catchment has the highest rate (28.8%), but it is still less than the figure for the State (31.3%). The second highest rate of workers departing for work before 7.30 am is those in the Ennis labour catchment (26.3%).

Education & Employment

One of the most significant changes over the last decade is the rate of third-level educational attainment. Within the seven county town catchments, Galway City has by far the highest rate at 61.3%, up from 49% in 2006. The Roscommon town catchment recorded the lowest rate in 2016 – 49%, up from 32.9% a decade earlier.

While the presence of a higher education institution is a factor in relatively higher rates of third level educational attainment, it is by no means the only factor. For example the Galway, Sligo and Ennis labour catchments have a rate of third-level educational attainment of 54% or higher. The catchments of Castlebar (50.4%) and Letterkenny (51.6%) have lower rates, indicating that the range and quality of employment opportunities is also a key factor.

The workers living in North-east Donegal have strong linkages to Northern Ireland. This ‘Derry Rural’ labour catchment is the 13th largest in the Western Region and accounts for 5,056 resident workers an increase of approximately 10% (476), since 2006. This region will be most impacted by BREXIT, whichever form it takes, therefore policy needs to be developed and implemented to mitigate the impacts.

Within the Western Region, both the ‘Wholesale, Retail Trade’ (25.8%) and ‘Education, Human Health and Social Work Activities’ (25.4%) are the largest employers. The third most important sector is ‘Manufacturing Industries’ (15.9%).

Commenting on the findings, the Chairperson of the WDC, Dr. Deirdre Garvey said:

“This is very valuable information as it provides robust analysis of travel to work patterns across the Western Region. Comparing these data with the original WDC analysis 10 years earlier provides insights into trends. It will be of particular value to policy-makers in the context of Project Ireland 2040 and the development of the Regional Spatial and Economic Strategies informing decisions on commuting patterns and enterprise location”.

 For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact Deirdre Frost, Policy Analyst, WDC on +353 86 605 3317

The WDC report identifies 42 labour catchments in the Western Region (counties Donegal, Sligo, Leitrim, Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and Clare) and provides a detailed labour market profile for the largest seven towns in the seven counties:  Galway, Sligo, Ennis, Letterkenny, Castlebar,
Carrick-on-Shannon and Roscommon Town.


Regional Heat Study Workshops

The Western Development Commission (WDC) commissioned a regional renewable energy analysis on the use of biomass as a local contribution to the national renewable heat target and develop a range of actions to support the development of renewable energy in the region under the Action Plan for Jobs.

The aim of this study is to inform how the WDC can support and develop biomass use in the Western region. This study is now complete and RE:HEAT will present their findings in two workshops.

Tuesday 15th May, 2.00pm at the Shearwater Hotel, Ballinasloe, Co

For more information please click here for the Agenda