Unemployment Rate Motion

April 3rd, 2008 - Pat Breen

DAIL EIREANN – 3rd April, 2008

PAT BREENT.D.

Unemployment Rate Motion

Deputy Pat Breen: Last December the Opposition warned the House of the impending economic crisis. At the time the Minister, Deputy Martin, said he believed the economy was continuing to show many signs of strength and that the figures showed employment levels were high and rising. We were accused of being the prophets of doom yet the statistical analysis shows that Ireland’s economy is facing its greatest challenge in more than 20 years. The tremor permeating through the world’s stock markets, the downturn in the US economy, and the consistent and rapid fuel price increases, all compound to put the Irish economy under pressure.

The latest quarterly economic report from the ESRI warned that economic growth is set to fall dramatically this year from 4.6% last year to 1.6% with no net gain expected in the number of jobs created. During the debate on the Private Members’ motion in December I warned of impending job losses in the mid-west region and if the Government ignored them it would be at its peril. In the interim, we have had the welcome news from Shannon Development of the planned creation of 250 skilled jobs with Zimmer Holdings Incorporated setting up a medical devices facility in the Shannon Free Zone. This is the scale of the investment we need in the Shannon Free Zone. However, while we welcome this good news, there have been many job losses in the region in recent years. Another potential blow is on the horizon this week with the news that Unbrako Europe SPS is being taken over by a US company, resulting in fears for the future of the 80 jobs at this facility.

The live register figures provide the statistical proof if any was needed that jobs are haemorrhaging in County Clare. The live register figures in the mid-west region have increased by a staggering 15.3% according to CSO figures at the end of December 2007. This increase in unemployment is hitting homes in many corners of the county. The figure for Ennis, which is becoming a dormitory town because people are travelling from the town to work in Galway, Shannon and Limerick, has increased by 14.56%. In north Clare, in Ennistymon the figure has increased by 15.61% and in Tulla it has increased by 23.21%. In west Clare the figure has increased by 12%. This trend continues in to 2008, with an extra 823 Clare people signing on last month. The Forfás annual employment survey confirms that the mid-west is losing out. The share of agency-supported employment by region shows a reduction of 1.8% in the mid-west region.

If the mid-west region is to continue to be attractive for inward and indigenous investment then urgent action must be taken. How many more warning signs does this Government need? Key to addressing the decline is investing in our infrastructure. Paying lip service to promises of balanced regional development is not good enough in a region that is just not getting the jobs. Last year our region lost the connection to Heathrow, which was a major blow to many of the industrialists in the region. This week the open skies agreement between the EU and US came into force which will provide its own challenges. Instead of delivering on commitments to provide a major marketing fund to cushion the blow of open skies for the region we have a watering down of this commitment. Watering down marketing funding is not acceptable given the weakness of the US dollar.

Large digital black spots remain throughout County Clare and the new network generation has still not been rolled out. During this Government’s watch, Ireland’s position in the World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness list has dropped from fifth to 22nd place.

Former US President, Mr. John F. Kennedy said that “economic policy can result from government inaction as well as governmental action”. It is time for the Government to step up to the plate or its legacy will be that Ireland’s position in the global economy will continue to decline. I urge the Government to support the Fine Gael motion.