Deputy Pat the Cope Gallagher has said the slight increase in the Udaras na Gaeltachta annual budget is a welcome first step on the part of the Government.
However, the West Donegal TD said significantly more needs to be done to support the agency to the level that it urgently requires.
Udaras is charged with the role and responsibility of developing Gaeltacht areas, this is an ever-changing role and one which meets the same challenges as the IDA and Enterprise Ireland who preform similar functions in non-Gaeltacht areas.
But, unlike those other two state agencies Udaras does not get the same level of state support and aid, and this is unfair and completely wrong on the part of the Government, said Deputy Gallagher.
He added “Government policy is making second class citizens of Gaeltacht areas in terms of funding opportunities for employment creation and development potential.
“This anomaly whereby Udaras is effectively treated and funded solely by the Department of Gaeltacht , as opposed to the Department of Enterprise means that less funding is made available for Gaeltacht areas.”
Pat the Cope added that Udaras na Gaeltachta at present support and sustain over 7,700 jobs within the Gaeltacht areas, they furthermore run various programmes from Community Development, to Community employment programmes in addition to preforming the functions of Local Enterprise Offices in Gaeltacht areas notwithstanding the functions of the various Plean Teanga ( language planning ) in our Gaeltacht communities .
The Gaeltacht areas have a population of 100,716 as per the 2011 census, with most of the population divided over Gaeltacht areas in Donegal , Mayo, Galway, Kerry, Cork , Waterford and Meath.
In 2009, the Udaras current budget was €14 m, the current budget for 2019 is just €9.5m.
The staffing level of Udaras is also cut from a staff of 156 in 2008 to present day levels of 88 people only.
Deputy Gallagher said the blatant unfairness of what is occurring at present is best shown in last week’s budget, whereby additional support is channelled through Department of Enterprise for supports and attracting new business and employers, in real terms the Udaras budget increase is just enough to keeping Udaras standing still in times of unequalled challenge.
Udaras backed business and employers with 10 employees or more have contributed over €800 m to the national exchequer, with 60% of that being exported. That is also contributing €150 m payroll to local communities and a return to the national exchequer of a nett €77 m in taxes alone, he said.
He added “I am challenging the Government to think outside the box, we are in unprecedented times of uncertainty and volatility, the people of Gaeltacht areas deserve the same supports and assistance as people in other areas are already availing off.
“The Government must align the Udaras budget to the same pro rata level of intervention as IDA and Enterprise Ireland. The employment creation budget, current budget and development budget of Udaras needs to be directly supported from the overall Department of Enterprise budget, it furthermore must get the back office supports of that Department.
“All three agencies can work in co operation with unity of purpose and supported to the same level and thus eliminating the anomaly of lesser supports for Gaeltacht areas.
“This can be achieved in a partnership approach, while still maintaining the unique identity of the Udaras ethos and cultural importance of Udaras to Gaeltacht areas.
Regional development is always more challenging than developing urban or more built up areas, that is more reason than any to ensure that Udaras na Gaeltachta is placed on a level footing with similar development agencies.”