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Údarás na Gaeltachta stategic plan seeks to create 1,500 jobs

The creation of digital high-speed broadband hubs in Gaeltacht areas and the islands is part of a strategy to attract back emigrants and help create 1,500 jobs.

The plan features in the 2018-2020 strategic plan of Údarás na Gaeltachta, the regional authority responsible for the Gaeltacht’s economic, social and cultural development, whose overall objective is to ensure that Irish remains the main communal language of the Gaeltacht.

Census 2016 data showed that the proportion of people living in Gaeltacht areas who can speak the language fell from 68.5% to 66.3% since 2011. In the same five-year period, daily use of the language fell in all but four of the Gaeltacht’s 26 language planning areas.

Údarás-supported companies employ 7,500 people full-time and generate annual sales of €844m, more than €500m of it from exports.

The main objective of the strategy published yesterday include the approval of 1,500 jobs over its lifetime, and supporting 8,000 full-time jobs in client companies. The aim is for a 10% increase in supported companies that are engaged in exports as part of a 20% target for increased exports and sales.

Part of the enterprise drive would see the development of 30 innovation and digital hubs with high-speed broadband connectivity under the ‘gteic’ heading, to form a Gréasán Digiteach na Gaeltachta (Gaeltacht Digital Network). The hubs would be established throughout the Gaeltacht, but also on six Gaeltacht islands and seven other offshore islands.

As well as giving new tech companies the chance to set up or move to Gaeltacht areas, this plan is seen as a way of allowing the Gaeltacht community return to or live in their home area by providing remote working opportunities at hot desks, co-working spaces, or offices at these hubs.

A Diaspóra na Gaeltachta strategy will seek to bolster the Irish language as a community language by encouraging the emigrant Gaeltacht community abroad or in Ireland to return home to their families and communities.

It is hoped that a continual connection can be established with this national and international community in order to make them aware of the employment, living, social, language and cultural opportunities in the Gaeltacht areas, and provide any information, advice and support they may need when choosing to return home,” says the 24-page strategy document.

Údarás na Gaeltachta chairwoman Anna Ní Ghallachair said the organisation will meet the significant challenges that lie ahead with enthusiasm and determination to ensure a Gaeltacht that is stronger linguistically and as a community.

The previously announced Páirc na Mara at Cill Chiaráin in the Connemara Gaeltacht in Co Galway also forms part of the 2018-2020 strategy. It is planned as a low-carbon marine innovation park, where enterprise, researchers, public bodies and State development agencies will work together.

A Gaeltacht brand will be promoted to visually represent the enterprise and heritage of the regions, while language, culture and landscape will be central to the promotion of the Gaeltacht under a new tourism development initiative.

An action plan for natural resources is to be developed and implemented, with the Gaeltacht seaweed sector to be the subject of research to identify value-added products.