An Taoiseach Enda Kenny had a busy schedule around Castlebar on Monday, first launching the West Region Action Plan for Jobs alongside Minister for Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation Richard Bruton in Cashin Print in Castlebar. The pair followed that with a tree planting ceremony at the IDA Advance facility on the Breaffy Road, which is due to see construction begin in quarter one of next year, before the Taoiseach paid a visit to the site of the new swimming pool and Outdoor Pursuits Academy at Lough Lannagh on which work began this week.
Speaking to the Mayo Advertiser at the tree planting ceremony at the IDA advance facility, the Taoiseach said that while the facility had not been earmarked for any particular venture, it would be attractive to a multitude of companies. "This will be attractive to a variety of companies, be they manufacturing or financial services or whatever. These are state of the art green field operations and will be marketed as such by the IDA to a number of companies, so you can't say there is a fix on this for any particular kind of project. As the IDA will say to you, it's marketed across the different sectors. Believe me, it will be most attractive to a range of companies who want to come here very quickly."
When asked about the relatively low number of site visits by the IDA to Mayo in recent years compared to other areas, he said: “Site vists themselves are not the be all and end all. Companies themselves decide where they want to go. The important thing here is that we make the country attractive for investment and as a location for a variety of industries, and you can’t do that without the basic infastructure. That is improving in the west, we’re still behind obviously in terms of broadband, but we are dealing with that now with the change in the legislation to allow competition between Eir and Siro and the State itselfs roll out in the other areas and clearly the transatlantic cable will have an impact on this as well. But also in terms of water facilities, road infastructure, power facilities, these are all important for companies.
The launch at the West Region Action Plan for Jobs saw the Taoiseach and Minster Bruton outline the vision for the region under the plan, but that vision was greeted as being the same old “spin” by the opposition. Fianna Fáil TD Dara Calleary said: “This plan is the latest in a series of PR policies, which the Taoiseach and Minister Bruton are touring around the country in advance of the General Election. Once again the launch was big on optics but short on specifics. However one thing is clear and that is that the Government’s trend of ignoring the west looks set to continue. Between January 2013 and the end of September this year, IDA Ireland made a total of 77 site visits across Galway, Mayo, and Roscommon. In the corresponding period there were 561 visits made in Dublin alone. The figures speak for themselves.”
He added: “While the Government pays lip service to the regions with these launches, in practice it continues to focus all its energy on the greater Dublin area, further fuelling the two tier economy.”
Dep Calleary this week was also critical that a number of areas in Mayo, such as Ballina and Erris, were excluded from the plan, and Ireland West Airport Knock given token platitudes without any financial commitments. He said: “This plan claims that it will get the west back to work but has completely abandoned Ballina, Erris, and east Mayo. While the plan includes specific actions for Castlebar and Westport is has failed to outline any any explicit employment or enterprise related commitments for Ballina or Erris. Like all the plans that have gone before it, there is a serious lack of detail and it a glossy document full of vague aspirations rather concrete proposals.
“Time and again I have emphasised the importance of an IDA Advance Unit for Ballina, but my calls have been consistently ignored by this blinkered Government,” he added. “Similar units have been hugely successful in boosting employment and outside investment, while at the same time supporting existing businesses in towns like Letterkenny and Athlone, but Ballina has been repeatedly overlooked for such a facility.”