Minister critical of bid to tackle south-east job crisis

ENVIRONMENT minister Phil Hogan said the “statutory bodies are not doing enough” in the south-east regarding unemployment and “dealing with the jobs situation”.

Mr Hogan made the comments at a meeting with the Waterford Chamber of Commerce last Friday.

Mr Hogan said: “The statutory bodies are not doing enough within the region for unemployment and dealing with the job situation.

“I will be meeting the IDA and Enterprise Ireland in the next couple of weeks to hammer that message home.”

With visitor numbers projected to rise to 250,000 over the coming years, the minister said the long-term future of Waterford Airport, which currently supports over 560 jobs in the region, must be secured.

Mr Hogan said that it “is very important from an access point of view that Waterford Airport is supported and that its product development is enhanced”.

The new president of Waterford Chamber, Anne Marie Caulfield, said: “The scale of the issues facing Waterford city and the south-east as a region means that we must speak with a unified voice. By working to a common agenda there is a lot that we can do together to improve matters.”

The south-east has an almost 4% higher rate of unemployment than the national average, she said, while it was “clear that third-level education is a contributing factor and it is imperative that a regional university is achieved”.

Regarding a university in the south-east, Mr Hogan said he “will be doing everything possible to establish the structure of a steering group for this, in order to enhance education participation within the region” and “to reduce the expenditure on parents and students”.

The opening of the House of Waterford Crystal and plans for the development of Viking Quarter — with a reported projected spend of €30 million — presents “a clear economic opportunity for employment generation” through tourism, Ms Caulfield said.

In a statement, the chamber said the Port of Waterford at Bellview is also a key economic driver and makes a significant contribution to both the local and regional economy.

The port’s future success and further development “will be key in driving economic recovery in the region, particularly in an export-led recovery”.

A “micro finance start-up fund to support growth of business start-ups” would be announced in the 2012 budget, the chamber said, funded from the National Pension Reserve Fund.

The chamber also said it would continue to focus on facilitating business to business collaboration throughout this year and next.

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