Marine sector initiative to create 250 jobs could be national model

THE 250 marine sector jobs earmarked for Killy-begs harbour, Co Donegal, could become a national model for how to drive collective employment.

Agriculture, Food and Marine Minister Simon Coveney said he is hugely optimistic that the high-level job creation group in Killybegs can reach its job creation targets.

The fishing sector already employs 1,200 people in the area. Many of the new jobs will be in seafood processing, but the other partners in the group also hope to see jobs created in offshore and ancillary services, tourism, energy generation and marine education.

Group chairman and Killybegs Fishermen’s Organisation chief executive Sean O’Donoghue said: “This is a new approach to creating employment. We are totally convinced that the high-level group can achieve its jobs target.

“We have already identified a lot of those 250 jobs. We believe that this is a model that can work elsewhere in the country.

“There is also a huge interest in ocean energy here. Killybegs has one of the world’s best wind resources. Around 50% of the jobs will be in seafood. We will present our plan to the minister in September. The plan identifies the opportunities, and it details solutions to any obstacles. This is not just a talking shop,” he said.

Even before Mr Coveney approved the larger group, Mr O’Donoghue was in a smaller action team with Donegal county manager Seamus Neely and BIM chief Jason Whooley.

The group now features Letterkenny Institute of Education president Paul Hannigan; Jim Parkinson of Offshore and Ancillary Services; Niall O’Gorman of Donegal Fish Merchants Association; Department of Agriculture, assistant principle Cecil Beamish; and Conor Fahy, regional director with Enterprise Ireland.

Mr Coveney said: “We have these people who are putting in the time and effort so that the industry can grow and expand. We want more foreign boats to land their catches here and let us process their fish in Killybegs.

“It makes no sense that fish are being shipped out of here when we could land them here and employ people to do that. Ireland is also building reputation for premium seafood. There’s a huge demand out there. We need to maximise what we’ve got.”

Donegal faces considerable employment challenges due to its remote location. Mr O’Donoghue said this has forced inhabitants in the region to be resourceful and independent.

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