Good morning all and thank you Terence.
It’s great to be here today to announce these really positive results. Happy New Year to everyone watching.
Despite another hugely challenging year with trade disrupted by Brexit and the pandemic, we achieved the largest ever net increase in jobs created by Enterprise Ireland companies in any given year. 11,911 new jobs were created in 2021.
That’s really fantastic.
It’s a testament to the fortitude and determination of Irish business, and the personal efforts of many of you watching today. On behalf of the Government, I want to extend my particular thanks to Enterprise Ireland staff at home and abroad for all you have achieved. You are phenomenal.
I have spoken before about my belief in the ability of Irish businesses to bounce back strongly and although these figures don’t capture the experience for all Irish businesses, they are certainly grounds for hope.
Thank you to those watching who have made them possible.
I’m particularly pleased to see the regional spread of the jobs created.
68% of job gains were outside the Dublin region last year.
This is a very strong result and in line with the Government’s policy of balanced regional development. I am very pleased that we saw such strong growth in the south-east and north-west, regions that sometimes struggle to secure high quality employment. Let’s build on this in 2022.
I’d just like to take a moment to acknowledge how difficult the past couple of years have been, which makes today’s results all the more remarkable.
The pandemic has torn up many of our plans, disrupting established ways of doing things and causing a huge amount of hardship for Irish businesses.
Since the start of the pandemic we have aimed to minimise the loss of life, protect the health service and save as many jobs and businesses as possible.
Billions have been provided to help businesses respond to COVID and Brexit and we will continue to help those that need it as long as is necessary. The EWSS has been extended even though many other countries have ended their furlough schemes. The rules for the CRSS have been relaxed and tax warehousing has been extended.
Enterprise Ireland’s Sustaining Enterprise and accelerate recovery funds have protected hundreds of business and safeguarded thousands of jobs.
We want businesses to survive and be able to flourish once restrictions ease and we will continue to help those that need it in the meantime.
Enterprise Ireland with the network of Local Enterprise Offices in communities across the country and of course the overseas team, have been central to our response.
Thank you to those watching for cooperating with the public health advice, for keeping the public and their own staff safe, and for your perseverance in the face of this relentless pandemic.
Thank you also to Leo Clancy and the entire Enterprise Ireland team for going above and beyond over the past two years. I know many have relied on your advice, expertise and practical assistance.
We’re also launching Enterprise Ireland’s Strategy for the next three years today.
Leo will talk further about the specifics of what’s in it but I’d just like to say a couple of things on it.
Firstly, we face immense challenges with COVID, Brexit and climate change. They have also forced us to look at the world differently.
I’m excited to see how Irish businesses are going to take advantage of the potential areas of growth identified in this document, in sectors such as digital health, hydrogen, smart mobility, blockchain technology and robotics among many others.
Ireland is well placed to be an early mover in many of these industries and we need to make sure we are positioned to take full advantage of any and all opportunities.
I’m also really pleased to see the efforts being made to diversify our exports, to increase the number of start-ups by 20% and to increase productivity.
These will all add to the strength of Irish businesses, preparing them to continue to succeed in an increasingly competitive global market.
To grow our current export base and further strengthen our economy, Ireland requires more starting, scaling and exporting firms growing out of every region of Ireland.
For enterprises of all sizes, Government will work to enable competitiveness by investing in skills, in digitalisation, climate and innovation.
On the subject of climate, an important part of this Strategy is the commitment to help the enterprise sector to reduce emissions by between 29-41% by 2030.
This is crucial. Every part of society is going to have to make changes and reduce our reliance on fossil fuels.
We will help businesses to make the necessary changes, and indeed reap the opportunities that will come in a decarbonised society.
The Climate Toolkit4Business is a website which provides businesses with a tailored assessment of their carbon footprint.
It complements initiatives such as the Climate Enterprise Action Fund , the new ‘Green for Micro’ scheme and the ‘LEAN for Micro’ scheme, which benefit businesses through cost savings, improving resource efficiency, reducing environmental impacts and enhancing competitiveness and productivity.
We will also be doing our best to help businesses adapt to the digital transition.
This will include a new major Digital Transition Fund, beginning this year, to increase digitalisation of all businesses across products, processes, supply chains and business models and initiatives to help upskill workers.
This is just the beginning of initiatives in climate and digital that will be available to Irish business to assist them to grasp the opportunities that the rapidly evolving global economy offers.
Finally then, just to mention some upcoming changes that I know will affect a lot of you watching.
We will be bringing in significant reforms to improve workers’ terms and conditions in the new year, including statutory sick pay, the right to request remote working, the move to a living wage and a review of industrial relations law in Ireland. We will also make progress on auto-enrolment ensuring that everyone has access to an occupational pension to supplement the State one.
I believe that these new protections must be part of the legacy of the pandemic and I will be working with employer groups to introduce them, while keeping a close eye on costs and competitiveness. I firmly believe that better pay, benefits and protections for workers will help us to recruit and retain the skilled staff we need to power the 21st century economy. I will also be advocating for reductions in the cost of childcare for working parents as it is a huge barrier to fuller participation in the workforce by parents and women in particular.
Thank you to Enterprise Ireland and all watching for your continued strength and tenacity.
Together we will see brighter days.