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57 ways to create jobs according to the Seanad

The upper house of the Oireachtas had a ‘think tank’ session this week and these are the suggestions they came up with to get Ireland working. What do you think?

Image: eddiedangerous via Flickr.com

THE SEANAD IS sometimes criticised for being a glorified talking shop. However, last Thursday, 27 of the 60 current senators used their debating time to come up with some constructive ideas for creating jobs in Ireland. The informal ‘think-tank’ in the Seanad was proposed by Fine Gael’s Michael Mullins.

At least one of the ideas to emerge that day has proven controversial: As we reported on Friday, Senator Fearghal Quinn suggested that fracking should not be banned without further debate as it could lead to hundreds of jobs and the exploitation of a multi-billion euro natural asset under the country’s surface.

However, there were others which haven’t been aired outside the upper house chamber. See what you think of these suggestions made by the senators for stimulating job creation in the following areas:

TOURISM

  • We should think imaginatively about how to put Ireland in the global tourism spotlight again. When the Cliffs of Moher were entered in the competition to find the natural wonders of the world, it didn’t make the cut but the publicity saw visitor figures there go up by 25 per cent in the second half of last year. (Martin Conway, FG)
  • Give heavily discounted train and bus tickets to tourists on production of their ferry/airline tickets to encourage them to travel throughout Ireland during their stay. (Michael Mullins, FG)
  • “Aggressively market” the angling sector – visitor numbers coming to Ireland on angling trips have decreased significantly (Michael Mullins, FG)
  • Extend a pier in South Kerry constituency so cruise ships can dock there and bring 30,000 visitors to the region per annum (Tom Sheahan, FG)
  • Encourage food tourism, with people coming here specifically to stay in places with local, fresh food, visit food markets, go on foodie tours. (Fearghal Quinn, independent) (Susan O’Keeffe, Labour)
  • Attract more foreign students to learn English in Ireland (Martin Conway, FG)
  • Sort out the ‘zombie’ NAMA hotels because they are putting genuine hotels out of business through unfeasible rates (Mary Ann O’Brien, independent)
  • New initiative on tourism, called The Gathering, to be announced by Government in a few weeks (Maurice Cummins, FG)

CONSTRUCTION

  • Introduce grant aid schemes for home improvements, especially on older homes – this would help “clean up” some of the black economy issues (Michael Mullins, FG)
  • Facilitate people to build large extensions to family homes to house family members who are on housing lists, especially in rural Ireland where plot sizes tend to be larger (Michael Mullins, FG)
  • Don’t stop funding capital projects – hydroelectric station in south Kerry mentioned as having potential to create 300 jobs in construction in next three years (Tom Sheahan, FG)

SMALL AND MEDIUM BUSINESSES (SMEs)

  • Link the rates system to profitability/income (Michael Mullins, FG) (Paul Coghlan, FG) (John Kelly, Labour) (Marie Moloney, Labour)
  • Provide financial incentives to businesses to add an extra employee to the roll (Michael Mullins, FG)
  • Cut the red tape/re-examine the number of licences it takes to create a job (Mary Ann O’Brien, independent) (Feargal Quinn, independent)
  • Utility costs are above European average – need to be lowered (Mary White, FF)
  • Banks should not demand a personal guarantee for every loan that comes before them – the quality of the business plan should count more. Example cited of one business that had annual turnover of €5m and sought loan of €60,ooo but was turned down because bank wanted a personal guarantee. (John Gilroy, Labour)
  • Banks should also be tackled on the fact that they have been recently pulling overdraft facilities from long-term customers, causing severe cash flow problems (Brian O Domhnaill, FF)
  • Venture capital schemes need to be made available through local-level organisations because the banks certainly aren’t investing in SMEs (Brian O Domhnaill, FF)
  • Micro-finance loan needs to be made accessible as soon as possible (Paul Coghlan, FG)
  • Public service tenders should be more open to SMEs – currently, a business has to have a certain turnover before it can tender for projects (Paul Coghlan, FG) (Lorraine Higgins, Labour) (Martin Conway, FG) (Cáit Keane, FG – she points out that there have been some changes recently that give some access to smaller businesses but these changes need to be publicised)
  • Give a rates holiday to new business proposing to set up – as long as it doesn’t lead to displacement or unfair competition (John Kelly, Labour)
  • Sort out the broadband rollout – there are many rural areas where people can’t get a mobile phone signal, let alone a workable internet connection, and it cripples businesses there (Marie Moloney, Labour)

AGRI-FOOD/ENERGY

  • Ireland relies too much on the UK as market for our agri-food exports – 41 per cent of the €8.5bn of such exports go there. We need to diversify to market like Russia, India as we are beginning to with Netherlands, Germany, France. (Mary White, FF) (Martin Conway, FG)
  • Ireland’s agricultural heritage becoming important again – but focus on it for food production (Fearghal Quinn, independent)
  • People need to stop objecting to the building of windfarms – sustainable energy is one of the major growth markets we should be looking at (Michael Comiskey, FG)
  • We need to rediscover the delicacies of our ancestors and make them an industry for the future – eg, even the humble stew became the centre of a Sligo Food Festival last year (Susan O’Keeffe, Labour)

BIOMEDICAL/PHARMACEUTICAL/SCIENTIFIC/IT SECTOR

  • Cultural investment needs to be made to make next generation interested in studying science – perhaps make every student study science until end of senior cycle in school (John Crown, independent)
  • Encourage biomedical trials here by creating centres of research excellence (John Crown, independent)
  • Young scientific minds need to be encouraged – did any of the ministers or members of their departments go through the stands at the Young Scientists’ Exhibition to tap into some of the great ideas there? (Maurice Cummins, FG)
  • Encourage more students on to IT/software programming courses – software companies here say they have difficulty now in attracting quality stuff (Lorraine Higgins, Labour)
  • More tech incubator space (Catherine Noone, FG)
  • More foreign enterprise ambassadors like Dylan Collins (Catherine Noone, FG)
  • Getting more grads through technology- having an emphasis on technology conversion courses for BA holders in our new technology universities. (Catherine Noone, FG)

SOCIAL ENTREPRENEURS

  • Social innovation should be supported as it creates jobs – examples from senators’ own careers eg, An Cosán (Katherine Zappone) and Jack and Jill Foundation (Mary Ann O’Brien) – these non-profits not only save the State money by attending to community/social needs but also employs thousands of people. (Katherine Zappone, independent)
  • Post should be created for Minister of State for Social Innovation (Katherine Zappone, independent)

ACADEMIA/LEGAL

  • The Legal Services Bill is opening up legal services – take it a step further and see if we can attract students from emerging markets abroad to come here for legal education and training. Ireland has a high reputation abroad for standard of our legal graduates. (Ivana Bacik, Labour)
  • Ireland should make itself a global centre for processing IP – patents, copyright, trademarks (Paul Coghlan, FG)

ARTS, CULTURE, HERITAGE

  • Support needed for those working in animation and graphics – some notable successes there recently for young Irish people but they went abroad to find it (Maurice Cummins, FG)
  • Set up a film commission like that in UK to support Film Board here in attracting more productions/promote Irish talent (Trevor O Clochartaigh, SF)
  • Make sure every school student gets an hour a week for drama workshop because it cultivates creative, critical thinking (Trevor O Clochartaigh, SF)
  • Put an artist on every State board to bring creative ideas for job creation to those boards (Trevor O Clochartaigh, SF)
  • Encourage towns and areas to put up more bilingual signs and embrace speaking Irish as tourists attracted to bilingual heritage areas like Galway (Trevor O Clochartaigh, SF)

OTHER

  • Co-operatives work very well in rural areas and should be adopted all over the country. 2012 is the year of the co-operative and they maintain employment in an area, are socially conscious, offer jobs to local people who are then less likely to relocate and who create wealth within communities. They can operate in all kinds of sectors – agriculture, fisheries, consumer, financial, housing, production, health, childcare, tourism, sport, utilities. (Kathryn Reilly, SF) (Trevor O Clochartaigh, SF)
  • Appoint a jobs supremo/ambassador to co-ordinate efforts everywhere from county enterprise boards to related government departments to other organisations (Michael Mullins, FG)
  • Make it easier for people to take temporary work if they are on benefits – the wait to cancel and restart benefits puts people off taking short-term work (Michael Mullins, FG)
  • Retention of jobs – As mentioned by UNITE and as seen in the German car industry, the Government could consider an “exceptional short-time working scheme” where they subsidise the pay of workers so that private enterprises who find they have less work for them in downturn can hold onto staff. Yes, it subsidies private enterprise but also saves the State money on redundancy and benefits. (Ivana Bacik, Labour)
  • Set aside a regular time – say, one afternoon every fortnight – where experts and industry leaders in different areas of business come into the Seanad and can present to the applicable minister on what regulations are helping them/hindering them in creating jobs. (Mark Daly, FF)
  • Public awareness campaign to help people realise the damage the black market does to businesses and the economy in general (Paul Coghlan, FG)
  • Set up a “one-stop-shop” online portal to give advice to potential entrepreneurs (Paul Coghlan, FG)
  • If it costs €21,000 to keep someone on benefits in a year, the Government should consider offering to pay €10,000 incentive to an employer to take on an unemployed person. (John Kelly, Labour)
  • The back-to-work allowance should be introduced (Marie Moloney, Labour)
  • Environmental health legislation here is too strict and the red tape involved is too cumbersome (Martin Conway, FG)
  • Language skills focus needed to equip our young people to deal with emerging markets, eg, in China, South America (Terry Brennan, FG)
  • We need to hear and publicise the stories of small businesses who are having success in order to encourage and motivate others (Terry Brennan, FG)
  • Need higher placement ratios between social welfare and low-earning wage: we need incentives to take on staff but also for people to go back to work. (Terry Brennan, FG)
  • Mentoring schemes for start-ups (Colm Burke, FG)
  • What are the top 100 products that we import into this country? Ask ourselves which of those could we start making here ourselves and encourage businesses in those areas (Tony Mulcahy, FG)

Let us know if you have any better ideas for job creation in the comments section below…

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