The south east has consistently had the highest
rate of unemployment of any region but there is no focus on it. For the second time in
six months, the senior Minister will not even address this matter. That is the level of
contempt this Government is showing the south east. Some 20,000 people are leaving Wexford
in their cars each day in order to go to jobs elsewhere, with 14,000 of them from the Gorey
area alone. They are stuck in a car park on the N11 because the Government will not address
public transport issues. Many new train carriages have just been ordered but not one is for
the Rosslare to Dublin rail line. We are told it will take 15 years for the N11 to be upgraded.
A few minutes ago, we heard that 80 ha. of land have been purchased in Kildare for the
purposes of enterprise development. The land in question is in addition to that already
being used to foster development in the county. There are 4 ha. available in County Wexford
and the head of IDA Ireland stated in a letter that there is no intention to purchase any
further land there. The south east is the forgotten region and
Wexford is the forgotten county in the south east. The rate of tax returns for people working
in the south east is half that of the rest of the country, which reflects the low quality
of jobs available there. A little focus must be brought to this matter. I want the senior
Minister to address the question for once, please. I told the Deputy that IDA Ireland
jobs in the region have increased by 7% and that both the Minister and I regularly meet
IDA Ireland’s representatives in the south east, including the representatives of Wexford,
Waterford, etc. In 2015, the unemployment rate stood at 11.7%
and now stands at 5.3%. The national unemployment rate, which stood at 10.5%, has declined to
5.2% in the same period. The Deputy will note progress is being made in the south east driven
by the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland.
A total of 20,900 more people in the south east are in employment. All the indications
are that three out of every five new jobs created in 2018 and 2019 were outside Dublin.
The work done by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation, in conjunction
with IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the local enterprise offices, and driven by the
Minister, Deputy Humphreys, has delivered the reduction in unemployment in the south
east. The Deputy cannot argue with the figures. I accept at one stage the unemployment rate
in the south east was much higher than in other regions but it has substantially decreased.
If the Deputy were to look back to 2013 and 2015 and then look forward to 2018 and 2019,
he would note the substantial increase in employment in the south east. The Minister
of State said the unemployment rate in the south east is 5.3%. It is not. The 5.3% figure
is the national average. The unemployment rate in the south east is 7.3%, which is 40%
above the national average and twice the unemployment rate of Dublin. The quality of jobs is also
a factor. The rate of tax returns from employed people in the south east is barely half the
national average. People in the south east are working in low-paid jobs in tourism and
agriculture. Quality jobs are not being brought to the region. There have been two visits
by IDA Ireland to Wexford in the past year. Where is the focus? Where is the determination
to address an important part of the country that is not being given the focus it needs?
Legislation was proposed specifically to develop a university for the south east, yet it is
nowhere near being further advanced four years into the life of this Government. Rosslare
Europort is operating at 38% capacity while down the road from this House in Dublin, ships
are being turned away. Not one senior Minister has bothered to bring up the ownership of
Rosslare Europort with his or her UK counterpart. There is a total and utter failure to address
issues in the south east, emphasised and exemplified by the fact that, for a second time in a row,
the senior Minister has not addressed the issue.