Monday, April 26, 2010

Speech by Lord Mayor of Dublin to Conference of Lord Mayor's Commission on Employment "Dublin - A City that Works" Croke Park, 23 April 2010

Dublin - A CIty That Works 23 April 2010

Good morning and welcome to the Conference of Lord Mayor’s Commission on Employment. It is encouraging to see such a large and indeed distinguished audience attending here today and I thank you all for your interest and your attendance.
I would like to congratulate the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science Maire Geoghegan Quinn on her appointment to the post. This is a key position in the European Commission and will play a seminal role is setting the future direction of Europe, particularly in setting targets and delivering the Smart Economy. I would also like to thank her for taking time out of her very busy schedule to deliver the keynote address at this conference here today. I am particularly delighted that she chose this as her first public engagement in Dublin since her appointment as Commissioner.

I became involved in politics back in the 1980s. I had just graduated and at the time I was faced with a stark personal choice – emigrate and leave family, friends and home to create a new life in a new country or stay and try to find work against a backdrop of deepening economic recession. I opted to stay but many of my friends made the decision to leave. I resolved back then to become active in political life to make a contribution so that future generations would not be faced with the choices that I had to make.

I made the right decision. The 1980s were dismal but the 1990s saw recovery lead to unprecedented growth. During the period from 1995 to 2007 the Dublin region enjoyed one of the highest rates of employment growth across European cities and capitals. In 2007/8 the situation began to change radically. The statistics are indeed dramatic.

Nationally, unemployment rose from 4.3% at the end of 2007 to 12.7% at the end of 2009, (Well above the EU27 average of 9%)
Between 2007 and 2009 the net loss of employment in Dublin was 76,400.
Today, nationally, the number signing on the live register stands at 436,000 - Dublin accounts for 104,000 of those -
In 2009 there were almost 77,000 redundancies nationally an increase of 90% on 2008 Almost 16,000 of these were in the Dublin City Council area that is almost 21% of total national redundancies. Certain postcodes in the Dublin City Council area were particularly badly affected – Dublin 1, Dublin 2 and Dublin 12 suffering the highest numbers of redundancies.
The problem continues. In the first three months of 2010 there were 3,932 redundancies in the Dublin City Council area. .
Nationally there are 85,000 young people under the age of 25 on the live register one quarter of whom are in Dublin.
Youth unemployment in Ireland is 32% - the third highest in Europe.
Last year there was 40,000 net emigration from Ireland. The ESRI estimates it will be 60,000 in 2010. This is back to the worst years of the 1950s a period to which nobody ever expected we would be returning.

Unemployment, particularly youth unemployment will have devastating long-term social consequences if it is not dealt with a degree of urgency.
And so the night I was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin in June 2009, I stated that job creation and the protection of existing employment in the City would be my priority for my term in office. I established the Lord Mayor’s Commission on Employment to examine ways in which the local authority can develop policies to promote employment and economic renewal in the City. We want to provide whatever support we can to entrepreneurs and employers in the city to establish and retain jobs that are sustainable long into the future.

The Commission comprises Members of the City Council and experts. I specifically want to thank the members of the Commission who participated not only in our 8.00 am monthly meetings but also participated in the two working groups – education and training and employment/entrepreneurship and finance.
Last September the Commission issued a “call for ideas” for people to come on board to help get Dublin’s economy, its communities and its people all working again. The call for ideas really caught the public imagination and the numerous submissions are evidence of the wealth of talent, ideas and energy throughout the City. It is clear that the citizens of Dublin are looking for good strong political leadership to harness that energy and drive that agenda.

For the past nine months the Commission has engaged in a widespread public consultation. We have travelled the length and breadth of the City – we have listened to the human stories behind the appalling statistics: we visited communities devastated by unemployment, we have met unemployed construction workers, young people who were mid-way through apprenticeships and now had no way of completing them, young highly skilled qualified engineers, architects and teachers – new graduates and those who had limited work experience and who are being encouraged to leave the country; self employed people in micro businesses or SMEs who told us that the difficulty in accessing finance was crippling their businesses and that they were facing ruin.

And we met people who told us since losing their job that they had lost their sense of identity, their sense of self-worth. People who struggled to pay their normal household bills and still many of those people feared paying the ultimate price of losing their home if they couldn’t pay the mortgage.
But we also heard from people whose focus has shifted from having a job to doing work that makes a positive contribution to a changing society. There is an entrepreneurial spirit in communities across Dublin right now that is creating enthusiasm, motivating people to get excited about their life and giving a sense of pride and that they are contributing to their family and the wider community.

Since we started our work nine months ago, we have had some fantastic results. Kieran Rose will outline the findings in more detail this afternoon but I’d like to share some of the progress we’ve made with you to demonstrate what can be done and in a relatively short time.

Earlier this month, in just one week Dublin hosted announcements of more than 400 jobs for the city between IBM, eBay, and LinkedIn – all in the technology sector. The City Council is not just talking the talk about developing Smart Cities – we’re walking the walk it is particularly noteworthy in the case of the largest announcement, the IBM Smart Technology Centre, that Dublin City Council is centrally involved in the opening up of its data systems and working with IBM to make Dublin a smarter city. These announcements build on an emerging internet cluster that is making Dublin a location of choice for the international headquarters of companies like Google, Facebook, and Gala Networks. I was delighted to read in the SiliconRepublic online news service an article that named Dublin “the internet capital of Europe”. This is a cluster we in the Commission have identified as one with strong future economic growth potential, both for our growing indigenous SME sector and the already strong base of foreign owned companies.

The creation of an energy-smart city will also present huge opportunities for renewal and job creation. Sustainable renovation and retrofitting will be key factors in stimulating future job growth. For example, Codema the City Council’s Energy Agency, has set up the Energy Smart Community scheme which allows homeowners to join together in clusters to improve the energy performance of their homes. The scheme also enables contractors to join an expert panel to tender for these works and will create employment in this area.

However, to become an energy-smart city, we must also look to our European neighbours for stimulation and innovation of the green economy. Codema has partnered with countries in North-Western Europe to create a network of sustainable renovation suppliers under the GREENOV project funded through the European Regional Development Fund.

Along with investment and ideas, training is key to bringing Dublin into the clean green smart economy. We have also joined forces with Tipperary Institute of Technology and applied for funding under the Lifelong Learning, Leonardo Da Vinci (People in the Labour Market) Programme to send up to 20 people from Dublin on a two week placement programme on Energy Efficiency in Buildings hosted by KOMZET Germany, Centre of Vocational Excellence in Energy Efficiency in Buildings with a special emphasis on timber construction. We hope to be recruiting those places in the near future.

Another initiative that has drawn the attention of the Lord Mayor’s Commission is the International Student sector. In January the Lord Mayor’s Commission hosted a seminar on this subject. The seminar heard that international education sector contributes €900 million to the Irish economy each year and supports thousands of Irish jobs, yet this is less than 1pc of the international students who travel abroad to study. International student numbers are expected to rise by 300% over the next 15 years. Dublin City Council is supporting the Irish third level colleges by allowing them to market their scholarship programmes as The Lord Mayor of Dublin Scholarships. We also need a City Strategy to optimise benefits for the city and for students. This must involve all the stakeholders such as the education providers, Immigration authorities, and student bodies. Dublin City Council could be a broker to facilitate this collaboration.

The promotion and development of the Creative and Cultural Industries offers significant potential for job creation. In January of this year, the Commission hosted a workshop on this subject and the subsequent report has many concrete proposals for the development of these sectors. I welcome the participation of Cathal Gaffney from Brown Bag Films, which has been nominated for two Academy Awards, on the panel here today. Brown Bag has already created 50 jobs in the Smithfield area of the City and is expanding. The report from the January workshop and its recommendations is available here at the conference and can be downloaded from the Internet.

The development and protection of the retail core of the City Centre is a major challenge for the City. As Lord Mayor I am facilitating dialogue between the City Centre retailers and the Members and Executive of the City Council to develop a retail strategy for the City.

The proliferation of vacant and abandoned buildings are a major problem and challenge for the City. The Commission is looking at the issue of vacant buildings in the city centre to identify possible alternative uses for them that could support emerging growth sectors such as the creative industries, green business, social entrepreneurs. We are taking a pro-active approach to find innovative solutions such as meeting the needs of new business while addressing the growing number of empty properties on the streets.

On the issue of finance for new enterprise, the Commission is working with the Ulster Bank and other key players to develop a support package for new business start-ups in Dublin. Access to finance and other important supports are the crucial element to entrepreneurs considering starting a business today and we are working on a package that would meet this need in a holistic and targeted way. Full details will be announced on this soon.

These are just some of the concrete actions being developed by the Commission in a very short space of time. The Commission is also trying to shape national and City policy

We have identified the need for the Government to continue investment in its capital programme – rolling out broadband capability, developing transport and communications infrastructure and using the downturn in the property market and the over-supply of labour in the construction industry to develop a stimulus package that could include a programme for new school buildings, community facilities and help kick-start the failed and long-promised regeneration projects.
We are making representations to national Government particularly in relation to the education and training needs of the City for the future. Central to this is a commitment for the development of the new DIT unified campus at Grangegorman, funding for upskilling workers and access to education and training opportunities for the unemployed.

In terms of shaping City policy we have made submissions to the Dublin City Development Plan, the Regional Planning Guidelines and the City Council’s Culture strategy.

Good transport planning, connections between different parts of the city, road signage, cycling and footpaths are all important. Keeping the city looking good through street cleaning, street lighting, landscaping are all part of the bigger picture of Dublin City Council’s role in showcasing our City to potential investors.

So it is not just the private sectors that have to be innovative in these times. The Council has to maintain funding to keep these services at the levels required and it is a growing pressure because of course, rates and planning levies are greatly reduced. But we are determined to succeed and the Council is committed to playing its important role in getting Dublin’s economy back on track and to supporting new employment opportunities

For sure, much has been achieved that we can be proud of, but there is plenty more to be done. Today will be a sharing of ideas that will hopefully inform us all in what we need to do to assist in generating more Employment opportunities in the long run. The outcomes from today’s conference will inform the final report of the Commission which will be presented to the City Council at its May meeting. Today’s outcomes will also, hopefully, provide additional direction for the Commission as it moves into its next phase after my term as Lord Mayor. Indeed, I look forward to continuing the work of the Commission on Employment and the implementation of our recommendations long after I cease to be Lord Mayor.

I am looking forward to hearing from the European Commissioner for Research, Innovation and Science and to the following speakers’ and panel discussions . I would like to thank all our panellists for giving their time and sharing their expertise with us.

We have two panels packed with dynamism and ambition, and loads of good ideas too, and we have speakers from wide ranging backgrounds. I look forward to being inspired and to our Commission being fuelled with even more energy, initiative and ideas, to keep moving forward for Dublin’s economy.

I stated the night I was elected Lord Mayor of Dublin that I wanted to help make Dublin the “jewel in the crown of European Cities”. I believe that the work of the Commission on Employment will go a long way towards achieving that aim.

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