10 February 2012 No Comments by The Northern Standard

The neglect of Co Monaghan as a location for inward investment by the State agencies charged with generating employment in this country was well illustrated by statistics that emerged in the Dáil last week – and powerfully re-emphasised by a debate at Monday’s meeting of Monaghan Co Council which resulted in a bid by councillors to secure a meeting with Minister Richard Bruton in order to redress what Colr Matt Carthy insisted, despite suggestions that he might diplomatically ameliorate the phraseology, was a situation of “blatant disregard”.
The public will not have been surprised by the state of affairs in relation to job creation in this county that the Dáil revelations and the Council debate highlighted.
It has long been accepted that the responsibility for the development and sustaining of our industrial sector has very much been left to ourselves alone.
Many effective case studies substantiating the arguments put forward by Colr Carthy and others on Monday are formed by the experiences of our county’s entrepreneurs – both those who have been thwarted in the incubation of a promising idea by lack of semi-State assistance or an encumbrance of red tape, and those who have carried on regardless of lack of help or active hindrance and in some cases brought their brainchild to full germination with spectacular success.
Bodies such as the Industrial Development Authority – which has traditionally taken the brunt of local frustration about lack of outside help or willingness to create jobs in Co Monaghan – and Enterprise Ireland probably react to criticism of the type articulated by Monaghan Co Council this week with a sense of affronted dignity.
They operate to ‘big picture’ criteria which justify the unfailingly positive spin that is placed on their annual reports – and often make the claim that if their work is invisible on the ground in counties such as Monaghan, it is because they are expending a great deal of effort in sustaining the employment that already exists in various sectors, a consideration that has admittedly taken on accentuated importance in the current economic climate where opportunities for new growth are severely limited.
But the language of the enterprise agencies, for all its eloquence and statistical reinforcement, falls short of a refutation of the long held conviction in this county – and the others shown to have received scant attention by the IDA in recent years – that, as Fianna Fáil’s Pádraig McNally phrased it on Monday, there is a lack of willingness at semi-State level to provide jobs outside of this country’s main centres of population.
It is obvious that the inherent mechanism of the structures available in this country to foster employment creation is too unwieldy to adequately address the needs of the rural regions.
It is unlikely that a meeting between a Co Council delegation and Jobs Minister Bruton will lead to any meaningful reform of the basis of operation of the IDA or its kindred bodies.
But such a meeting is worth pursuing – if only because it is very likely to reinforce as a contemporary imperative the historical perception that if Co Monaghan is to generate sustainable new sources of employment for its young people it will have to do so almost entirely from its own initiative.
Thus affirmed in their convictions, our local public representatives could then set with renewed determination to establishing the answer to the very pertinent question posed by FF’s P J O’Hanlon during Monday’s discussion – are they doing enough themselves to make the climate of the county more conducive to both home grown and outside job generation potential?
The insistence with which Colr O’Hanlon posed the question emphasised its fundamentally unsettling nature, for the answer is most probably in the negative.
It is not the statutory function of local authorities to play a governing role in the creation of jobs – but it is arguably their civic, and perhaps moral, function to work to see that the conditions for employment growth are the best they can possibly be: that the ground is fertile and primed for the opportunities that they or others can attract the county’s way.
The planning environment is one obvious sector where the elected men and women can exercise an influence to ensuring that incentives rather than impediments for new enterprise exist – and the evolution of the new Co Development Plan that is underway at present gives them a vehicle for delivery in this regard.
Our Co Council, we suggest, should also be giving more sustained attention to the work being carried out by the various Business Leaders Forums established by the Monaghan Co Development Board to pursue an economic development strategy for the county – and an engagement with their guiding personnel would be a useful regular feature of the authority’s monthly public deliberations.
There would seem a significant role for our county and town councils also in addressing the deficient perception of our county in the eyes of potential European and world investors.
Dissatisfaction with the marketing of Co Monaghan as a place to do business was expressed by several of our councillors on Monday.
They have a point – the promotional work so vital in this regard appears to be pursued piecemeal by a variety of agencies, with the multiplicity of media available for the purpose in the modern age serving to dilute rather than amplify the impact of the image they are trying to communicate.
There also seems to be little general consensus as to what that image should be, a perhaps unsurprising dilemma for a county that has traditionally had to be inward focused and self-reliant when it came to providing work for its people.
The moulding of a modern image for Monaghan that would captivate the investment interest of international business is perhaps for others to evolve – but our local, national and European representatives are part of a formidable and far-reaching political brotherhood who could ensure comprehensive dissemination of the proper promotional information once it is fully formulated and the best method of its conveyance agreed upon.
Our county councillors are right in their assertion that there are flaws in the way the county is being ‘sold’ at present from the point of view of job creation potential – but they themselves have a potentially pivotal role to play in marketing the Monaghan message.

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