Galway continues to be the preferred base for global companies investing in Ireland because it meets their ‘rigorous criteria’, according to IDA Ireland.
And with Galway’s reputation as the ‘location of choice’ for such companies being boosted over the past year, the IDA is optimistic that further Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) will be attracted in 2019.
New arrivals to Galway and existing companies undergoing expansion here saw the announcement of 775 new jobs in 2018.
And a further positivity indicator is that Government figures show there were a total of 42 IDA-sponsored site visits to County Galway by potential investors up to the end of September 2018 (which is the most up-to-date figure available).
The counties with more site visits were Dublin (209 for the same period) and Cork at 45. The next highest numbers of visits on the list were Limerick at 25 and Westmeath at 18.
The IDA’s Regional Business Development Manager for the West Region, Catherina Blewitt, said: “It’s been an extremely positive year again for Galway, and particularly Galway City, in terms of FDI.
“Galway’s reputation as a location of choice for global companies grew in 2018 with the arrival of companies like Genesys, Quidel and SOTI Inc and expansions announced by established companies Wayfair, MathWorks and Mazars.
“Galway has delivered expansions and also announced new investment this year.
“It’s proof that new companies continue to see Galway as an excellent location while it’s a vote of confidence and commitment to Galway and testament to the success of their operations here from established companies.
“We have shown that we can meet the rigorous criteria required by global companies seeking to invest in Ireland; we have the skilled workers, connectivity, excellent third-level institutes and the required level of infrastructure and services they look to for a pipeline of skills, coupled with a robust and supportive business culture.
“Our collaboration with other stakeholders continued in 2018, we supported the development of new infrastructure such as the N6 Galway Ring Road, developments like the Bonham Quay project and other planned commercial developments currently in the planning process such as those proposed for Ballybane and Mervue.
“We also supported projects for Galway that received funding under the Rural and Urban Regeneration funding announced recently; the Portershed, Nuns Island, Sandy Road and infrastructure upgrades on the east of the city.
“For our part, in providing the necessary property solutions to attract investment, we have recently completed construction of a new Advance Office Building of 45,000 square foot in Parkmore, delivered through the PPP (Public Private Partnership) model.
“Planning permission for an Advance Building Solution in Parkmore, was recently secured from Galway County Council and is currently going through the tender process. IDA also works closely with the private sector to secure the provision of appropriate and cost-effective solutions suitable for FDI clients. We look forward to continuing our progress in 2019,” said Ms Blewitt.
Silicon Valley tech firm Genesys announced in November that it would create 200 new technology jobs in Galway over three years, making it one of the largest artificial intelligence development centres in Ireland.
Ms Blewitt said: “In October, the mobile and ‘Internet of Things’ device management solutions company SOTI Inc. reinforced its commitment to growing its Ireland operations as a European tech hub with the announcement of its new Galway office. Fifty new jobs are being created immediately with a further 100 to be created over the next three years.
“The Quidel Corporation, a provider of rapid diagnostic testing solutions and molecular diagnostic systems, announced plans in February to set up operations in Galway, creating 75 jobs over five years. It’s the company’s first expansion into international facilities. In June the company officially opened its new Business Service Centre.”
She said that growth in existing companies came from online home furnishings retailer Wayfair; MathWorks, a developer of mathematical computing software for engineers and scientists and in the audit, tax and advisory firm Mazars.
“Supporting our existing companies to grow and develop is a key focus for us. Wayfair celebrated the 10th anniversary of its multi-lingual European Operations Centre in Galway with news that it is to expand its workforce across the country through the launch of a virtual 200 strong workforce.
“MathWorks, which established a shared sales and services centre in Galway in 2016 announced in recent days that it is to hire an additional 70 people.
“Mazars officially opened its new Galway office and announced its intention to create up to 30 new jobs over a three-year period, doubling the office headcount,” she said,
Ms Blewitt also pointed to other success stories in Galway which are supported by IDA Ireland.
“One great example is Thermo King Ingersoll Rand, who manufacture refrigeration and heating units for the transport sector. They employ 680 people. They recently invested €50m in an expansion of their plant to increase capacity and, as a result, are currently recruiting for 50 new engineering roles. “They are a really innovative company and are leading the way in technology and robotics, growing their automation skills at the plant.”
Elsewhere in the county, she said, “our client base has performed well in terms of their operational sustainability, job retention and we continue to work closely with them, supporting them in their transformation and development”.
New Galway centre for sexually-abused children
A new Galway centre for sexually abused children is based on an overseas model where the numbers of investigations doubled and prosecutions tripled once all services were brought under one roof.
The Barnahus Onehouse Galway service will be the first of its kind in Ireland and will be used to roll out other centres across the country.
The location has yet to be finalised but is expected to be operating within months – treating children and adolescents in the Galway/Roscommon catchment areas.
Forensic, child protection, medical, therapeutic and policing services for children who have been subjected to sexual abuse or are suspected victims will be delivered together in a child-friendly setting to avoid re-traumatising them.
At the launch at NUI Galway, the centre was described as a game-changer by Dr Geoffrey Shannon, former Special Rapporteur on Child Protection, and leading expert in child and family law on whose recommendation the centre was set up.
The Galway-born solicitor’s audit of 5,400 cases of emergency removal of children from their families by Gardaí over eight years uncovered poor and limited interagency communication and cooperation, which he declared was the key road block in child protection.
The audit was carried out following the removal of a blonde child from a Romanian family after complaints from the public that the child may have been abducted – claims that were later found to be unfounded.
The Galway centre involves three departments – Children and Youth Affairs; Health; Justice and Equality – and three agencies – Tusla; the HSE; An Garda Síochána – working together.
By co-locating the services together, essential agencies can share vital information about children and their families, he pointed out.
“Emergency powers need to be followed up by continuity of care informed by communication, cooperation that goes beyond a paper exercise,” he told the lecture hall.
“Meaningful cooperation would ensure interventions are proportionate, developmentally appropriate and culturally sensitive
“In the absence of such cooperation, there is the very real potential that services designed to ensure protection will cause further trauma.”
And after examining centres in Iceland, New York, Antrim and Oxford, it was clear the model had very tangible results.
In Iceland, twice as many investigations of child sexual abuse cases were carried out while the number of cases that were prosecuted tripled.
“It is a safe place to disclose abuse, it is child friendly, it provides a supportive environment, safe from those suspected of perpetrating abuse,” he told the press conference.
Dr Shanahan said it was reassuring to have both the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs Katherine Zappone as well as the Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan at the launch, which spoke volumes about the Government’s commitment to child protection.
Noting that there was still much work to do to help victims of sexual abuse, he said legislation was needed to allow the child victim to give evidence and be cross-examined within a short time of the event occurring using video technology.
This could then be used during the court case, allowing the child to get on with life and recover from the incident, rather than re-live it when the case eventually comes to court.
Minister Zappone said it was Dr Shannon’s 2017 audit that was a catalyst for her to set up a steering group to establish the centre which was a priority project during her tenure.
“When children cross the threshold, they feel safe, supported, loads of beautiful colours, with a section where they can play if they want to.
“It’s not just being in the place. It’s developing the processes and ways of communicating and the trust that makes the difference. And even then, it’s hard to do what it is you need to do to work with a child or young person that has so brutally been abused.
“…This is such important work.”
She said one of the most appealing aspects of the Barnahus model was the child centred of the approach which reduced the need for children to repeatedly recount their traumatic experiences as they engaged with multiple agencies. It also allowed families to be supported in caring for their child throughout a difficult process.
Minister Flanagan said all the bodies involved would “overlap, work together and become entwined”.
Officers specially trained in interviewing sexual abuse victims will be available in Divisional Protective Services Units located in all Garda divisions by the end of the year.
These officers would support the delivery of a consistent and professional approach to the investigation of sexual crime, for adults and children alike.
“This is a very positive step towards reducing the trauma and supporting victims through the criminal investigative process.”
Eilish Hardiman, who was speaking on behalf of the Minister for Health Simon Harris, noted the increased number of referrals to the Galway centre before it even opens.
“So there is an unmet need here,” she told the conference.
She said Minister Harris had promised ring-fenced funding for permanent posts to staff the centre.
Before and after the conference, a seminar also took place attended by 100 healthcare professionals with international and local speakers giving an overview of how the service would operate.
Authorities detain stricken ship close to Kinvara
Irish authorities are still detaining a ship close to Kinvara, after its hull sprang a leak while loading cargo for the Bahamas.
The 30m Evora was detained last week at Tarrea Pier near Kinvara by the Marine Survey Office (MSO) under port-state control regulations which prevent the vessel from going to sea.
Concerns about the four crew employed for the voyage also prompted a visit to the vessel by the International Transport Federation’s (ITF) Irish branch.
ITF representative Michael Whelan said he had met the crew – three Cubans and a Colombian – to check on their situation in relation to pay, conditions, and accommodation for the crew while the vessel is damaged.
The cargo ship had been due to steam to the Bahamas with a large quantity of cement when the ship’s hull was damaged during loading at Tarrea Pier.
Local residents feared that fuel from the ship might leak, causing pollution which would have a serious impact on south Galway’s shellfish industry, including its oyster beds.
The owner said there had been no fuel leak from the vessel and no pollution risk.
The pier is outside the remit of the Galway harbourmaster, and is the responsibility of Galway County Council.
It is understood residents found it difficult to get a response from the local authority, and Galway harbourmaster Captain Brian Sheridan intervened to assist.
The Department of Transport, under which the Marine Survey Office operates, said it could not comment on the details of the detention.
It said that any queries should be directed to the ship’s flag state – as in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. However, the ship’s port of registry is recorded as Panama on the vessel.
The vessel, built in France 50 years ago, was formerly owned in Rossaveal, but was sold to a new owner within the past twelve months.
The owner confirmed that the vessel had been held as the engine room was flooded, and said “no harmful substances were released into the bay”.
The ITF representative Michael Whelan said he was in regular contact with the crew, and understood they now wished to be repatriated.
He confirmed that the crew had been paid, but did not wish to stay indefinitely, as the vessel had not been inspected by flag state inspectors.
More than 2,000 submissions on waste facility licence
Thousands of objections have been lodged with Galway County Council against a proposed licence for a waste facility in Ballinasloe.
A meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council heard that 2,075 hard copy submissions had been lodged with the County Council by the deadline earlier this month.
Last year local residents won a High Court challenge against the granting of a licence for a waste facility at Poolboy in the town.
The court ruled that Galway County Council had erred by granting the licence for a waste facility to Barna Waste, contrary to requirements for protecting natural habitats.
At a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council, Fianna Fail Councillor Michael Connolly described the town as being ‘dogged’ down through the years with dumps and said the transit of waste through Ballinasloe town again would be ‘detrimental’.
Independent Councillor Aisling Dolan said she is happy that five out of the six local area councillors are supporting the ‘Ballinasloe Says No’ campaign.
She told the meeting that one in every three people living in the urban area of Ballinasloe has lodged a formal submission to the Environment department of the county council against the proposal for a waste licence.
The opposition to the waste facility centres on concerns regarding potential health implications and road safety.
Local residents claim that waste trucks will have to navigate through the town, passing Portiuncula Hospital, schools, children’s playgrounds and homes and could increase the risk of serious accidents or fatalities.
Residents also feel that there could be health implications as a result of a potential decrease in air quality.
Among the concerns of local residents is the potential impact on tourism in the East Galway town which is part of the Hidden Heartlands initiative.
They claim that a waste facility at Poolboy would deter investment for Ballinasloe and people would be less likely to want to live and work in the area.
There was some confusion at the Ballinasloe meeting regarding how many tonnes of waste per year would be permitted at the facility, if the licence is granted.
Independent Councillor Declan Geraghty said there is a perception that hundreds of waste lorries will pass through Ballinasloe each week if the facility is granted a licence.
However he added that his calculations suggest no more than three articulated loads of waste would traverse the town if the facility is to only cater for 23,000 tonnes of waste per year.
Independent Councillor Tim Broderick said the licence would allow 23,000 tonnes of waste at the Poolboy facility at any given time.
Councillor Geraghty says he is not against the waste facility but is also supportive of the local residents and would like clarity on the figures as it would be ‘unfair to hauliers and people who are trying to create jobs’.
The location of the proposed site at Poolboy has been described as ‘wrong’ by Sinn Fein Councillor Dermot Connolly, who is arguing that an alternative site, away from the populated area, should be explored and then maybe supported. Galway County Council is due to make a decision regarding the proposal for a waste licence in Poolboy by the end of November.