I am not a senior Minister but I assure the Deputy I am humble.
I thank the Deputy for raising the important matter of unemployment in the north west. IDA Ireland is actively encouraging new investment in Donegal in knowledge-based industries. This is part of a focused strategy to replace the traditional clothing and textile industries, which have declined in the region in recent years. During the past five years, IDA-supported companies in Donegal have created more than 663 new jobs. A total of 12 IDA Ireland-supported companies in Donegal trade internationally and they employ 1,683 full-time and 128 part-time people in software development, systems development and the medical technology industry. Donegal's industry base is transforming from the clothing and textile industry to high-tech, high skill activity. Companies such as Pramerica and UnitedHealth, which have located in Donegal, are continually expanding and recruiting. The agency's emphasis is on building up an international and financial services cluster and it is making strides in delivering on this, as shown by the quality of the existing companies and the recent announcement of an expansion by SITA Inc, creating 123 jobs. In addition, the IDA is actively promoting Donegal as a favourable location for high-end manufacturing, mainly to companies in the medical technology sector. This is proving successful. Companies locating in Donegal have included Medisize and Zeus Industrial Products Inc., the latter of which has opened a European operations centre for the production and distribution of precision medical tubing products.
Another primary focus for the IDA in Donegal is the designated linked gateway of Letterkenny and Derry, and significant investment has been undertaken in developing property solutions through the provision of a business and technology park, along with three advance buildings in Letterkenny. This focus involves developing stronger economic links with Invest Northern Ireland, which includes initiatives such as the north west business and technology zone. This is aimed at promoting the linked gateway of Letterkenny and Derry in line with the objectives of the National Spatial Strategy for Ireland 2002-2020 and the Regional Development Strategy for Northern Ireland 2025.
The delivery of physical, social and economic infrastructure is key to securing inward investment and IDA Ireland continues to be engaged in identifying and prioritising investment in these areas in association with local partners. In that context, the interdepartmental group report published previously by the former Minister, Deputy Micheál Martin — as mentioned by Deputy Joe McHugh — outlined the wide range of infrastructure projects under way and completed which support the environment in Donegal for job creation. Enterprise Ireland is also focused on the creation of new jobs by supporting entrepreneurs who set up new high-potential start-up companies, supporting the retention and creation of new jobs in existing companies and enhancing the innovation capability of Ireland at a national and regional level through support of research in companies and third level institutions.
Enterprise Ireland provides a range of supports for high-potential start-up companies, including financial supports, business and marketing advice, mentoring and product development. Eight such units have been created in Donegal since 2005. Enterprise Ireland approved grant payments of some €5.3 million to companies in 2009. A total of 14 Donegal companies have been approved for €2.2 million under the employment subsidy scheme, with a further five companies being approved for €1.75 million under the enterprise stabilisation fund. A Colab incubation centre at Letterkenny IT, officially opened on 21 September last and was largely funded by Enterprise Ireland, is home to 12 start-up companies which are creating employment. Dedicated office space, business mentoring, access to specialist equipment and research teams for client companies are provided to each of the tenants.
The Deputy referred to salmon farming and Marine Harvest Ireland, which has a number of sites around the coast. The full use of its site at Lough Swilly is currently being examined in the context of full compliance with the requirements of EU directives on birds and habitats. The Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is working closely with the European Commission in conjunction with the National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Marine Institute to resolve this issue on a national basis. Discussions have taken place among the Department, IFA Aquaculture and Marine Harvest on a range of issues with regard to its licences. These discussions are ongoing at present. I assure the Deputy that every effort is being made to resolve these matters in a manner which is fully in accordance with the necessary legislation and also meets the needs of the company.
Greencastle Harbour is owned by Donegal County Council and the maintenance and development of the harbour is the responsibility of the council in the first instance. However, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has, in recent years, project-managed works on phase 1 of the Greencastle Harbour development project on behalf of Donegal County Council as well as providing funding. Due to the current budgetary situation, a limited amount of funding — sufficient to suspend the project in a safe and acceptable manner — is being provided under the 2010 fishery harbour and coastal infrastructure development programme. The Department is keeping the matter under review on an ongoing basis in the context of expenditure under the fishery harbours and coastal infrastructure capital programme.
Greencastle Harbour and its facilities continue to be available to fishermen. Concerns have been expressed about changed tidal current patterns in the Greencastle area and an appropriate marine notice has been issued warning all ship owners, agents, ship masters, fishermen, yachtsmen and seafarers in this regard.
It would not be appropriate to discuss any negotiations that may be taking place between Global Flexi Systems and the State development agencies, as the Deputy will understand, because they are sensitive. However, I assure the Deputy that we are fully conscious of the need to promote the north west and the Donegal region. At the same time, it is important that we do not undersell the opportunities that are out there, including Colab at the Letterkenny Institute of Technology, and all that Donegal has going for it in terms of attracting inward investment. IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland are out there all the time promoting the north west as a region for inward investment, while assisting companies in the area of trade and technology.
The Deputy mentioned difficulties with regard to Invest Northern Ireland. It is important to remember that we are trying to promote an all-Ireland economy. Cross-Border co-operation is paramount in the context of making the island of Ireland an attractive place for inward investment. I understand what the Deputy is saying but it is equally important that we promote the island economy. It is a central plank of island policy to make sure that investment occurs across the island, thus encouraging the breaking down of barriers. It is difficult to move from this stated position of the Governments of the Republic of Ireland and the UK, especially in the context of the discussions that are ongoing as we speak.
I will consider the views of the Deputy but I assure him that, as Minister of State with responsibility for trade, whenever I am abroad — even though I come from Cork, which is a long way from Donegal — I promote the whole of Ireland and particularly the regional areas where we see niche opportunities for inward investment.