I asked for this debate to focus on the situation in Waterford and the south east. The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation was in the House last week to speak on innovation and job creation. During that discussion, Waterford and the south east featured heavily and, in fairness, the Minister gave some commitments that he would work with the enterprise agencies and the Department of Social Protection to ensure the workers who lost their jobs in TalkTalk recently were given the support they need and the broader issue of the lack of job creation in the south east, and the underinvestment in and underperformance of the local and regional economy, and the heavy hits the region has taken in recent years, would be rectified by the enterprise agencies being redirected to deal with the issues and problems facing the region.
I spoke to representatives from all parties and there is a lack of faith in any of the enterprise agencies to deliver for Waterford or for the region. There is a sense that the IDA wants to bring jobs to Ireland and is not bothered about where the jobs go. There is a perception that Waterford and the south east must do things for itself by establishing enterprise fora to examine what we can do in the region. Would the Government support such agencies if they were put in place? The regional assembly in the south east will look at some of these issues.
We cannot allow the situation to disappear from the agenda once the glare of publicity from the job losses is gone. We have seen that happen before when there were major job losses in Waterford Crystal and in GSK in Dungarvan. There was a high media profile and the politicians, Ministers and enterprise agencies had a lot to say. After the focus moves on, however, there is a fear nothing will happen and it is only when more jobs are lost that the focus returns.
Since the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation visited Waterford and met public representatives and gave clear commitments, what has been put in place and what action has been taken by Government? Have any specific proposals been put in place? Also, as per the commitment given, has the Department of Social Protection provided support to the workers of Talk Talk? If so, what types of supports have been put in place and is the employee representative forum of Talk Talk satisfied with what has been put in place by the Minister?
It is important that all public representatives from Waterford and the south east continue to raise the issue of the need for a university for the region. I spoke recently with representatives of the friends of the university of the south-east campaign, representatives of which the Leader will recall, protested outside this Parliament two years ago. A clear commitment was given at that time by all political parties, with the exception of the parties in government, that Waterford IT would be designated as a university.
Waterford city is the only gateway city without a university. The south-east region, with a population of 460,000, is the only region without a university. Some €300 million has been invested over the course of the past ten years in Waterford IT. In terms of the application made, many hurdles have been put in place. The Minister of State might recall the process put in place by the previous Government, namely, an expert group was established. The group was overseen by Dr. Port and subsequently published a report. That report stated that in comparison with universities in Ireland and abroad Waterford IT had the academic maturity to be a university and was performing as such in all but name. In my view, that report endorsed the need for a university for the south east.
We then had the Hunt report and clear commitments in that regard from Government. I have no doubt that the public representatives from the Labour Party and Fine Gael who are in government are committed to a university for the south east. Can the Minister of State tell us what the Government has done up to now to help Waterford and the south east and can he provide any further information in regard to Waterford IT's application for university status?