Geological Survey Ireland, as part of my Department, commissioned a report in 2017 on the Economic Value of the Geoscience Sector, which gave an overall economic impact of over €3.2 billion with employment of almost 25,000 full-time equivalents in 2016. This shows the impact of the sector to be much more significant than initially perceived with wider societal impacts and potential for future expansion.
GSI is working to support and expand the geoscience sector and its regional impact in a number of ways. The on-going work of the GSI is supported by exchequer funding through my Department's Vote with a total of €12.6 million provided in the Vote in 2018.
GSI manage the Tellus programme, which is carrying out national airborne sensing and ground sampling to produce updated geological and chemical maps. The outputs from this programme, which is now completed over more than half the country, help to update GSI’s geological mapping and also supports areas such as environmental planning, agricultural planning, plant and animal health and the national Radon Control Strategy. Updated Tellus data is also used by the mineral exploration industry and attracts foreign direct investment and spending in rural areas.
Groundwater mapping, being carried out nationally at GSI, supports the protection of Drinking Water and compliance with EU Directives. This involves working closely with the National Federation of Group Water Schemes to map and protect their groundwater supplies as part of a multiannual programme. The work also defines groundwater supplies that can be used to support future regional development.
In terms of business development, GSI manages the Geoscience Ireland business cluster, which works with Enterprise Ireland to help win work overseas and secure jobs for Irish companies in this sector. The majority of these companies are located outside of Dublin and are headquartered throughout the country. Since 2012, Geoscience Ireland companies have collectively added a net 754 jobs up to end 2017.
Geotourism is supported through the promotion and development of UNESCO Global Geoparks and geotourism projects. This includes technical and financial support for the three Unesco Global Geoparks in counties Waterford, Clare and Cavan and various proposed geopark projects in counties Galway and Mayo. In addition, GSI is carrying out a national programme of county audits of geoheritage sites, which helps underpin and protect the sites located within Geoparks.