As the Deputy will be aware the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade is overseeing the co-ordination of the whole-of-Government response to Brexit through the cross-Departmental coordination structures chaired by his Department.
As Aire Stáit I am acutely aware of the challenges faced by indigenous industry and businesses in all Gaeltacht areas, including the Donegal Gaeltacht, in preparing for Brexit. I was in Donegal in July of this year for the Government meeting held in Gleann Cholm Cille on 25th July. On 24th July I also has a number of meetings with local groups and announced the approval of the South Donegal Language Plan under the language planning process.
Údarás na Gaeltachta is tasked with the Economic, Social and Cultural development of Ireland’s Gaeltacht areas. Consequently, at the outset I wish to assure the Deputy that Údarás na Gaeltachta are working in cooperation with all other relevant organisations on a coordinated approach to Brexit. In that context, Údarás na Gaeltachta continue to work in tandem with Enterprise Ireland [EI] on an ongoing basis to ensure that their client-companies receive the same supports as those that are available to client-companies of EI.
It should be noted that, since 2012, both agencies operate under an mutually agreed memorandum of understanding [MOU] which ensures that client companies of Údarás na Gaeltachta have access to the same range of schemes being provided by Enterprise Ireland.
Specifically, in relation to the Donegal Gaeltacht I have been advised by Údarás na Gaeltachta that a number of initiatives/measures have been put in train in order to safeguard their exposed client companies from Brexit. These include:
- Meetings, courses and seminars on a regular basis for its clients in the Donegal Gaeltacht on the importance of preparing for Brexit and assisting companies in developing their businesses, diversify their markets and encouraging them to take practical steps to prepare the economic uncertainty that Brexit would cause.
- As part of a national response with other Government Departments and State Agencies, Údarás na Gaeltachta has encouraged and ensured that Gaeltacht companies have participated in Brexit Preparedness Seminars and awareness sessions held in Donegal by colleague organisations such as Enterprise Ireland.
- The introduction of the Bí Réidh scheme which is similar to the Be Prepared scheme being operated by Enterprise Ireland. This scheme provides support to companies to assess the potential impact of Brexit and to undertake market research to counteract its potential negative impact.
- In recognition of and in preparation for Brexit, Údarás na Gaeltachta agreed a Trade Office arrangement with the Scottish Chambers of Commerce at the end of 2018. The arrangement will act as a valuable resource for SMEs looking to expand their international Business too Business (B2B) partnerships.
In the interest of completeness I should also point out that earlier this year, in line with the recommendations of the Department of Enterprise, Business and Innovation, Údarás na Gaeltachta carried out a new sensitivity analysis on exposure to Brexit and re-engaged with companies who score highly on the sensitivity analysis and in particular companies whose primary market is the UK. On foot of this analysis Údarás na Gaeltachta targeted 25 companies throughout the Gaeltacht in most at risk to Brexit.
I understand that Údarás executives continue to engage with those at risk, supporting them in their current strategic reviews and applications for support in respect of innovation, efficiencies (Lean), market discovery and upskilling of employees. Companies are also being updated on the other state support in respect to the Brexit Loan Scheme by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland.
Finally, it is recognised that, as a county bordering Northern Ireland, Donegal could be significantly affected by the decision of the United Kingdom to leave the European Union and consequently that it could have a detrimental effect on businesses in the Donegal Gaeltacht. In that context I have been informed by Údarás na Gaeltachta that they made significant investment in the Donegal Gaeltacht over the past three years to Brexit proof existing companies, attract new businesses to locate in the Gaeltacht and to assist companies in diversifying and find new markets.