Chamber News

Chambers Ireland today (14th September 2020) welcomes the decision by Northern Ireland Minister Mallon MLA to approve planning permission for the North South Interconnector and acknowledges the importance of this infrastructure both in terms of improving energy security and enabling the island to move towards a 70% target of renewable electricity, which is critical in meeting our 2030 targets.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The economic and health impacts of COVID-19 have dominated for the past 6 months, and while this crisis remains, it is important that Governments look to the future and plan for the long-term needs of local economies across the island.

“Today’s announcement that the North-South Interconnector has been granted planning approval is significant and will breed confidence in our capacity and ability to invest for the future.

“Energy security is of the utmost importance to businesses across the island and the Interconnector will improve the resilience of our electricity supply.

“The project is also essential for ensuring regional economies have the power and resources they need to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI).

“In the longer term, the Interconnector will be invaluable in helping Ireland meet its climate targets, by supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy and the generation of clean electricity.

“Today’s announcement is good news for Ireland’s competitiveness and good news for Ireland’s climate targets. We look forward to the completion of the project.”

Chambers Ireland Budget 2021 SubmissionChambers Ireland today (10th September 2020), launches its submission to Government detailing recommendations to be included in Budget 2021 and the longer term National Economic Plan.

Aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals, the Chambers Ireland Budget 2021 Submission makes a series of recommendations that will support businesses to trade through the Pandemic through enabling our town centres and local economies to recover. It also emphasises the importance of investment in infrastructure, the low carbon transition, and the delivery of affordable homes.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “Budget 2021 will be published in circumstances that would have been unimaginable at the outset of this year. The Irish economy faces tremendous challenges as it continues to suffer the impact of a global health pandemic. Unfortunately, that is not the only threat on the horizon. We could very well be facing a no-deal trading relationship with the UK from January.

“This Budget must address the underlying challenges to the economy. Even in February, when job creation was at an all-time high, this prosperity was not being felt in all parts of the country. Under-investment in infrastructure, particularly housing, was felt keenly across society, to the detriment of our quality of life. This is becoming a significant threat to our competitiveness and the sustainability of our economic recovery.

“The only way we can collectively face down these challenges is to ensure that we invest. This means investing in climate resilient infrastructure and new technologies that will ensure we can decarbonise. It means we must enable and empower our SMEs – the drivers of economic growth in communities across the country – to continue to compete and remain productive throughout the crisis. Most importantly, it means investing in the places where we live and work, so that town and city centres can thrive.

“Our submission calls on Government to put “Place” at the heart of its vision for Ireland. Budget 2021, and the new Legislative Programme, must be ambitious for the regions and the millions of people who live in the hinterlands of our cities and beyond. The need for balanced regional development and investment cannot be understated. As a first step, we call for the establishment of an inter-departmental Taskforce on Town Centres to address vacancies, build active transport infrastructure, and support urban living.

“If our town and urban centres are to have any chance of recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, we need to see better joined up thinking, linking in planning, local government, transport and housing policy. Urban centres must be good places to live, if they are going to be decent places to do business.

“Brexit, combined with the continued economic fallout from the pandemic, will make the work of the 33rd Dáil and the new Government even more challenging. As the consequences of these challenges unfold, we will be working closely with our members to ensure that their voices are heard.”

Chambers Ireland today (9th September 2020) welcomes the publication of the latest Brexit Readiness Action Plan from Government, which outlines the steps that businesses and individuals need to take now, to be ready for the end of the Transition Period on 31 December 2020.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “With the deadline to allow ratification of a Trade Deal due at the next EU Council meeting next month, we urgently call on all businesses to thoroughly review this latest Brexit Readiness plan and prepare their operations and regular procedures as best as they can.

“All signs indicate that the UK is likely to leave the transition without a deal in place and businesses must prepare for this possibility.

“That being said, whether or not a Free Trade Agreement is finalised before the transition ends, both a deal and no-deal scenario will give effect to new obligations and costs for customs procedures, regulation and transit. The only way to reduce the impact of additional cost and administration is to take the time now to prepare.

“While the economic impact of COVID-19 continues to be the most immediately pressing issue for business, the end of the transition and the UK’s departure from the EU cannot be ignored. We call on businesses throughout Ireland to be vigilant and recognise the damage that a No-Deal exit for the UK could bring, review the Action Plan, and avail of all Government supports so that they can  prepare accordingly.”

Chambers Ireland today (7th September 2020) welcomes the launch of the new Credit Guarantee Scheme, and encourages businesses to make full use of the range of state supports available.

Speaking this afternoon, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “The new Scheme is an ambitious new initiative, where 80% of borrowings will be backed by the State. Interest rates will also be offered at a much lower rate than other more traditional business loans. While debt won't suit all businesses, for those who are eligible, we encourage them to explore this offering and apply as soon as possible.

Under state aid rules, loan applications will only remain open until the end of 2020. This leaves just over three months to apply and to receive approval. It is imperative that businesses are supported in progressing their applications as speedily as possible.

COVID-19 has had a detrimental impact on the business community. The publication of the Q2 quarterly accounts earlier today show that GDP was reduced by 6.1%, a bigger quarterly reduction than the worst days of the crisis in 2008. The economic impact of the pandemic is far from over and we now face into the winter and several months of difficult trading conditions for businesses, particularly in the hospitality, tourism and retail space.

While the launch of the Credit Guarantee Scheme today is very welcome, businesses need more from Government. We reiterate our call from last week to improve the supports that are already available. This includes reforming the EWSS, which is transitioning to €203 per week and may involve a seven-week delay in payment of the subsidy to businesses. These new changes could seriously undermine the objective of the Subsidy, which is to support business cash-flow so that jobs can be protected.

We urge Government to work with the business community to ensure that a co-ordinated national strategy is put in place to support local economies and communities as we continue to grapple with the threat of the COVID-19 virus.”

AGM 2020Danette Connolly, National Clinical Lead and MD of the Home Instead Training Academy and Chairperson of Waterford Hospice, was elected President of Waterford Chamber at the 233rd AGM in the Granville Hotel on 24th August.

As a business owner, Danette has been actively involved with Waterford Chamber at Board level for nearly ten years and is looking forward to bringing her own ideas to the organisation as we face into a new normal.

Speaking via a Zoom forum, Danette said: “I am honoured to have been asked to take on the role of President of Waterford Chamber and look forward to working with you all over the coming months. I would like to take this opportunity to thank outgoing President Jonathan Earl for his commitment over the past year and especially for the additional months he remained in the role due to the current crisis.

“My presidency should have started in May and we have missed out on many opportunities to meet since then, but that makes me even more determined and commitment to fulfilling this role to be best of my ability until my term ends next May.”

Speaking on the importance of working together as a business community during the pandemic, she said: “Let’s just pause for a moment and reflect on what you have been achieved in business since earlier this year. Businesses have adapted and responded to the changes, you have networked and helped each other, you have been incredibly resourceful and innovative.

“It would be remiss of me not to mention the HSE Tracing APP which was developed by NearForm in Tramore. As a business community of high achievers, we have done well and should take pride in that. And what’s even better is we can do more. Collaboration is the key to success.

“The topic of the HSE is always a potentially controversial one, but it’s important to note the local HSE and all the frontline have done a tremendous job. Though the Dunmore Wing at the hospital that houses the Palliative care services isn’t operational in the manner we have been striving to, this wing of the hospital played an important part in the hospital’s ability to manage during the worst of the crisis.

“During Covid, we have also seen work continuing on getting the North Quays developed, the Greenway extension to New Ross, the appointment of Tom Boland to get the University over the line, the Big Little ideas campaign which we led, bringing the ideas of the public together to create a roadmap for change.

“We need our city to grow and with that comes many challenges but also opportunities. We must embrace all we can and lead by example as the Capital of the South East Region. Yes we have to be realistic, a lot has been put on hold, but with a strong collective voice we can realise the vision set out in the National Planning Framework.

“And who knows maybe that pause button might be a good thing. It allows us to re-evaluate and look at things differently. I know I certainly have both personally and professionally.”

Chamber CEO Gerald Hurley outlined that in light of Covid-19 it has been a tough year financially for the organisation, but it has seen them grow as a team, becoming more innovative and connecting a lot more with members.

Speaking at the AGM, Gerald said: “The past number of months haven’t been easy but we have made every effort to support our members along the way.

“For me, one of the best things about these past few months has been the willingness for collaboration. We see it daily among the various stakeholders, including Waterford City & County Council, Waterford Local Enterprise office, Enterprise Ireland Waterford Business Group, ourselves and Dungarvan & West Waterford Chamber and many more. We have a common purpose – to beat this thing and come back better than ever. It has afforded us the opportunity to engage with our members, be more creative, to get back to basics in wanting to support our business community and to genuinely help those around us who are the lifeblood of the economic life in Waterford.”

As the meeting concluded, John McSweeney, AIB Bank and Ciaran Cullen, were deemed elected as Deputy President and Vice-President respectively.

Chambers Ireland has today (1st September) sent a letter to An Taoiseach Micheál Martin outlining the concerns of our members regarding the Government response to Covid-19 in advance of the Dáil reconvening.

Chamber Ireland Concerns:

  1. There is a need for additional supports to help areas where restrictions must be reintroduced, to sustain businesses that are active in those areas, and then to support them upon reopening.
  2. It is critical that there is a co-ordinated, coherent and clear programme of policy and communications from government, the absence of which is undermining the viability of businesses and the sustainability of our economy.
  3. There are failings in the Employment Wage Subsidy Scheme which need to be addressed urgently.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “Chambers Ireland welcomes the early reconvening of the Dáil this week as there remains many policy areas which need the immediate attention of government. The transition from a set of temporary schemes to a longer-term response is to be welcomed but has not been communicated or co-ordinated as effectively as it might have been.

Businesses need to know what will happen if their area gets caught up in the future restrictions of an outbreak. Staff need to know that their jobs will be supported if their area is locked down. Government action in the three counties that suffered the reintroduction of restrictions, while welcome, has been limited to mentoring supports, marketing for the county, and training vouchers. If businesses and jobs are to be sustained through periods of restrictions, additional supports for cashflow will be required.

And, critically, we need a generalised, co-ordinated and coherent policy response to this disease. It is six months since the first Irish case of Covid-19 was diagnosed, and still businesses are trying to make decisions while the policy and regulatory environment is shifting on a month by month, even week by week, basis. Businesses continues to call on Government to provide certainty and sustainable long-term support during what will be a difficult winter trading period.

Of most concern at present is the transition from the TWSS to the EWSS scheme. This transition is concerning for several reasons and includes eligibility, the sudden change of rate from €350 per week to €203 per week and the proposed seven-week delay in payment of the subsidy to businesses. The new changes could seriously undermine the objective of the Subsidy, which is to support business cash-flow so that jobs can be protected.

We urge Government to work with the business community to ensure that a coherent, co-ordinated national policy response is put in place to support local economies and communities as we continue to grapple with the threat of the COVID-19 virus.”

A new partnership has been announced between Chambers Ireland and health and wellbeing provider, Health Assured, to offer a new Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) to their Chamber members.

Chambers Ireland’s new partnership with Health Assured will offer business members within our network a reduced sign-up rate to a 24/7, 365 confidential telephone support and counselling service, as well as to a wide range of wellbeing resources via an online wellbeing portal and mobile app, including articles, fact sheets, videos, webinars and self-help programmes.

David Price, CEO of Health Assured, said, “Health Assured is delighted to be partnering up with Chambers Ireland and their members. With one in four people in Ireland predicted to suffer mental health issues at some point in their lives, and despite the significant progress made in modern society, the long-standing stigma that was once attached to mental health conditions still plays a role in preventing many employees from coming forward to their employers regarding their mental health.

With the clear links between employees’ wellbeing and their level of performance and morale at work, taking note and modifying the way you address mental health at work should be of the up-most importance. We hope that our new partnership with Chamber members will go a long way towards ensuring that those who need support in a professional or personal capacity, always have somewhere to turn.”

Welcoming the new programme, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “Chambers Ireland is pleased to play its part in encouraging the importance of looking after the mental health and wellbeing of employees, as we all adapt to new measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

By partnering with Health Assured to offer our members the opportunity of a reduced sign-up rate to this programme, we hope to see businesses across the country avail of these essential resources for health and wellbeing support.

COVID-19 will have disrupted many aspects of people’s lives, particularly in the area of mental health.

It is vital that particular care and attention is paid to people’s mental health as they continue to work amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and this new Employee Assistance Programme is intended as a key resource employees can turn to for support.”

The fourth Regional Leaders Programme is now open for applications and Waterford Chamber are looking for professionals who have management potential, run their own business or looking to advance their career to join.

While Covid-19 has had a huge impact on Chamber events in recent months, CEO Gerald Hurley says the Regional Leaders Programme is an important part of the business community that must be maintained at all costs.

“The minute Covid-19 hit we moved the programme to a digital setting and we were delighted to be able to facilitate one to one meetings, speaker sessions and group webinars, which ensured everybody could complete the programme and not miss out on anything.

“While Covid-19 has been a tough road for us all, in terms of the Regional Leaders Programme it has allowed us to be innovative and reach out to national and international business professionals who are at the top of their game to come on board.

“This year we are launching with a host of new leaders, along with many familiar faces, so whether you are a senior executive or starting your own business, we have leaders to cater for every sector and experience level.

“Waterford Chamber facilitates a ‘Friends of Waterford’ group in Dublin, made up of high profile business people who have a special connection with Waterford, be it family or business interests and we are delighted a number of them jumped at the chance of joining the programme as leaders, including Lorcan Tiernan, Partner at Dillon Eustace; Jack O’Keeffe, Director, Focus Capital Partners, Eugene O’Callaghan, Director, Ireland Strategic Investment Fund and Damien Gaffney, Principal and Director at Tetrarch Capital.

“Also joining us this year are international coaches Benedek Frank, Hidai Degani, O.H Degani Consultants and known locally we have Shane O' Sullivan, Inspiring Excellence and Richard Burke, Resilience Matters, among others.

“Our programme is unique in that it is created by the business community for the business community and our leaders are the best in the business, giving of their time voluntarily to ensure we build a strong and vibrant business environment for all.

“Of course the programme wouldn’t be possible without the support of our industry partners Bausch + Lomb and Waterford Chamber Skillnet, who will subsidise the programme by 25% this year. Now at €262.50 for the nine-month programme, it offers incredible value for anyone who wants to do something for themselves professionally in a cost effective way with maximum outcome and on their own schedule.

“Covid-19 has taught us all to work smarter and the Regional Leaders Programme is the perfect next step.”

For more information on the Regional Leaders Programme, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Chambers Ireland town centresIn a submission to An Taoiseach Micheál Martin, Chambers Ireland today (30 July 2020) calls for the establishment of an inter-departmental National Town Centre Taskforce to revive urban centres, address the issues of vacancies, incentivise brownfield development and ensure that our cities and towns across the country are supported through the post-COVID recovery.

The Programme for Government committed to a ‘Town Centre First’ policy approach, founded on the Town Centre Health Check research, to ensure that our cities and towns become vibrant places for living and working in by removing the blight of underused and vacant urban building stock.

Even before Covid-19, a Town Centre First programme was critically important and urgently needed attention with Irish national commercial vacancy rates at 13.3% (GeoDirectory). Meanwhile, research from the Parliamentary Budgetary Office, published 28 July, demonstrates that at least 18,000 new homes would become available if vacant properties were activated.

In the wake of Covid-19, with the global economic downturn likely to gravely impact our economic performance, a well-resourced Town Centre First programme would serve as a platform for a counter-cyclical economic stimulus – supporting jobs while carrying out much needed public works at a cost-effective point in the economy cycle.

An impactful Town Centre First programme would position Ireland to be more competitive, with sustainable housing and resilient local economies and communities, and would allow us to take better advantage of the rebound to the global economy, which may be another three years away.

Speaking today, Chambers Ireland Chief Executive Ian Talbot said, “As part of last week’s July Stimulus, €10 million was allocated for Town and Village renewal schemes. With 300,000 people living in over 600 small towns and villages this will not have a noticeable impact at the national level, and it neglects the urgent needs of over 3,000,000 people who are living in the urban areas of our cities and towns across every county.

“The Heritage Council’s town centre health checks have demonstrated that our urban spaces are among the least active in Europe. The economic burden of vacancy is felt very heavily in our towns and cities. The Covid-19 crisis is already making the vacancy problem in our town centres worse. Business owners are experiencing significantly reduced footfall and business activity.

“The Programme for Government makes a commitment to a ‘Town Centre First’ approach. If this objective is to be successful it will require the Taoiseach’s leadership and a cross departmental approach. Coordinating the policy activities of the departments of Planning, Housing, Enterprise, Transport and Finance with the actions of Local Authorities is too broad a brief for any one minister and will require the Taoiseach to lead the way if we are to make the necessary changes to change a system that has led to vacancy rates that are far higher than the EU average.

“More attractive urban spaces that support active transport can revive our high streets through supporting increased footfall which leads to higher levels of local spending. Beyond the immediate commercial concerns, making urban living viable will be key to creating sustainable communities that can succeed under the Climate Action Plan.

“There are billions of euros of works which Local Authorities have identified that need to be completed as part of the National Development Plan. Now is the time to make progress.”

In a submission to Department of Taoiseach, Chambers Ireland identified several issues which require intervention and has made recommendations on policies that should be adopted, some of which are noted below.

  • Create an Urban Living Initiative for urban spaces across the country, focusing on the development of healthy streets as in the London model.
  • What is now the Living City Initiative (LCI) should be expanded to include long term vacant commercial properties built post-1915 in the cities and towns specified in the NPF and reformed to include acquisition costs of LCI qualifying properties.
  • Introduce Section 28 planning guidelines that support prioritisation of town centre over greenfield sites.
  • Incentivise the upgrading of existing buildings as they are an essential part of conserving our carbon budget over the coming decades.
  • Empower local authorities and state bodies such as the Land Development Agency to actively manage, and masterplan, underutilised land with an effective compulsory purchase regime.
  • Reskill affected workers to make the upgrade and retrofitting of vacant properties economical.
  • Enact legislation that will empower and resource Local Authorities to establish one-stop shops to guide property owners through the planning process.
  • Streamline the planning and regulatory regime for change-of-use construction projects and above-the-shop conversions to expand the availability of housing.
  • Renew the Derelict Sites Act 1990 to strengthen its elements to incentivise infill and brownfield construction.
  • Better resource Local Authorities to initiate street improvement and active travel investments.
  • Ensure that our Local Area Plans require the people-friendly pedestrian infrastructure, segregated cycleways, and rest spots that are needed to support active transit while linking our residential areas with our civic and economic centres.

WIT main campus

Waterford Chamber has welcomed the appointment of Mr. Tom Boland, a former Chief Executive of the Higher Education Authority (HEA), as the new independent Programme Executive Director for the TUSEI consortium comprising the Carlow and Waterford Institutes of Technology.

Speaking on the announcement, Gerald Hurley, Waterford Chamber CEO said: “We are delighted to hear of the appointment of Mr Tom Boland. This is something we lobbied for at any opportunity, most notably to the Taoiseach and Minister for Finance when they visited our offices last year. We also acknowledge the Government’s commitment to ensuring the timely establishment of the Technological University and we certainly hope this new appointment will finally get this over the line.

“There has been far too long a delay on what is certain to be a game changer for Waterford. We can see the impact University status has had on other cities and Waterford is in need of such an injection.

“Mr Boland is certain to bring his experience to the table in getting the job done and Waterford Chamber gives every assurance that we will not be found wanting in our support when required.”


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"Waterford is a very attractive location for Foreign Direct Investment as it is a dynamic city which is very much open for business – the city has a proven track record of attracting investment from start-ups and expanding business, who are hugely supported by Waterford Chamber. The city, county and region offers a young, well educated workforce and is easily accessible for international visitors. Waterford’s quality of life for employees is exceptional as it blends elements of rich cultural heritage with a new and vibrant lifestyle – with new additions such as the Greenway further showcasing the county to not only locals, but visitors from all over Ireland and overseas. The Chamber has been a vital link in welcoming our companies into the local Business Community – helping them not only network, but also gain a sense of community and belonging."

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