Údarás na Gaeltachta has reported the highest number of jobs created in Gaeltacht areas in one year since 2008.

Despite the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, Údarás says that Gaeltacht companies have shown good levels of stability and witnessed a degree of recovery in terms of employment.

It said this was driven by company innovation and the considerable growth of the medical devices and medical products sector.

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In its end of year statement, Údarás na Gaeltachta says that 825 jobs were created in Gaeltacht companies in 2021.

When job reductions are taken into account, there was a net increase of 6% or 446 in overall employment - the largest annual net increase since 1996. The majority of those jobs were created in Galway and Donegal.

At the end of the year, there were over 7,809 full-time and 485 part-time jobs in companies supported by Údarás.

Employment levels in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies in the Galway, Cork and Waterford Gaeltacht areas are at their highest levels in the history of the organisation.

There was a 9.5% increase in employment in the Mayo Gaeltacht, with the Meath Gaeltacht the only area that experienced a decrease.

The most significant increases in employment during the year were in the medical devices, niche manufacturing and audio-visual sectors, while companies in the food and drinks, traditional manufacturing and services sectors saw the majority of the job reductions.

Among the success stories of last year was that of Randox Teo, in An Clochán Liath (Dungloe) in Donegal.

It was heavily involved in Covid-related research and development, and manufacture of testing products.

The company increased employment and expanded its premises during the year and continues to recruit.

The network of Gteic digital hubs across the Gaeltacht was a crucial investment in the region's business infrastructure according to Údarás, which says that despite Covid-19 restrictions, over 320 people - more than 180 of whom are not included in the employment figures - were working in the digital hubs that had been developed at the end of 2021.

Looking to the future, the Gteic network is expected to be crucial in realising the opportunities available to businesses and remote workers, in particular to the Gaeltacht diaspora who are seeking to move home after the pandemic.

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Early 2022 will see Údarás na Gaeltachta place a specific focus on the tourism sector with the objective of assisting its continued recovery through the Tourism Development Scheme, which has been operating on a pilot basis in recent years.

An Ghaeltacht Ghlas (The Green Gaeltacht), a strategic project promoting photovoltaic projects will continue with a particular emphasis being placed on supporting client companies to take steps in terms of renewable energy and climate change activities.

A Microenterprise Strategy will also be published this year to support small businesses and to encourage the establishment of innovative and indigenous companies.

Chief Executive of Údarás na Gaeltachta Mícheál Ó hÉanaigh said: "Gaeltacht communities and companies deserve huge recognition for their perseverance during this pandemic. The resilience shown has resulted in an increase in Gaeltacht employment over the past year."

He added: "The challenges placed on Gaeltacht businesses and communities by this pandemic and Brexit are yet to be overcome but it is a source of considerable encouragement to see green shoots of recovery by companies including the surge in the medical device sector in the Gaeltacht.

"Some of these indigenous companies are a real source of inspiration to others, those businesses that started out with just one or two employees and are now among the largest employers in the Gaeltacht."

Chairperson of Údarás na Gaeltachta Anna Ní Ghallachair has young people are becoming increasingly attracted to Gaeltacht areas.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Ms Ní Ghallachair said the term "remote" needs to be redefined, adding that they have a network of almost 30 digital hubs throughout the Gaeltacht.

She said that with the cost of living and rents in cities like Dublin and further afield, they find young people "more and more" are being attracted to Gaeltacht areas.