Belfast Telegraph

County is rising again years after the Quinn collapse

By Paul Gosling

Fermanagh has had a tough time in recent years. Its close relationship with Sean Quinn used to be good for Enniskillen, the county and across the border in Cavan.

But when Quinn hit hard times, so did Fermanagh.

Hundreds of jobs went from the Quinn businesses, including at Quinn Insurance.

But that was not the all of it. Hundreds more local jobs went as other sectors took hits from the onset of the global recession in 2008, plus the impact of globalisation.

In 2007, the unemployment rate in Fermanagh and Omagh was less than 2%. Today it is 3.3% - having peaked at over 5% a couple of years ago.

And while there has been strong progress in attracting jobs to Fermanagh since then, other parts of Northern Ireland are still struggling.

Claimant count unemployment in Belfast is 4.6% and in Derry and Strabane it is 6.9%.

Fermanagh, then, is recovering.

Being represented by one of Northern Ireland's most powerful politicians - Arlene Foster - has no doubt helped.

In the last financial year, Invest NI attracted 429 jobs to Fermanagh and Omagh.

Not the best performance in a single council area, but not the worst either.

This latest news, though, is on a different scale altogether. Almost twice as many jobs were committed to yesterday as in the whole of the 2014-15 year.

The 800 jobs to be created by 2018 by global corporation Teleperformance will take a big bite out of the remaining unemployment queue in and around Enniskillen.

The total number of people in the Fermanagh and Omagh district claiming unemployment related benefits sits at just over 2,400.

Many of those will have previously worked in the construction, agriculture or textile industries and may have difficulty adjusting to call centre work.

Teleperformance may even have difficulty in filling its vacancies, though a grant for retraining from the Department for Employment and Learning will help.

Teleperformance already employs about 2,000 people in call centres in other parts of Northern Ireland - in Bangor and Newry - so it presumably likes the Northern Ireland culture, work ethic and local dialects.

The benefits for Enniskillen go far beyond the jobs themselves.

There will be a multiplier effect from the increased income which will flow into the retail sector - and also to the property and construction sectors.

This is certainly a good news day for Fermanagh.

Paul Gosling is a financial journalist and commentator

Belfast Telegraph