Belfast Telegraph

Irish exports hit record levels in challenging year

Companies over the border are proving to be resilient in the face of the recession with the Republic's economic development agency announcing record levels of exports for the year, despite the challenges 2011 brought.

Exports have now returned to pre-recession levels.

Enterprise Ireland said employment has also stabilised in Irish exporting companies, which are using a renewed confidence to aggressively target opportunities in international markets.

The group's end-of-year statement for 2011 revealed new export sales are expected to reach in excess of €1bn (£83m) within weeks.

While the Republic's export sector is buoyant, exports from Northern Ireland to the Republic have fallen with sales to our closest neighbour down £229m to £1.2bn in the financial year 2010 to 2011 - a fall of 19%.

Frank Ryan, Enterprise Ireland chief executive, said companies that faced severe global economic conditions had emerged leaner, stronger and with a greater appetite for international growth.

"They have proved to be resilient and relentless in their pursuit of new market opportunities and they are to be commended on their success," he said.

"Enterprise Ireland is determined to continue to support their job creation initiatives and identify and help secure overseas business in established and high-growth markets."

Figures show employment in Enterprise Ireland clients stood at 162,692 this year, including 141,228 full-time posts and 21,464 part-time.

Enterprise Ireland said new initiatives included start funds for very early stage entrepreneurs, a €10m (£8.3m) international fund for attracting entrepreneurs from overseas, and the opening the group's first office in South Africa.

It revealed 2011 also saw a record number of Irish companies being acquired by overseas multinationals, including Research in Motion (Blackberry) and IBM.

However, Mr Ryan warned 2012 will be a year of continuing challenges.

Enterprise Minister Richard Bruton said creating an indigenous engine of economic growth is central to his plan for revitalising the economy. "In these very difficult times, to have kept employment steady, with increases in certain categories, is a creditable performance," he added.