Tomás Ó Síocháin has officially stepped down today as Chief Executive of the Western Development Commission. He will immediately take up his new role of CEO of Údarás na Gaeltachta.
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD commented, “It has been a pleasure to work with Tomás. Under his stewardship, the WDC has been a steadfast partner in optimising the potential contained in Our Rural Future. Tomás and his colleagues at the WDC have played a key role in delivering the Connected Hubs project, which continues to make remote working a real possibility for people across Ireland. I would like to wish Tomás the very best in his new role at Údarás na Gaeltachta.”
The Chairman of the WDC board, Gerry Finn again thanked Tomás and commented;
In his four years as CEO, Tomás has made a significant contribution to both the WDC and the region. Tomas now leaves a lasting legacy and I’d like to thank him for his commitment, dedication, professionalism and his vision.
Tomás led the WDC team to raise the profile of the region, at a time when the pandemic opened up opportunities to attract both the diaspora and newcomers. When first launching the agencies More To Life campaign, Tomas had said “The West of Ireland can seize the opportunity to renew itself by attracting thousands of young professionals and families to make new lives in the region”. In that time, we have welcomed many newcomers to the region, initially during COVID and many of who have now remained as remote workers.
Working closely with Deirdre Frost from the WDC policy team and in partnership with University Galway, Tomas led on The National Remote Work Survey in 2020, 2021 and 2022. This work has informed national policy and identified emerging trends. In that time, Tomas has been an advocate for the opportunities remote working can offer regional and rural Ireland. Speaking at the 2022 launch of the survey Tomas commented “The findings of the latest national survey highlight a further change in the way we view remote working and indicate that Irish workers expect to continue working remotely either all of the time or to find a balance in line with their lifestyle.
Tomás played a key role alongside Investment Fund Manager Gillian Buckley and the team to identify and develop a pipeline of projects for the Western Investment Fund. Examples of investments during this time include Atlantic Therapeutics, Tympany Medical, CitySwift, 3D Issue, Venari Medical, CREW, Future Mobility Campus and Portershed to name a few.
In his role as CEO Tomas helped to position the West as a testbed for innovation, a region where we can trial projects and if successful, they can scale to become national. ConnectedHubs.ie, a project that started in the West as a project of the Atlantic Economic Corridor was launched in May 2021 with 66 hubs on board. At the launch Tomas said “Establishing the connectedhubs.ie network and platform is the first step, but the most exiting aspect of this project is the scope for innovation that follows.” The project now has over 300 hubs nationally on board and has supported both remote workers and place building in rural and regional areas through employment and community development, with ongoing and significant support from Minister Humphreys and the Department of Rural and Community Development.
In the long term, the region will benefit from the Network of Living Labs bringing the key actors together to broaden the impact of both equity investment and community lending and ensuring that initiatives like the National Hubs Network, led from the Atlantic seaboard can be a model for regional development nationally and internationally. The WDC will announce three new appointments in the coming weeks who will steer this initiative under our Region of Innovation.
Playing on his strengths from his time working in television, Tomás also played a key role in many events the WDC hosted including There’s No Place Like Home, our TV show Moving West on TG4, site visits from Government officials and he also hosted the WDC podcast called Pulse of the West.
Finally the WDC staff would like to wish Tomás well wishes in his new role as Príomhfheidhmeannach of Údarás na Gaeltachta and we look forward to further collaboration on regional projects.
Allan Mulrooney, who has been Head of Communications at the WDC has been appointed as the organisation’s Interim Chief Executive. A competitive process to appoint a permanent CEO is expected to get underway in early 2023.