Castlebar, Portlaoise, Sligo, Mullingar, Kilkenny, Letterkenny. These six towns have most to fear from the public sector pay cuts just announced by Brian Lenihan. The reason? The proportion of workers employed in the public sector – around 40% in each of these towns, according to CSO data from the 2006 Census (see Table 1).

Table 1: Public sector employment by town/city, 2006

Percentage of workers employed in the public sector*
Castlebar 43.87
Portlaoise 43.37
Sligo 41.47
Mullingar 41.35
Kilkenny 40.57
Letterkenny 39.89
Tralee 37.72
Limerick city 37.24
Tullamore 36.21
Athlone 35.68
Ennis 35.21
Navan 35.15
Clonmel 33.15
Wexford 30.96
Cork city 30.50
Naas 30.46
Carlow 29.84
Galway city 29.27
Drogheda 29.26
Swords 29.22
Dublin city 28.26
Dundalk 28.12
Waterford city 27.40
Bray 25.46
Killarney 22.95
Newbridge 17.26
Leixlip 8.95

Already, the impact of the earlier pension levy is being felt by retailers and service providers. Over 50 retail units are currently vacant in Sligo city; with a similar number vacant or closed in Mullingar. Letterkenny and Sligo are additionally affected by cross-border shopping. Retail associations in Castlebar, Portlaoise and Kilkenny are beginning to highlight the difficulties they face, with pleas for local support. Yet, the dependence of these and other towns – Tralee, Limerick, and indeed Tullamore – on public sector employment mean that additional pay cuts will have specific and harsh impacts at very local scales.

Mary Gilmartin


* Note to Table 1:  Draws from industrial categories public administration and defence, education, health and social work. A small proportion of workers in each of these categories are not employed in the public sector (e.g. veterinary activities), but the majority – teachers, gardai, defence forces, public adminstration, health workers – are.

Calculated from CSO (with ESRI) 2009. Census 2006:  A Profile of Working Population of Large Towns.