Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions

Ticket Touting

Martin Heydon

Question:

57. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of proposed legislation to tackle ticket touting; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50442/18]

Noel Rock

Question:

59. Deputy Noel Rock asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the Prohibition of Above-cost Ticket Touting Bill 2017; the progress on the drafting of amendments to the Bill; if it will be treated as a priority for enactment in the next Dáil term; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50522/18]

I seek an update on my behalf and that of Deputy Heydon with regard to the status of the legislation on ticket touting. This is an important issue for many people. The Bill to prohibit the above cost resale of tickets has been before the House for 24 months and I would appreciate an update on its status.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 59 together.

At its meeting on 24 July 2018, the Government decided on a package of legislative measures dealing with the resale of tickets for entertainment and sporting events. In order to implement the measures, the Government agreed that it would support and amend the Prohibition of Above-cost Ticket Touting Bill introduced in January 2017 by Deputies Rock and Donnelly and would take Second and Subsequent Stages of the Bill in Government time.

The proposed legislation would ban the resale of tickets above face value in designated venues with a capacity of 1,000 or more. The use of bot software to purchase tickets in excess of the number permitted by event organisers would also be prohibited. In addition, the legislation will give effect to the commitment given to UEFA to ban the unauthorised transfer and use of tickets for matches and official events taking place in Ireland during the Euro 2020 championship.

Second Stage of the Bill was scheduled for 21 November, but it did not prove possible to have the debate on that date. I very much hope that the Second Reading of the Bill will proceed as soon as possible and look forward to hearing the contributions of Deputies to that debate.

My officials have been working on a range of amendments and additions to the Bill and expect to formally submit these to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel later this month. When finalised, the Government amendments will be tabled on Committee or Report Stage of the Bill.

I acknowledge the work of Deputies Rock and Donnelly in highlighting this issue. The Bill has cross-party support and it is important that it be progressed.

I thank the Minister for her work and dedication with regard to this legislation. Since taking office, she has treated this issue and a great many other consumer affairs issues with urgency, which I appreciate. It is the kind of practical bread and butter politics that people appreciate.

With regard to Euro 2020, the Minister will appreciate that we are increasingly under time pressure as a commitment was made to have the legislation in place before tickets for that event go on sale. The draw for the matches, which will begin in a few weeks, took place in Dublin a few days ago. We need to act quickly on the Bill as the tickets will soon go on sale. The Government has worked hard on this issue. I look forward to the amendments from the Department. We hope to see action on the Bill as soon as possible. I am conscious that the Minister and the Department tried to progress the Bill, with Second Stage having been scheduled for 21 November. I hope the Minister can commit to having a debate as soon as possible when we return in the new year.

I acknowledge that the Deputy wants the Bill to be enacted as soon as possible. There have been recent problems involving tickets for the Ireland versus New Zealand rugby match and the Spice Girls concert next year being sold online for multiples of face value. That is not right and it is not fair on genuine fans. I assure the Deputy that I will get the Bill enacted as quickly as possible. My officials are working with drafters on the necessary amendments and additions to the Bill and we expect to submit the amendments formally to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel later this month. Second Stage of the Bill was scheduled to be taken on 21 November but, unfortunately, was replaced by a debate on the Brexit withdrawal agreement. There is limited time available between now and Christmas but I want to have Second Stage as soon as possible in order to get the Bill moving. It is my intention to bring forward the relevant amendments on Committee or Report Stage. I am very hopeful that we will be able to progress the Bill substantially and enact it in the next session, although the allocation and scheduling of Dáil time is not always within my control. I look forward to the co-operation of all Members on the Bill.

There is a great deal of interest in this matter. I will allow Deputies O'Dea and Quinlivan to ask short supplementary questions of the Minister.

All Members support the principle of the Bill, which has cross-party support. That said, I ask the Minister to confirm whether she recently received a legal opinion to the effect that there are very serious constitutional difficulties with the Bill as proposed. What weight does she intend to give that advice?

More time has elapsed without anything being done on ticket touting. The Sale of Tickets (Sporting and Cultural Events) Bill 2017 which I introduced to tackle ticket touting is again stuck in limbo, this time awaiting a money message. I look forward to the Minister's amendments. After an examination of them, Sinn Féin will decide on whether it will support the Bill. It is to be hoped that we will be able to support it because all Members genuinely want to deal with this issue. Ticket touting costs consumers dearly, with those seeking Electric Picnic tickets the latest to be affected. The Minister is ignoring the issue and blocking solutions brought forward by Sinn Féin by putting up barriers to the Bill we introduced. I ask her to explain to consumers, many of them young people on tight budgets, why they will continue to be ripped off for concert and match tickets for the foreseeable future. Has UEFA sought an update on the promise given by the Government to legislate on this matter in advance of the Euro 2020 games?

On the issue raised by Deputy O'Dea, I understand a letter from Mr. Edward Parkinson of Viagogo containing a detailed legal opinion from a senior counsel was sent to me as Minister on 21 November. The legal opinion was sent to the legal advisers seconded to my Department from the Office of the Attorney General for their opinion on 28 November. This is normal practice when such legal opinions are submitted. The examination of the legal opinion is in progress and I expect I will be briefed by my officials once that process is complete.

On the matters raised by Deputy Quinlivan, all Members want the same result but we are trying to do it in a way that maximises the impact of the legislation. The Bill introduced by Deputy Quinlivan provides for a prohibition on the sale of tickets at a price of greater than 10% above face value for events for which more than 300 tickets have been offered for sale. The Government proposes to amend the Bill introduced by Deputies Rock and Donnelly to provide that the ban on above-face-value resale would apply to designated venues with a capacity of 1,000 or more. I consider that applying the legislation to known designated venues rather than on an event-by-event basis would facilitate more effective enforcement. It is often not known until the day of an event whether the attendance will exceed 300. I do not wish to cause damage to local clubs which are fundraising or holding charity events. We are trying to find a way for the legislation to be effective.

Small and Medium Enterprises Supports

Peter Burke

Question:

58. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps she has taken in budget 2019 to support the small and medium enterprise, SME, sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50526/18]

I ask the Minister what steps were taken in budget 2019 to support the SME sector, and if she will make a statement on the matter.

My Department and its agencies continue to be centrally involved in supporting businesses through these challenging times. Brexit is undoubtedly the most significant challenge to have faced Irish enterprise in more than 50 years. With less than four months to go, I am determined to deliver on the commitments in budget 2019 which have Brexit at their core, building on the many measures we have already introduced and responding to the evolving needs of business. We started this process with the introduction of a suite of measures in budget 2017 and further measures in budget 2018.

In allocating my Department’s budget for 2019, I am once again stepping up our response to Brexit. My decisions are based on an extensive body of research and direct feedback from the sector.

To start, I am allocating an extra €14 million to the enterprise agencies and regulatory bodies under my Department, which work with firms at the coalface to develop their supports for business.

As part of the increase to my Department for 2019, I am allocating an additional €3 million to Enterprise Ireland and €2 million to IDA Ireland to enhance our global footprint. This will help companies to diversify into new markets as the United Kingdom leaves the European Union. I am also providing additional funding of €3 million to regulatory bodies, including the National Standards Authority of Ireland, the Health and Safety Authority and the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, and my Department to enhance their existing functions in the context of Brexit.

I am providing an extra €1 million in capital funding for InterTradeIreland, representing an increase of 17.5%. InterTradeIreland has a vital role to play as part of Ireland's Brexit response. This additional funding will enable the body to meet demand in existing programmes, develop initiatives and support SMEs affected by Brexit.

The local enterprise offices are present in every single county and provide crucial supports for SMEs and start-ups throughout the country. This year, I am allocating an additional €5 million, which is an increase of 22% on 2018. This extra funding will help deliver supports to more SMEs, particularly in the current changing landscape.

I also announced, as part of budget 2019, a longer-term loan facility, the future growth scheme, of up to €300 million to support capital investment by business. This involves collaboration with the Department of Agriculture, Food and Marine, the Department of Finance, the European Investment Bank group and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland.

I welcome the additional measures announced by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, as part of budget 2019 that will enhance a number of the taxation supports targeted specifically at our businesses.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The redesign of the employment investment incentive scheme, EIIS, and enhancements to the key employee engagement programme, KEEP, share option scheme show the level of commitment from this Government to indigenous enterprise.

To further my commitment to the future growth of our SME sector, my Department, in conjunction with the OECD earlier this year, commenced a review of SME and entrepreneurship policies and issues in Ireland. This will be a seminal 18 month project that will see a comprehensive review of the SME business ecosystem and policies, using OECD expertise in a structured and defined process. The resulting recommendations and issues identified by the report will then form the basis of a long-term Department-led SME strategy for Ireland. The delivery of the review document and the strategy roadmap will be completed by the OECD within 18 months of commencement. To this end, I will continue to ensure that we are supporting the development needs of SMEs by providing them with the tools and incentives to grow their businesses in Ireland.

I thank the Minister for her reply. It is an undisputed fact that SMEs are the backbone of our economy. The sector is the main contributor to our employment. Over 99% of businesses are in the sector. Almost 70% of people are employed by SMEs. SMEs are often overlooked, with greater focus being placed on foreign direct investment and large multinationals receiving a lot of media attention ahead of the smaller companies that create the economies in our cities, suburbs, towns and villages.

In County Clare, there is a strong multinational footprint. We are sixth in the country. We have a thriving SME sector which continues to grow, with businesses going from strength to strength. In addition, there are new start-ups. Furthermore, our restaurants, hotels and retailers continue to employ hundreds and create economic activity by providing quality services.

Emphasis is often placed on new start-ups in establishing new businesses, and rightly so, but we also need to work on supporting existing businesses and helping them to remain profitable and to diversify when they experience difficulties. What plans does the Minister have to continue to support the SME sector in rural and regional Ireland?

The SME sector is the backbone of local economies throughout the country. I want to ensure SMEs are supported, and that is why I allocated an extra €5 million for our local enterprise offices in the budget. That represents an increase of 22%. We have 31 local enterprise offices, and they do great work throughout the country. They can provide grants to businesses with ten or fewer employees, but they can also provide advice and soft support to other SMEs. Sometimes that is a big help to businesses in increasing productivity, which in turn increases their competitiveness. I refer to where they receive the soft supports to improve their management skills.

Future Jobs is a new strategy being developed by my Department. I chaired a session specifically on productivity at the launch in the Aviva Stadium. We need to consider how to improve productivity among SMEs so they will be ready and able to adapt in a changing world. That will be a key focus of the Future Jobs initiative, which will be launched in early 2019.

I compliment the local enterprise office in County Clare, which is under the stewardship of Mr. Padraic McElwee and his team. They work very closely with the SME sector, including new start-ups. They have very good figures and results. It is encouraging to hear that an additional €5 million has been provided for the local enterprise offices throughout the State, representing an increase of 22%.

Does the Minister envisage further investment in the local enterprise offices, thereby expanding their remit and improving their operations even more? I would like to hear the Minister's thoughts on that.

Like the Deputy, I recognise the great work the local enterprise offices do. I am committed to supporting them. The increase in budget 2019 of €5 million was considerable and it was very much welcomed.

With regard to the Deputy's area, Enterprise Ireland-supported job announcements in 2017 and 2018 in the mid-west included 80 jobs in CAE Parc Aviation in Shannon and Dublin in May 2017, 150 jobs in H&MV Engineering in Limerick in January 2018, and 18 jobs in Croom Precision in Limerick in July 2018. Enterprise Ireland client companies saw an increase in employment in the mid-west of 7% in 2017 by comparison with the national average of 5%. Only last Monday, I announced the regional enterprise development fund. In that, there was €1.7 million for a project in County Clare concerning the Shannon Estuary with a view to providing specialist infrastructure for maritime related training and field research support. This helps the indigenous companies to consider more innovation and research. We need to support our indigenous companies with research and development.

Question No. 59 answered with Question No. 57.

Job Creation

Dara Calleary

Question:

60. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status, from the latest labour force survey, of jobs added in County Mayo in the 12 months to quarter 3 of 2018; and the work under way via IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and Údarás na Gaeltachta to create additional employment here. [50487/18]

I would like to know the Minister's investment plans for County Mayo. The county's joblessness figures have not improved at the same rate as in the rest of the country. County Mayo is home to some of the world's leading companies, yet in recent years it has not had a new IDA Ireland investment. There was no investment in yesterday's announcement of €29 million for regional enterprise development funds, in spite of applications from the county. We need a very frank discussion about the Department's agencies' plans for County Mayo.

I note the release of the results of the labour force survey for quarter 3 of 2018, as issued by the Central Statistics Office on 20 November 2018. Overall, the quarter 3 results are very positive. Figures show that employment continues to grow strongly, with 66,700 jobs created throughout the State in the year from quarter 3 of 2017 to quarter 3 of 2018. This brings total number of people in employment to 2.273 million.

In the west in the year to quarter 3 of 2018, an extra 5,100 people were in employment. In the same period, there were 1,100 fewer people unemployed in the region. Since the launch of the regional action plan for jobs in 2015, there was an increase of 28,400 people in employment throughout the west from quarter 1 of 2015 to quarter 3 of 2018. In the same period, the unemployment rate in the west fell from 12.6% to 6.6%.

There are 16 IDA Ireland client companies operating in County Mayo, employing a total of 4,462 people. I am pleased to say that employment in IDA Ireland-supported companies in Mayo has increased year on year since 2012, with an almost 26% increase in foreign direct investment employment from 2012 to 2017.

The IDA continues to highlight the benefits of expanding or locating in County Mayo to multinational companies. As part of its regional property programme, the IDA has constructed an advance building in Castlebar which is being actively marketed to IDA Ireland clients through its network of offices in Ireland and overseas.

Enterprise Ireland is also working to support job creation in County Mayo in assisting entrepreneurs who are setting up start-up companies in manufacturing and internationally traded services. Enterprise Ireland is also focusing on the creation of new jobs through continuing to work with established companies in its client portfolio in the county. There were 115 Enterprise Ireland client companies in County Mayo, employing 4,118 people in 2017. In the period 2015 to 2017, Enterprise Ireland paid approximately €8 million to support the enterprise development of its client companies in County Mayo.

In addition, with the support of Údarás na Gaeltachta, a total of 60 new jobs were created in the Mayo Gaeltacht in 2017.

This amounted to a net increase of eight jobs on the previous year and means there were 648 full-time jobs in Údarás na Gaeltachta client companies in the Mayo Gaeltacht at the end of the year.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Work is ongoing across Government Departments and agencies to deliver on the Government's commitment to secure quality and sustainable employment in the regions and build on the upward trend in employment figures that we saw in the recent labour force survey for quarter 3 of 2018.

The reality is that County Mayo is falling behind. We have many excellent companies located in the county and we are proud to host them. Their success has been on the basis of the fantastic labour force we have. However, despite our track record and level of success, only 23 of a total of 3,289 IDA Ireland client visits undertaken between 2011 and 2017 were to County Mayo and the county has not attracted a new IDA Ireland supported company in many years. The Minister mentioned the property solution in Castlebar. We also have one in Ballina but it is not being marketed extensively or built on. The alliance of food and healthcare companies is not being marketed sufficiently. I referred to yesterday's announcement of €29 million for a regional enterprise development fund. Not one investment was based in Mayo, although a very small part of the Sligo investment was in Mayo. We have corresponded with the Minister about the disruptive technologies innovation fund, in respect of which a very successful Mayo company submitted an application concerning a new technology which was turned down. Údarás na Gaeltachta is crying out for capital investment and we have made this a feature of our budgets. Many good things are happening on the back of people in County Mayo working hard, but a great many Mayo people want an opportunity to return home. Inaction on the part of the Minister's Department means they are not getting that opportunity. We need new investment in IDA Ireland companies and our fantastic team at the Mayo local enterprise office. If they had more resources, they could do an awful lot more.

A great deal of work is being done. As I said, there are 16 IDA Ireland supported companies employing 4,462 people in County Mayo. That is an impressive figure.

There has been nothing new in recent years.

Of the new employment created by IDA Ireland supported companies, 70% is from existing companies. These companies continue to invest and we continue to support them to do so. Only last week, more than €3.2 million was allocated to the Ballina innovation quarter under the urban regeneration fund. This provided for the development of the old military barracks in Ballina into a new innovation quarter. It is projected that the new quarter will consist of a digital hub and an innovation centre and could lead to the creation of 200 jobs within three years. The digital hub will provide 20 spaces for technology, digital media and Internet companies to scale and grow alongside local enterprises. It will also enhance the town's attractiveness for investment and provide local start-up businesses with a place to develop and grow.

Regarding the rural development fund, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, announced almost €800,000 to be provided for the development of eight enterprise and digital hubs across County Mayo. Údarás na Gaeltachta is the lead partner on this project. These hubs will provide business clusters focusing on the creative industries, the Irish language, sport and the marine. These are very positive developments for Mayo.

While that is all positive, there is a hunger on the ground for an awful lot more. The Minister referred to the Minister for Rural and Community Development. He is the Minister who said Ireland is unbalanced. It will continue to be unbalanced for as long as we do not have ambition for counties such as Mayo. The Minister referred to the innovation hub. It is a superb project led by Mayo County Council and Moy Valley Resources, which has been turned down for many projects by Enterprise Ireland. This is the kind of ambition we have in the county. We have a superb LEO. With more resources and support from the Department, we could do an awful lot more in small companies and big companies.

There is no sense in going on about the 16 IDA Ireland companies. We are incredibly proud of them and the Mayo workforce, yet around us, in counties Sligo, Galway, Longford, Roscommon, new IDA Ireland companies are coming in and giving people the opportunity to come home. We see the pressure Dublin is under. There are many people who will come home for Christmas and will have to leave again afterwards. They want to work and create businesses in Mayo and be given the opportunity to do so. What we do not have is support from Departments, including the Minister's Department, to match the ambition and determination of the people of County Mayo.

I reassure the Deputy that a wide range of supports is available for indigenous companies. Only yesterday, I announced the regional enterprise development fund. The Deputy stated there was nothing specific in the fund for County Mayo, but there was much in it for the region. I see regions, not county boundaries. A project that was funded in Sligo will have benefits for Mayo and the neighbouring counties. On Monday I was in Navan launching this fund, from which the Boyne Valley Food Innovation District now stands to benefit. Its application was turned down the last time. The representatives of the Boyne Valley Food Innovation District present at the launch said they were very disappointed by this initial decision. They said they applied for funding under the regional enterprise development fund, put in the application and were called to make a bid. They said it felt like they were at a football game and were five-nil down and were hoping the ground would open up and swallow them. They had to go out the door without any money. However, they made a second application. I suggest that the companies that failed to get any funding under the regional enterprise development fund go back to Enterprise Ireland, talk to them and look at how they can improve the application. This is what the Boyne Valley Food Innovation District did. It improved its application and now has funding under this round. This is a rolling fund. I suggest the Deputy gather together the companies that were unsuccessful in their applications to the regional enterprise development fund, which was independently assessed, and tell them to go back to Enterprise Ireland, get feedback and look to see where they can improve on their applications. I want to see every region and county benefitting.

Questions Nos. 61 and 62 replied to with Written Answers

IDA Ireland Data

Charlie McConalogue

Question:

63. Deputy Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of first-time investments by new IDA Ireland client companies in County Donegal for each of the past ten years; the percentage of the national total of new client investments in each of these years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50265/18]

This question asks the Minister the number of first-time investments by new IDA Ireland client companies in County Donegal for each of the past ten years; the percentage of the national total of new client investments in each of these years that went to Donegal; and if she will update the House on the matter.

In the past ten years, there have been three new name investments in Donegal out of a total of 18 investments in the county across that period. It is important to emphasise in this context, however, that foreign direct investment performance, whether in Donegal or any other county, is not necessarily reflected in new name investments. This is because almost 70% of all new FDI in Ireland comes from existing IDA client companies already situated in the country.

As the evidence demonstrates, there has been a steady and positive increase in employment numbers in IDA Ireland client companies in Donegal in recent years. The county, for example, has experienced a 52% increase in FDI-driven employment since 2012, with job numbers in the agency's client firms there increasing from 2,223 in 2012 to 3,389 at the end of last year. This compares very favourably with the national average increase of 31% in FDI employment across that same period. In 2017 alone, the number of IDA Ireland supported jobs in Donegal increased by 11%, with the county now home to 12 IDA companies, including SITA, Optibelt and Pramerica.

The indications are that FDI in Donegal will continue to experience further growth this year. For example, Abbott Laboratories has announced plans to expand its workforce in the county with the creation of 500 new jobs. Site visits by IDA Ireland client companies have also increased, with six visits as of the third quarter of 2018, compared with a total of two site visits in 2017.

While progress has been made in helping to generate new economic opportunities in Donegal, the Government remains determined to achieve more. For this reason, work is continuing to unlock further the economic potential in the county. IDA Ireland remains pivotal to this and the agency is engaging with its clients and other enterprise agencies to create jobs and source new investments there.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The table below outlines total new name investment by IDA Ireland clients nationally from 2008 to 2017, inclusive.

Year

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Number of New Name Investments

36

39

47

61

65

78

88

94

99

111

I thank the Minister for her response. Unfortunately, it indicates what the reality has been in recent years regarding new investments coming to Donegal. As she rightly points out, the existing client companies in Donegal have done tremendously well, thrived in the county and continued to expand, thankfully. The figures she outlined, going from 2,200 to 3,300 in a few short years, demonstrate what a good place Donegal can be to do business, but of course all these existing client companies had to first locate in the county. They started off in the county and then grew.

There was a real priority in the county and there used to be an office based in Letterkenny specifically to attract new investment. As a result, the sector and foreign direct investment in Letterkenny and across the county thrived. That has, however, not been followed through by the existing Government in recent years.

The Minister has confirmed today that there have only been three new investments in the county in the past ten years. That is not good enough. It shows the Government must reappraise how it is doing this and it must try to ensure we have a pipeline of new companies coming in to bolster and grow employment in the county. Will the Minister undertake that she will revisit this and try to ensure we are getting our fair share of new investment in future?

I understand the wish to see continued investment from new overseas firms. It is always encouraging when a multinational company decides to locate in Ireland. That is particularly the case when it is in a region for the first time. We should not, however, allow our enthusiasm for new name investors, which I assure the Deputy the IDA is working daily to attract to Ireland, to cloud the fact that the most important investors are firms already present in Ireland. As I said, that is because 70% of all new FDI in this country comes from existing IDA client companies.

Our priority is always to sustain and support investors that already have a presence here with a view to encouraging their growth and expansion. That remains the most effective means through which we can create new employment opportunities in places such as Donegal. There are already excellent companies there such as Pramerica, Abbott Ireland and others. It is important not to dismiss the great work being done by them in creating employment in Donegal. We also have, of course, indigenous companies there which are also supported by Enterprise Ireland. They also play an important role in creating employment throughout the country.

It is important that the Government does not hide behind the success of existing companies in Donegal to justify us not getting our fair share of new investments. Companies such as Pramerica, United Health Care and SITA, among many others, have really thrived and are now a tremendous part of the local economy. We need, however, to see the Government continuing to push that on in the future. The companies we would hope to grow in future would be new ones which would come to the county, alongside companies already there. That is where the Minister and her Government have been falling down and have not been prioritising the county. As the Minister stated in her own figures, we have only had three first time investments in the past ten years. The Government needs to pull up its socks and ensure Donegal becomes a priority again.

All counties in the country are a priority. I have a particular priority for regional investment and that is why I announced successful applicants to the regional enterprise investment fund on Monday. It is a €60 million fund and almost €29 million was allocated on Monday. That fund is to help the regions to develop new initiatives. It is about clustering, investing in property and investing in research and development. I will shortly be announcing - I think next week - the disruptive technologies innovation fund. That is another fund we have rolled out to help companies look at the jobs of the future. Two weeks ago, I also launched the future jobs initiative and again that is looking at how we can support enterprise to improve productivity, increase competitiveness, get more labour participation and transition to a low-carbon economy. I also refer to encouraging companies to invest in research and development. I reassure the Deputy that Donegal will not be left out, nor will any other county.

Regional Enterprise Development Fund

Martin Heydon

Question:

64. Deputy Martin Heydon asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when successful projects under the regional enterprise development fund will be announced; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50441/18]

Deputy McLoughlin has been given permission to take this question on behalf of Deputy Heydon.

This question was submitted in advance of the Minister's announcement on Monday of the €30 million allocated to the regional enterprise development fund. I ask her to elaborate on that announcement.

On Monday morning in Navan I was delighted to announce just over €29 million in funding by my Department through Enterprise Ireland under the second call of the regional enterprise development fund, REDF. This funding has been awarded to 21 regional projects throughout the country, bringing the total amount of funding awarded under the two calls of this scheme to €60 million across 42 projects in all regions. The REDF was designed to support the ambition in the Programme for a Partnership Government to create an additional 200,000 new jobs by 2020, of which 135,000 are to be located outside of Dublin. One of the principal criteria within the scheme is that proposed projects would strengthen the potential for job creation in their region, thereby contributing to delivering on the Government’s ambition.

The REDF is aimed at accelerating economic recovery in all regions of the country by delivering on the potential of local and regional enterprise strengths. The fund is supporting significant collaborative and innovative regional initiatives to build on specific industry sectoral strengths and improve enterprise capability, thereby driving job creation. This will be achieved by co-financing the development and implementation of collaborative and innovative projects that can sustain and add to employment at a national, regional and county level. The fund will help to ensure the benefits of our growing economy are felt in all regions. Projects submitted by the 28 June deadline went through a rigorous seven-stage process before being awarded funding.

This was a competitive process and so not all projects were successful. To ensure a balanced regional spread, however, I committed to ensuring that each region would benefit by at least €2 million from the fund once the required standard for projects was met under the evaluation criteria. This threshold has now been met across all regions. As of Monday, all projects have been informed of their result in the competition. Further funding calls will be considered as part of a wider review of the REDF in the new year.

I compliment the Minister, her team and Enterprise Ireland for the work that has gone into the allocation of this €30 million in recent days. I was pleased that my own constituency of Sligo-Leitrim got €1.9 million for the Sligo Enterprise and Technology Centre in Strandhill. That is an area crying out for a development such as this. Great effort has been put into that development, as it has in Drumshambo, where €950,000 was allocated to the Leitrim Food Enterprise Zone project. It is a project that has been highlighted for the past several years and it is a continuation of the hub already in Drumshambo. The area allocated for development in Strandhill is full to capacity. People are very happy with the Minister's announcement of the €1.9 million on Monday, as indeed is the board of the Sligo Enterprise and Technology Centre and that of the project in Drumshambo.

I thank Deputy McLoughlin for his kind remarks. On Monday, under the second call of the regional enterprise development fund, I announced more than €25 million in funding. Some 21 projects from all over the country received funding. This is in addition to the €30 million in funding in the first call of the regional enterprise development fund that I announced in December 2017. That also funded 21 projects. This is good news for the north west.

Over the first and second calls of the regional enterprise development fund, the region secured total funding of €5.2 million for four projects. In the first call, €1.1 million was allocated to create an innovative ecosystem in Inishowen in County Donegal and €1.2 million was allocated for the development of a network of three digital and innovation hubs in counties Leitrim, Cavan and Longford. As Deputy McLoughlin mentioned, there was €1.9 million for a digital and technology hub at Sligo Enterprise and Technology Centre for entrepreneurs in digital gaming and associated technologies. The project in Leitrim is especially good because that is the project of the owner of the company that makes Drumshambo Gunpowder Gin, which has gone on to international success.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Bernard Durkan

Question:

65. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which the various bodies under her aegis continue to establish new product manufacturing enterprises, new markets and so on to the extent required to fill the likely vacuum in the aftermath of Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50523/18]

This question seeks to ascertain the extent to which the various statutory bodies under the Minister's aegis continues to promote manufacturing and services enterprises in various locations throughout the country which utilise, to the best extent possible, modern technology and innovation.

Enterprise Ireland and the local enterprise offices are the main agencies for supporting new start-up businesses across every region. Up to October 2018, 38 companies were supported through the Enterprise Ireland competitive start fund. This year Enterprise Ireland ran nine competitive start fund calls targeting a range of areas of focus, such as international entrepreneurs, graduates, fintech, agritech and female entrepreneurs.

New Frontiers is Enterprise Ireland’s national entrepreneur development programme for innovative and early-stage start-ups. The programme is based in 14 institutes of technology and two participating universities. At the end of October this year, there were 157 entrepreneurs on the programme.

As of July 2018, 56 high potential start-ups have been supported by Enterprise Ireland. The local enterprise offices are providing a range of training programmes to support new businesses, including start your own business and management development courses. Up to 30 November, there were in excess of 27,000 people on local enterprise office training programmes and 3,452 people on start your own business courses.

All of these supports ensure we have a continuous pipeline of start-up businesses which will create jobs throughout the country.

In the course of the promotions which have taken place, has it been shown that there are particular areas where, in the aftermath of Brexit, opportunities are likely to arise or are arising? To what extent can we capitalise on those opportunities? To what extent is it intended to fill those voids in the aftermath of Brexit with competitive, effective and efficient new enterprises?

We are doing much work in supporting firms to prepare for Brexit. We have the €300 million working capital facility for companies, which allows them to borrow over three years at competitive rates. This was announced by me and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

I am bringing through legislation for a €300 million long-term loan scheme which will facilitate loans for between eight to ten years. That will be ready by January 2019.

I have increased funding to IDA Ireland, capitalising on companies which want to come to Ireland as a result of Brexit. Ireland remains an attractive place in which to do business. We have a highly educated workforce and access to a population of 500 million people across the EU.

Arising from the work to date in this area, has it become obvious that there are more opportunities on which we can capitalise? Regardless of what way Brexit goes and its eventual outcome, to what degree is it intended to continue with that aggressive promotion which will result in new enterprise creation?

We continue to support businesses to trade and innovate, as well as look at their productivity and competitiveness. I have just launched the new initiative, Future Jobs, which will help companies to look at investing. We need to bring up the competitiveness of our small and medium-sized enterprise sector, SMEs. Sometimes it is masked by a competitive foreign direct investment sector which has high productivity levels. We need to concentrate on our SMEs because they are the backbone of our enterprise base.

We are also encouraging more companies to invest in research and development. That is important and is one of the mitigating measures for Brexit. We are asking companies to diversify their markets, look at their competitiveness and invest in their research and innovation. It has been found that companies which did invest in innovation actually had a greater likelihood of surviving the last crash. Many of them came through because they had invested in new products.

Job Creation

James Browne

Question:

66. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to address the need for additional jobs and greater investment in County Wexford; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50053/18]

What are the Minister’s plans to address the need for additional jobs and greater investment in jobs in the county of Wexford?

Since becoming Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I have made jobs and enterprise in the regions one of my top priorities. I am firmly focused on delivering on the Programme for a Partnership Government target to create 200,000 new jobs by 2020, with 135,000 of these jobs to be located outside of Dublin.

My Department and enterprise agencies are playing a key role in supporting the creation of sustainable and quality jobs in the regions, including in County Wexford. County Wexford forms part of the south-east regional action plan for jobs, which aims to achieve a 10% to 15% growth in employment over the period to 2020, as well as ensuring unemployment reduces to within at least one percentage point of the State average.

Since commencing the regional Action Plan for Jobs in 2015, good progress has been made on job creation in the south east, with 17,300 more people in employment in the region from the first quarter of 2015, baseline year, to the third quarter of 2018. The unemployment rate in the south east at the third quarter of 2018 stands at 8.6%, down from 11.7 % in the first quarter of 2015.

There are 18 IDA Ireland client companies located in County Wexford employing a total of 2,948 people. Foreign direct investment-supported employment in County Wexford has increased by 10% from 2016 to 2017. IDA Ireland continues to work with its clients to identify opportunities for new investment or expansion in Wexford and the broader south east. In doing so, IDA Ireland will draw the attention of investors to the region's particular strengths, including its ports and existing clusters of financial services, technology and high-value manufacturing firms.

Enterprise Ireland continues to support job creation in County Wexford, with client companies employing more than 4,670 people in the county. Payments by Enterprise Ireland to client companies in the county in 2017 totalled €2.16 million. Significant investment announced in County Wexford includes the re-opening of Glanbia Ireland’s Wexford cheese plant following a major capital investment programme. The €35 million investment has been supported by the Government through Enterprise Ireland since 2014 and has doubled peak capacity at the plant.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

My colleague, the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, has also announced national funding of €4.86 million under the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund Operational Programme to 26 seafood enterprises and three research institutions. Two Wexford seafood businesses received grant aid, namely, Sofrimar in Kilmore Quay and Jade Ireland Seafood.

The local enterprise office, LEO, in Wexford is the first-stop-shop for providing advice and guidance, financial assistance and soft supports in the form of training and mentoring to anyone wishing to start or grow a business in the area. In that regard in 2017, the LEO in Wexford supported 213 clients with 1,348 total jobs, which was a gross increase of 238 jobs on 2016. I also announced an extra €5 million in budget 2019 to enable the LEOs, including LEO Wexford, to support a broad range of indigenous micro-enterprises.

These initiatives, along with the many supports available to businesses from my Department through Enterprise Ireland, IDA and the LEOs, are designed to maximise the creation of quality and sustainable employment in all regional, rural and urban areas, including County Wexford and the wider region. This is a key priority for the Government.

The Minister's answer is deluded. The last Central Statistics Office third quarter figures showed unemployment in the south east surged to 8.6%. The economy is supposed to be booming and we keep hearing announcements about jobs. Unemployment in the south east is going up, however. Wexford has 3.3% of the national population but it only has 1.3% of IDA Ireland jobs. The head of IDA Ireland has said he has no intention of purchasing any land in Wexford for IDA jobs despite the fact that Wexford has the sixth lowest ratio of IDA land.

We have low-quality jobs as well as a low percentage of our workforce in employment. The jobs that are there are low paid, as we know from the Revenue returns for the south east. IDA Ireland does not even know Wexford exists.

What will the Minister do about unemployment in the south east and the lack of jobs in Wexford? The unemployment rate is going up significantly at a time when the economy is booming. It shows the Government has zero interest. The Minister had to go back to the first quarter of 2015 to find a statistic to back up her statement. Unemployment is going up but the Government is doing nothing about this in Wexford. That is a fact.

Actually unemployment is going down. The live register figures out today show another reduction in unemployment.

According to the third quarter CSO figures, there has been a rise in unemployment in County Wexford.

No, the Deputy might have that wrong. The unemployment rate is being reduced. We have a target of 200,000 jobs by 2020, of which 135,000 jobs will be in the regions. We are well ahead with 93% of the target already achieved. People are back at work. It is reflected in the fact that I am getting representations about labour shortages. I am being asked by employers to issue work permits to bring people in from abroad.

That is not true in Wexford. Unemployment is over 15% there.

We need jobs in Wexford.

There is much employment out there. The south-east plan covers counties Carlow, Kilkenny, Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford.

Key sectors targeted as part of the plan include agrifood, tourism, the life sciences, manufacturing, retail and financial and business services. The local enterprise offices are working hard to support indigenous companies.

Despite the Government's failure to-----

IDA Ireland continues to attract a pipeline of investments into the country. I want to see investment in the regions and IDA Ireland has targets to ensure they will attract as much investment as possible, but its main work when abroad is to try to attract companies to Ireland. If they decide-----

IDA Ireland has no land in Wexford.

IDA Ireland brings companies to different locations across the country.

Without land, there is nothing to show them in Wexford.

There is enough material here for another debate. Unfortunately, we have exceeded the time allowed.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.