Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions

It would be remiss of me not to congratulate Deputy Kelleher, who is due to ask the first question, on his election to the European Parliament. We will miss him in the House, although I am sure we will hear him from afar. He may put his first question, or should I say, one of his last questions.

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Billy Kelleher


1. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the position regarding regional IDA site visits per county; the position regarding vacant IDA properties nationwide; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27203/19]

I thank the Acting Chairman. I might ask for some indulgence at the time of my last question, if possible.

What is the position regarding regional IDA Ireland site visits per county and vacant IDA Ireland properties nationwide? It was brought home to me while campaigning in the recent European Parliament elections that many provincial towns are really struggling. Their commercial hearts are dying and there needs to be a radical review of regional, spatial and industrial policy in terms of delivering for the regions.

I wish to congratulate Deputy Kelleher on his election to the European Parliament. It has been a pleasure to work with him in a very constructive way since I took up this position. I wish him the very best in the European Parliament. I have no doubt he will make a significant contribution there also.

Regional development remains a key priority for me and my Department. We understand the importance of achieving the best possible spread of employment and investment across the country and my Department and its agencies have been working hard towards that goal. Significant progress has been made. For example, 58% of all IDA Ireland client-supported employment is now situated outside Dublin. This figure represents the highest level of regional employment in the history of the agency. Last year, IDA Ireland secured 113 regional investments. This strong level of performance in attracting foreign direct investment to Ireland is being maintained. Last week, I announced IDA Ireland's mid-year results for 2019, which included 13,500 new jobs approved across the country, representing an increase of 19% on the equivalent period last year. Indications are that further strong employment and investment growth will be achieved over the latter half of the year, which will lead to more economic opportunities across regional Ireland.

As I previously made clear, the availability of marketable serviced land and buildings in advance of demand is a key element in IDA Ireland's ability to compete for mobile foreign direct investment. Not only does such a supply of properties help the agency to secure high-quality jobs, it also allows projects to begin at an earlier date by diminishing difficulties associated with land acquisition, planning and construction. For that reason, it remains an important means by which IDA Ireland can encourage and attract new investors to Ireland.

IDA Ireland owns 29 properties across Ireland. Of these, 14 are occupied by agency clients, with the remainder available for prospective or existing investors. It is important that IDA Ireland has such a supply of properties in order that it can better compete with other jurisdictions for job-rich investment and secure new projects for Ireland.

I accept that it is very difficult for a Minister to instruct industry or commerce to locate in a certain area. If a multinational company comes to this country, we are happy to have it, but it is very difficult to direct it to a specific area. There needs to be a broader-based policy underpinning regional development. The vast majority of IDA Ireland sites that are lying idle are located in the places that most need job creation and investment and which are very much struggling to attract multinational foreign direct investment, such as the Border region, the midlands and parts of the south east. It is evident that this is having a direct impact on the commercial life of towns across the country. In some towns, there are more shops boarded up than there are operating commercially. There needs to be a refocusing and re-energising of investment in the regions and IDA Ireland plays a key role in that regard. We must consistently advocate for the regions. There would be a double gain as Dublin is bursting at the seams and under significant pressure while the regions are struggling.

I have a very strong focus on the regions. Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland have increased the number of jobs created outside Dublin. A couple of months ago, I launched nine regional enterprise plans, which are focused on supporting enterprise and driving job creation in the regions. As part of that programme of launches, I visited places such as the Hive in Carrick-on-Shannon, Drumshanbo food hub, Cootehill enterprise and technology centre, the Ludgate hub in County Cork and the Lisheen mines bioeconomy project in County Tipperary. All those projects have been supported by Government funding and are achieving fantastic things in terms of creating jobs in rural locations.

I too am aware of towns where the retail sector is suffering. We are living in a changed environment, however, as the shopping habits of young people have changed. Many are shopping online, which is having an impact on retailers in towns and villages across the country. That said, there has been significant investment in the town and village renewal scheme.

I accept much of what the Minister stated in regard to changing shopping habits and money leaving regions as a result of people shopping online or in larger outlets, etc. I wish to return to the issue of IDA Ireland. Kilbarry industrial estate in my constituency of Cork North Central is less than a mile and a half from St. Patrick's Bridge in Cork city. It comprises 56 ha of prime land but the only things on it are fields of barley. Every year, barley is grown on the site.

If the IDA does not want to do something with it, something else should be done with it. Can we not take note of the idle properties that the IDA has? If it is not going to use them to some benefit for itself in job creation and industrial development, this 56 ha should not be growing barley, a mile and a half from Cork city centre. I have consistently raised this with the IDA and I am quite disgusted that after all of these years, we are still going barley on an IDA site a mile and half from Patrick's bridge.

I cannot comment on that specific site but I will raise it with the IDA.

If there were no available properties in the region, IDA-owned or otherwise, this would significantly diminish the agency's capacity to attract and win new investments. The IDA has just had its half year results which are the best ever. The IDA has been doing great work and we know that it punches above its weight on an international level in winning investment on a global basis.

Overseas firms need to know that there are suitable sites and facilities in an area before they commit to an investment. The suggestion that some of these IDA-owned properties are intentionally being left idle or vacant is wrong and misleading. I take the Deputy's point and will raise that particular site with the IDA.

Housing Provision

Maurice Quinlivan


2. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if IDA Ireland considers the shortage of housing in a given area when consulting with multinational firms looking for a location to open or expand here; her views on whether recent announcements of multinational jobs in Dublin in particular will put further pressure on an already overstretched housing market; her position and plans in relation to the issue; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27412/19]

I start by joining in the congratulations to Deputy Kelleher and we wish him all of the best in his trip to Europe and I hope he does a good job out there. He will be missed from the committee.

I ask the Minister whether the IDA considers if there is a shortage of housing in a given area when it is consulting multinational firms and looking for locations in which to open or expand here. There have been numerous major job announcements, particularly for the Dublin area recently, which are of course all very welcome. Many people are asking where these people are going to live considering that there is not an affordable house to be had anywhere in the capital.

I am taking this question. I thank Deputy Quinlivan for raising this issue.

Global competition for foreign direct investment, FDI, is as intense as ever. We compete against many other countries and big cities from all over the world when it comes to securing new job-rich FDI from overseas. That is why the IDA’s main priority in its efforts is first of all win the projects, and to ensure that Ireland is selected by the firm in question.

Once that is achieved, which is a big achievement, the agency does everything it can to encourage companies to locate or expand into regional locations. This is consistent with both the IDA’s current policy, which has targeted an ambitious increase in regional investment by the end of 2019, and the Government’s wider approach of strengthening enterprise all over Ireland. This joint focus on the regions is yielding significant results, as was evident again from the IDA’s mid-year jobs and investment figures for 2019, with 50% of jobs now located outside of Dublin.

The Government also wants our principal cities to remain highly attractive to multinational firms. Dublin, in particular, with its international profile and track record as a home to many successful overseas companies, will continue to be a favoured destination for many investors, as evidenced again by recent job announcements. That is very much a positive that we have a strong capital city to generate investment in the country as a whole. It is also the case that our cities and regions are competing against the rest of the world, rather than against one another, for investment projects.

As regards the housing market, and in particular in increasing supply, that is well documented. It is important to make clear that these difficulties are not attributable to multinational firms and the jobs they have created, whether in Dublin or elsewhere. The root causes of our housing market difficulties are much more complicated than that, as the Deputy is aware.

The Government’s focus has been on addressing those housing problems and delivering fair and sustainable solutions over the short, medium and long term. That is why we are implementing the Rebuilding Ireland Action Plan which includes financing measures, new construction and rental sector improvements. As of the first quarter of 2019, there have been almost 19,000 new houses completed, an increase of 25% compared to the same time last year. Dwellings in the Dublin and mid-east region account for over 60% of these completed properties. This is a welcome development given that demand for housing is at its highest in this part of the country.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Overseas firms operating in Ireland are aware of the housing challenges we are facing. But they understand too how much of a priority this is for Government and what has been done to increase supply. It is important to remember as well that many of the countries Ireland competes against for FDI have difficulties of their own when it comes to residential housing. That does not diminish our own housing challenges, which we remain determined to address, but it does serve as a reminder that these are problems that many others are also wrestling with.

I am not suggesting for a minute to the Minister of State that the IDA is causing or contributing to the housing crisis but there is a problem around housing. Unfortunately the Government has completely failed to stabilise the housing market or to build enough social and affordable housing to meet the needs of the people. That is the problem I am raising. It is a sad state of affairs that due to the shambolic housing policy of the Government we have to be concerned about not having enough dwellings to house new workers and their families for the jobs that are being created here. I understand that we are competing with the rest of the world for jobs and as I stated in my initial contribution I welcome every single job that is approved, whether that is for Dublin or for the regions. I am not objecting whatsoever to the FDI job announcements as they provide excellent opportunities for people here but there is a concern that there will be no places for people to work.

In addition, many of these FDI jobs are very well paid, which again is great news. This means, however, that these workers can outbid other low paid workers for the few houses that are available to rent, putting further pressures on low income families. It is crazy that the Government has allowed this to escalate to such a point. What interactions have the Minister's Department had with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government about this specific issue? Have business and the IDA concerns about the lack of housing for workers? Is there any incentive in that regard?

I thank Deputy Quinlivan.

The Minister, Deputy Humphreys, and I travel on trade missions around the globe and this is not a problem that is just confined to Ireland. I was in Seattle last year, which is the home of Amazon and Microsoft, and I met the mayor there. The big problem there is shortage of housing for companies as well. This is a problem that is being addressed all over the place.

We have seen how successful we were in that area with the action plan for jobs. Rebuilding Ireland will be successful as well. Planning permissions were granted last year for nearly 29,000 new homes up to the end of the first quarter of 2019. That is up 21% from the previous year. In Dublin alone nearly 9,000 homes were granted planning permission. This is an increase again on the previous year. It is happening. Houses are being built.

The IDA has an important role when a company comes to Ireland in first of all ensuring that it comes. These companies bring their own estates people to look at where they want to locate first and in what regions they want to build. They select where they eventually want to go. They take all of that into account, namely, the housing and services in the area, the schools, universities and all of that. In recent times, the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, announced 800 jobs in LinkedIn last week and jobs with Facebook, amounting to a couple of thousand jobs, and all of these considerations are taken into account. The companies know they can get houses for their employees.

I thank the Minister of State for his response but we need much more work to be done in this area.

Is the Minister of State considering offering IDA client companies better incentives to locate in rural or Gaeltacht areas, for example. This would bring much needed employment in those areas and reduce also the pressure on the housing market in urban areas. We appreciate and have stated already that it is the decision of a client company at the end of the day as to where it wants to locate. It would be much better to have a fairer spread of FDI investment. Has the Minister held any discussions about this with the IDA and have business representative groups expressed concern to him about the shortage of housing for workers?

There are no incentives for locating in Dublin.

The one thing that attracts many FDI investor-companies into Ireland and into the regions - as a Limerick person the Deputy has seen good investment in recent times in the Limerick region and city - is quality of life. Quality of life is very important for many companies in the whole area of wellness for their employees living in an environment where they can produce more and be more competitive. The regions are doing well. I ask the Deputy to look at how well the medical technologies and the pharma sectors are doing in Limerick currently. Companies tend to follow other companies and clusters seem to grow all of the time. As I have already said in my answer, nearly 50% of new jobs last year were outside of Dublin. The same thing can be said about Enterprise Ireland jobs, which is higher again at 60% plus. There is a lot happening around all of the regions where jobs growth has been significant in the last number of years. We are happy with that. That is why Future Jobs Ireland 2019 and the regional action plans will contribute to ensure that we can promote jobs in the regions and we are doing that.

Brexit Supports

Billy Kelleher


3. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of SMEs that have been sanctioned funding and received loan funds under the €300 million SME working capital loan scheme and the future growth Brexit loan scheme. [27204/19]

Will the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation give the total number of small and medium enterprises, SMEs, that have been sanctioned funding and received loan funds under the €300 million SME working capital loan scheme and the future growth Brexit loan scheme?

The €300 million Brexit loan scheme provides relatively short-term working capital of one to three years for eligible businesses with up to 499 employees to help them to innovate, change or adapt to mitigate their Brexit challenges. Businesses can confirm their eligibility with the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, SBCI, and, if deemed eligible, can apply to one of the participating finance providers for a loan under the scheme. In terms of the number of applicants for the Brexit loan scheme, the latest data available to my Department show that, at close of business on 21 June, 656 eligibility applications were received by the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland, of which 596 were deemed eligible by it. Of the 596 eligible applicants, 144 have progressed to sanction with their banks. The value of the sanctioned loans from banks on 21 June was €31.73 million. While data for actual funding received by applicants as of 21 June are not available, we know that there is a high conversion from sanctioned loans to drawdown, as SBCI data for the end of March indicate that 88% of the total value of loans sanctioned by banks had been drawn down by businesses.

In addition to the Brexit loan scheme, my Department, together with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Department of Finance and with the support of the European Investment Bank guarantee, has developed the future growth loan scheme. The scheme is making up to €300 million worth of loans available with a term of eight to ten years and is open to eligible Irish businesses, as well as the primary agriculture and seafood sectors, to support strategic long-term investment. Finance provided under the scheme is competitively priced and has favourable terms, for example, no security is required for loans up to €500,000. The scheme opened for eligibility applications on 17 April since when the SBCI has received 365 eligibility applications and issued 340 eligibility letters. With Brexit on the horizon, the availability of both the Brexit loan scheme and the future growth loan scheme means that qualifying Irish businesses will have access to low cost capital without delay. It forms part of the supports in place for Irish business to cope with potential Brexit challenges.

These are loans which must be repaid. As the Minister says, cheap capital will be available. I worry that there have only been 656 applications out of the huge total of small and medium-sized businesses. I accept that not everybody will be impacted on as directly by Brexit as others, but given the potential impact the United Kingdom leaving could have on companies, particularly if there is a hard Brexit, we must ask why only 10% of the overall funding is being made available. Is it a cumbersome programme? Is there too much red tape and bureaucracy? These issues must be analysed in advance. We now know that companies are going through an application process, but we also know that only 10% of the overall funding available has been loan sanctioned. I urge the Minister to undertake a quick review and audit of the scheme to ensure that, if it is cumbersome and there is a lot of red tape, or if businesses are discouraged from making an application in the first place, these issues will be addressed now rather than after the event.

As the Deputy knows, we have a wide range of supports in place across Departments and agencies to help businesses to prepare, but, ultimately, they have to decide for themselves whether they want or need to avail of these supports. In the case of the Brexit loan scheme, it is important to remember that it is a loan which, as the Deputy said, businesses have to pay back. Understandably, there is a natural reluctance on the part of businesses to take on debt until the full details of the Brexit challenge become clearer. It is important, however, that the loan scheme be in place in order that businesses can avail of it when needed. They should submit their applications regardless and have the loan approved in case they need to draw it down at a later stage. I engage with and meet businesses and their representative groups on a regular basis and have been getting positive feedback on the suite of supports in place. If Deputies have specific examples of companies that have been unable to access the Brexit loan scheme, I ask them to bring them to my attention in order that I can follow up on them. I have looked at the scheme and, as far as I can see, the process is transparent. I have not been made aware of any obstacle in either the process or under the scheme. However, if there is anything specific, I ask people to, please, bring it to my attention.

I do not doubt the Minister that understands this and the potential impact a no-deal or hard Brexit could have on many companies, more than anybody else, coming from a Border constituency. Anything that could assist companies, even in making applications to Enterprise Ireland and so on, should be made available to them. Banks still lack the capacity to address and understand business plans in some areas, as they are still in recovery mode. There is a potential lack of professional expertise available to companies to assist them. Therefore, every effort should be made, wherever there is red tape, bureaucracy, or a shortage of skilled personnel, to address these issues to assist companies in making a case or an application. In the context of state aid rules, up to €200,000 was made available to businesses to deal with the effects of the financial crisis. That figure was increased during the crisis, but it has subsequently come back down. Will the Minister make a formal application to the Commissioner for Competition in the European Commission on state aid rules in advance of Brexit?

I have not received any complaint about the Brexit loan scheme. I have met the heads of the three pillar banks and explained to them how important the scheme is. They are rolling it out through their own offices. Again, if there are issues with the scheme, I ask Deputies to bring them to my attention.

There is a €200,000 rescue and restructuring scheme available. I have met the Commissioner for Competition, Commissioner Vestager. My officials are in constant contact with her about the technical working group that was set up to deal with Brexit and she has said she stands ready with a rapid response team to help Ireland in whatever Brexit scenario may unfold. The Minister for Finance made it very clear in the summer economic statement that we were taking prudent decisions in the context of Brexit and that there was a need to support industry in the event that there was a hard Brexit.

Climate Change Adaptation Plans

Jan O'Sullivan


4. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to take the actions identified in the recently published Climate Action Plan 2019 required to be taken by her Department and in which it is a key stakeholder; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27290/19]

I join others in congratulating Deputy Kelleher on becoming a Member of the European Parliament. It is interesting that he is going to be an MEP for almost everyone in the Chamber, apart from the Acting Chairman and the Minister, Deputy Humphreys. The rest of us are all in the constituency of Ireland South and look forward to working with him.

My question relates to the climate action plan, an important Government plan in which we all want to participate. However, there are specific actions identified in the document on which the Minister's Department leads or in which it is a key stakeholder. Therefore, I want to find out what it is doing about them.

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. I welcomed the publication last week of the Climate Action Plan 2019. The plan was published following intensive engagement between my officials and officials from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment on the actions proposed for delivery by enterprise and my Department. I also met the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment during the development of the plan, under which the enterprise sector is being tasked with reducing greenhouse gas, GHG, emissions by between 10% and 15% by 2030. Enterprises will also contribute to the more ambitious targets for buildings by reducing their emissions by 20% to 25% by 2030 and transport which will be reduced by 45% to 50% by 2030 through actions to improve their building energy performance and replace their fleets with electric vehicles over time.

My Department and its agencies are fully committed to the implementation of the actions identified in the plan. We have been given lead or key stakeholder responsibility for several actions in the plan ranging from engagement with the food and cement sectors, supporting increased abatement and undertaking a review of the current offerings by the enterprise agencies with a view to promoting environmental supports to a larger cohort of client companies.

While many enterprises will face challenges in adjusting to more sustainable processes and business models the transition towards more sustainable enterprise will promote resilience and innovation in Ireland's indigenous companies. The plan closely aligns with many of the objectives announced as part of the future jobs Ireland framework, which is being delivered across Government and is led by my Department and the Department of the Taoiseach. In particular, the Department is overseeing the transition to a low-carbon economy pillar of the framework. Future jobs Ireland is a medium-term framework that, as it is developed over time, aims to complement the relevant objectives in the climate action plan.

I thank the Minister. I will allow her back in to finish.

Several of the actions are for 2019. Most of the actions the Department is leading on are for 2019 or 2020. I have a question on one action in particular. Action 41 aims to promote climate consideration in business operations through the work of the corporate social responsibility stakeholder forum. Is it convened regularly? Is it likely to be convened in the near future? One function of the plan is to encourage businesses to implement resource efficiencies and the Department is leading on that. When these initiatives start to happen is a matter of urgency. IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland fall under the remit of the Department. They are leading on integrating decarbonisation objectives. I am keen to get a sense of what specific actions are being taken to make these happen as quickly as possible.

I am keen to hear a response from the Minister on one point about buildings. If I travel along the quays in Dublin, I see vast numbers of lights on in large commercial buildings. They seem to be left on all night. Many of these are occupied by banks, which are not under the remit of the Department. People who are around there in the winter time can see it. It may be a simple question, but is there some way the Minister or the Government can tell them to turn off their lights?

This morning I launched the corporate social responsibility check for 2019, Towards Responsible Business: Ireland's National Plan on Corporate Social Responsibility 2017-2020. There is a major focus on climate change now and how companies can embrace it. It is also attractive for companies that have a good corporate social responsibility set-up because. These companies find that people who want to work with them want to be assured that the company is committed to the environment. They want assurance that the company they are going to work with has a positive environmental record. We find that businesses want to know that other businesses with which they do business have a good environmental record.

We had a good launch earlier in Smock Alley Theatre. There was a gathering from across the sectors, including representatives from private industry, State agencies and the various people who are involved in corporate social responsibility. I expect we will hear more about it. Companies that have engaged in corporate social responsibility are more profitable and it is better for them. That is becoming clearer as well.

I am hesitant about interrupting but I have to keep the show going. I know Members are all trying to make their points. We will go back to Deputy O'Sullivan for a final minute.

The Acting Chairman does not interrupt; he intervenes.

I will bring this back to my local area. People coming into Limerick will see a nice wind turbine belonging to Vistakon, a division of Johnson & Johnson. That is an example of an international company that has supplied its own energy through a sustainable model. Are there other examples where the Minister will encourage that? Cork Harbour is another example. Clusters of wind turbines can be seen. I assume they are connected to businesses there. This is one area where the Minister could encourage something that would be useful.

Many of the companies I visit are conscious of their carbon footprint and are continually taking measures to improve. The Deputy about Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland. They have committed to upgrading their environmental offerings and to helping companies make the transition. The Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland provides the excellence in energy efficiency design programme for retrofitting and energy efficiency. Science Foundation Ireland has a strong focus on cutting edge research on climate change. We have been funding that sector as well. This is good for everyone.

I am happy that we will play our part in helping companies. There are challenges and there is no point in saying otherwise. It is a question of how we can work our way through those challenges. However, there are many opportunities in terms of what companies can do to provide new products and new ways of doing business.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Billy Kelleher


5. Deputy Billy Kelleher asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation to set out by county the number of payments issued to date for successful applications made under the disruptive technologies innovation fund, DTIF; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [27394/19]

Will the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation set out by county the number of payments issued to date for successful applications made under the DTIF? Will she make a statement on the matter?

I thank the Deputy for raising this issue. The DTIF is a €500 million fund established under Project Ireland 2040 and forms a key part in the delivery of the pillar 1 goal of future jobs Ireland to embrace innovation and technological change.

In December 2018, a total of 27 collaborative projects were approved for funding under the first call of the fund. The DTIF will result in investment in the research, development and deployment of disruptive technologies and applications on a commercial basis. The successful projects come from the health, food, ICT and manufacturing sectors in Ireland. There are 104 organisations involved in the 27 projects that will receive funding. These include large enterprises, SMEs, colleges and public research bodies. Several colleges and public research bodies are involved in multiple projects.

A total of 18 successful projects involve partners based outside Dublin. They are located in Limerick, Cork, Galway, Kildare, Monaghan, Waterford, Louth and Tipperary. As indicated in December 2018, the 27 projects involve a request for DTIF funding of approximately €75 million, of which €20 million is due to be drawn down during 2019.

The DTIF is being administered by Enterprise Ireland on behalf of my Department. Contracts are now being finalised by Enterprise Ireland in respect of each of the 27 projects and grant drawdown will commence shortly. With this fund, as with typical grant funding programmes, most recipients will have to incur up to six months of costs before grant payments will issue. A proportion of the funding can be provided in advance to the higher education institutes involved in the projects and, in certain circumstances, to small firms with fewer than 50 employees.

In September 2019, the first payments of DTIF call 1 will have been made and I will be in a position to provide information by county at that point. I expect it will be late in 2019 before I can report on the full 2019 drawdown of DTIF funding. Pending this, the details of each of the successful projects, including the partners involved in each, a brief description of each project and the value of funding approved, is available on my Department website. I will be officially launching the second call of the disruptive technologies innovation fund in early July. As part of this event, an information session on the fund will be held for potential applicants.

I welcome the fund. We welcomed the announcement of the fund at the time as part of Project Ireland 2040. However, we are now one year on. Applications were sought and made and funding was approved, yet no payments have been made to date. Sometimes this diminishes Government announcements. That is not a criticism but an observation at this stage. It diminishes Government announcements that utterances are made but action is slow to follow.

Disruptive technologies, by their nature, are aggressive exciting, changing and dynamic, yet the fund underpinning the assessment of these technologies and the impact they will have on industry and broader society does not have these characteristics. We seem to be slow, lethargic and incapable of making the assessments and payments quickly. I would welcome the Minister's observations on those points.

When I announce funding, I want it spent. In this case, this is a new fund. Ireland is one of the first countries in the world to have a fund like this in place. This makes Ireland an innovation leader globally. There is a great deal of collaboration on the projects between colleges, multinationals, SMEs and public research bodies. There is a lot of money at play, with €75 million available in the first call. Naturally, it will take time to finalise the contracts. As this is taxpayers' money, we need to ensure that everything is done right and in accordance with the public spending code. Drawdown of funding is expected to commence in September. It is important to remember that these projects are being carried out over a three-year timeframe. The sum of €20 million is provided in my Department's baseline for the DTIF in 2019. I have been assured by Enterprise Ireland, which is administering the scheme on behalf of the Government, that the full €20 million will be drawn down by the end of the year. There is significant demand for this scheme. I will officially launch the second call in July.

I thank the Minister.

I beg the indulgence of the Acting Chairman and the House for 30 seconds. As this is the final opportunity I will have to speak in this Parliament, I thank the Ceann Comhairle, Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl, and those who previously held that position, the Acting Chairman, all of my colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party, my family, friends and everybody who helped me on my amazing journey. I thank the staff of the Houses of the Oireachtas, current and past, for their courtesy and professionalism over the many years during my time in this House. To the people of Cork North-Central, it has been an honour and a privilege to serve them. I hope I never took that honour and privilege for granted.

I am sure everybody here will join me in wishing Deputy Kelleher well. When I was elected in 2016, I came to this House not knowing much.

The Deputy went out of his way to help me and all new Deputies. It was always a privilege to sit with him at parliamentary meetings and in this Chamber. I know the Deputy has a special friendship with Roscommon. Hopefully, that will continue. I wish him well in Europe and I thank him for the valuable contribution he has made, and will continue to make, in Europe, not alone on behalf of the south of Ireland but all of Ireland.