Industrial Development (Amendment) Bill 2019 [Seanad]: Committee Stage

Sections 1 and 2 agreed to.
SECTION 3

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, line 15, after "section." to insert the following:

"Preference may be given to industrial undertakings or body corporates that are located in the border counties of Louth, Cavan, Donegal, Leitrim, Monaghan and Sligo.".

My amendment was designed to ensure that Border counties, that is, counties Louth, Monaghan, Cavan, Donegal, Sligo and Leitrim are given priority and preferential treatment, given how exposed these counties will be in the face of Brexit. I will give an example of how it is for towns in the Border region.

My own native town of Drogheda is a prime example of how towns in the Border region have been neglected over the decades in terms of capital and social infrastructure. With Brexit approaching, it leaves us even more exposed than ever. Drogheda, which is the largest town in Ireland, has considerable potential. It is located on the Dublin-Belfast corridor. Its population is highly skilled and it has a dynamic business community. In fact, the Financial Times has identified Drogheda as one of Europe's top ten emerging micro-cities. However, the Government and its agencies do not seem to see that at all. We seem to be always overlooked. Even in the national development plan, we have got nothing. In fact, we were relegated to third-tier status. Media reports some months ago suggested that businesses which had expressed an interest in IDA Ireland parks in Drogheda had been advised to go elsewhere. The Government had taken no action on that whatsoever. I am giving Drogheda as the prime example, because it is typical of small towns and larger towns in the Border region. Towns in the Border region need supports to thrive and the supports they are getting are not anywhere near adequate. They will be left behind again and that is why I put the amendments in.

The amendments are reasonable. They are aimed at targeted supports for the most exposed areas. The Minister of State said a few moments ago that supports are given where there is a demand basis. He does not need me to tell him that the Border regions will be the areas in most demand. That is why I included the amendments that there would be targeted supports for the areas where there will be most demand as we approach Brexit. I hope the Government and other parties will support the amendments.

I more or less referred to the Border supports earlier. In that regard, since July 2019, the Department has hosted Brexit outreach events in counties Cavan, Monaghan, Donegal and Louth. These focused on advising businesses on the steps they need to take now to prepare their businesses for Brexit and on highlighting the supports available to businesses to help them with such preparations. It is important to point out that the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, is from the Border region and is conscious of the vulnerability of companies on the Border.

On the amendments proposed by Deputy Munster here, the Brexit supports are available to everybody because everybody will be affected in the case of a hard Brexit. The Border communities will of course need support but it is important to say that the supports will cover all regions. As I said, they will be on a demand basis.

We have encouraged companies to apply for those supports now. Even if they feel they do not need them, it is important they do so. As I said, the Government is doing everything possible to ensure that the Border regions are being looked after, particularly with regard to the amount of shows that we have. As far as Enterprise Ireland is concerned, the regions show that 65% of funding in 2018 went to the regions outside of Dublin, with funding of €11.4 million in grants for industry and research and development awarded to client companies in the north and north-west regions. That represents an increase of 12% on the 2017 figure.

The €110 million package of Brexit contingency supports will be ready to roll out in a no-deal scenario and, as I said, will be targeted at those viable and vulnerable firms whatever the circumstances. Of course, budget 2020 also provided supports. Some €40 million will be provided to support tourism, which is important in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

The funding will be focused on the regions that will suffer most from a no-deal Brexit, such as the Border counties and the south east. We are conscious of the Border regions. It is very much part of our agenda to ensure that the most vulnerable are looked after.

Nobody is disputing that the Brexit supports should be available to everybody, as of course they should be.

I have pointed it out to the Minister of State - I do not know whether he understands - the extent of the concern, worry and uncertainty that businesses in the Border region face. It is palpable, as they will be hit first. That is why I put in the amendments. It is not to say that nobody else should get supports; that would be a ridiculous statement to make.

My point is that because Border regions are the most exposed, they should be given priority and preference. I cannot see any reason the Government or any other party would not accept that is the reality. I hope they will support the amendments because Border regions will be the first to be hit.

I do not begrudge any other area in the country getting the supports.

Supports should be available for all but given the reality that the Border areas are the most exposed, they should be given preferential and priority treatment.

Is the Deputy pressing the amendment?

Amendment put.

In accordance with Standing Order 72, as the required number of tellers have not been appointed for the Níl side, I declare the amendment is carried.

Amendment declared carried.
Progress reported; Committee to sit again.