Priority Questions

Departmental Programmes

Niall Collins

Ceist:

1. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation when the terms of reference for the review of the Succeed in Ireland programme will be completed following the recent public consultation; the reason for the delay in finalising this; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [30515/17]

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

4. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if the terms of reference for the review of the Succeed in Ireland initiative have been finalised; the number of submissions that were received through the public consultation process; and the timeframe for the review to be completed. [30650/17]

The Minister is well aware of the Succeed in Ireland programme, and we have raised the topic in her capacity as Tánaiste on Leaders' Questions. The review is supposed to be ongoing but now seems to be delayed. There are a number of issues around that, including the terms of reference, the appointment of the independent reviewer and the interim arrangement that should transpire. Will the Minister address those in the reply?

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 4 together.

As announced previously, my Department will soon be commissioning an independent review of the Succeed in Ireland programme. That review, which will be carried out after details of the initiative’s full and final costs are available, will equip us with a thorough understanding of the programme’s results and its contribution to employment generation in the State. This is in the interests of good governance and ensuring value for money for the taxpayer.

The Deputy knows that on 20 April, my Department launched a public consultation calling for observations on the draft terms of reference for that review. The consultation period ended on 26 May. We received 17 different submissions that are now being examined. The responses we received came from a broad range of stakeholders, including public representatives and the public. Many of the submissions provided general observations on the Succeed in Ireland initiative and its perceived strengths. Others provided specific observations on the draft terms of reference themselves. They will all guide us in the approach ahead. There has been no delay in finalising the terms of reference. We are completing the examination of all the responses to the public consultation, which will help, as I have indicated, to shape the final text.

I acknowledge that the Succeed in Ireland initiative has contributed to the Government’s ongoing efforts to win more foreign direct investment, FDI, and jobs for the people of this country. Securing more FDI will remain a key priority of mine as Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation. I look forward to working with agencies to attract more overseas investment and employment to Ireland. We are all committed to that goal.

I hope what has arisen between IDA Ireland and ConnectIreland can see a resolution as soon as possible. I will make any efforts I can in that regard. There have been some legal efforts and I hope they will come to a conclusion and we will be able to go ahead with the review.

It is important to point out at the outset that ConnectIreland has told us that legal action was never taken between the two parties. There was a dispute and that is not at issue. For IDA Ireland to allege there was legal action and to seek to hide behind the veil of impending court proceedings was very disingenuous. We must be very honest. IDA Ireland is not above questioning or scrutiny, and in this instance it has acted quite dishonourably. Its representatives refused to come before the committee on which Deputy Quinlivan and I sit, which really equates to them giving two fingers to the Oireachtas. The way it has handled a number of its interactions with ConnectIreland is very regrettable.

Is there any way the Minister could facilitate the continuation of the programme while this process is under way, perhaps by means of an interim contract? We have been offered different legal advice from what IDA Ireland proffered, indicating there is no impediment to offering an interim contract. Would the Minister go as far as to have the Attorney General, the Government's legal adviser, look at this? It would be very important not to lose the momentum because ConnectIreland is delivering. IDA Ireland has backtracked on some of the statistics offered in a previous debate and it has acknowledged that ConnectIreland has delivered far more than IDA Ireland had previously stated.

I am somewhat constrained in what I can say about this because it is essentially a dispute between the two bodies. There is a difference of opinion as to how many jobs the contract has delivered, the verification process and other details in the operation of the contract. I am hopeful the dispute will be settled in a mutually acceptable way for both sides, and I expect both sides to try to come to a resolution on this. It is in the interests of both organisations and I pay tribute to them. I pay tribute to IDA Ireland for what it has done over the years and the amount of FDI brought here, and I pay tribute to ConnectIreland for the work it has done in recent years. It is unfortunate this dispute has arisen, as I am sure the Deputy will agree. We need to resolve this before we speak about another contract or decide on the future of the scheme. We need to do a proper review and have those terms of reference. Until we know the costs, detail and precise information on the scheme, it would be difficult to go ahead with that. I appeal to both sides to come to a resolution on this in order that we can draw a line under it and then decide the future of such a scheme.

Will the Minister publish the submissions received by the Department, as to my knowledge they have not been made available publicly? Will she finalise the terms of reference, as we are dealing with interim terms of reference? The review is supposed to be independent of the Department as well as IDA Ireland and ConnectIreland. Where are we with that review? There seems to be drift. We got past the end of the contract date, when we last raised this and there seemed to be a bit of stonewalling coming from IDA Ireland and the Department, although the Minister was not there at the time. That was so we would get to the point where the contract had expired. There has been much momentum built up and many leads in the pipeline, but we are letting a really good opportunity slide by, all on the basis that IDA Ireland is the golden boy. I am calling out IDA Ireland on its treatment of ConnectIreland, which has been reprehensible. It feels threatened by ConnectIreland, although it should not. IDA Ireland must be bigger than that. We should bear in mind that the Succeed in Ireland initiative addressed the Dublin regional imbalance by bringing in the smaller type of clients that IDA Ireland does not target.

I have given the Deputy the number of submissions to the Department. I will check if the people who made submissions were advised as to whether they would be public or private, but if it is feasible to publish them, I have no objection to it. It might be helpful for people to see those submissions. I will certainly check it out and revert to the Deputy on that.

We need every initiative coming from our diaspora around the world to help us with FDI. If a successful model can be found and will continue to work, or if the existing model could be adapted somewhat, that should come about. That would compliment the work of IDA Ireland. I stand by the work IDA Ireland does. It is unfortunate this position arose, and I certainly want to see it resolved if there is anything I or my Department can do. There is no delay with this.

I am very keen that this is brought to a conclusion so that we can move on. The Deputy rightly says there is scope for initiatives such as this and I pay tribute to everyone involved. We need all these jobs.

What about the independent review?

There is no decision on that yet but the person will be independent and as soon as I have made a decision, I will inform the House.

I agree with the comments of Deputy Niall Collins about IDA Ireland, whose conduct in this debacle has been disgraceful, as has the way it has treated ConnectIreland and the Succeed in Ireland project. There is no legal dispute, despite what IDA Ireland states. IDA Ireland failed to come before the jobs committee when we requested it to come, citing a legal case which I do not believe existed. The debacle with ConnectIreland and the Succeed in Ireland initiative really puzzles me and I highlighted my frustration on this issue with the previous Minister on a number of occasions. This is a job creation scheme that used our diaspora across the world to bring jobs to Ireland, the majority of which were to small towns where IDA Ireland clients do not operate or locate. The ConnectIreland team has established a network of 89,652 connectors in 147 countries and I agree with the figure it gives for jobs created of 2,822. The creation of these jobs costs the State substantially less than an IDA Ireland-created job, with the cost being €4,000 per job as opposed to €10,500 for those created by IDA Ireland. If no jobs were created, it would have cost the State nothing. In what world would it make sense to shut this down? I urge the Minister to re-examine the initiative as it is a worthwhile programme operated at low cost with huge economic benefits to the State.

We should acknowledge that the work IDA Ireland has done in recent years to attract foreign direct investment has been very impressive. The results can be seen and there is a pipeline of very good projects in companies which want to invest in Ireland, some of which I have already met. It is unfortunate that a dispute has arisen. IDA Ireland received clear advice about appearing before the committee and that, until there was a legal resolution, its representatives would not be in a position to do so. They are happy to talk to the committee generally about their programmes, however.

I discussed the terms of reference for the review and the Deputy made available various statistics. We have to look at what the precise figures are and to look at the costs and I agree with Deputy Collins about the need for an independent review. That is the intention. I hope that, possibly through arbitration, we can come to a resolution that is satisfactory to both sides.

Can the submissions that have been made be published? They should be published if they can be. I appreciate that a review is ongoing but how long will it take? This project was shut down in March and there is no legal impediment to the Department providing a bridging contract until a new tender is won. I have concerns about how the review was conducted from the start. I sent a parliamentary question to the Minister this morning and was not happy with her response. We were contacted to be told there was no email address for submissions on the website. The website has been down for a number of weeks and no submissions have been published. Nobody is dissing IDA Ireland but we are expressing our concern about the way it has treated ConnectIreland. IDA Ireland has not acted responsibly.

As the Joint Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation was examining the Succeed in Ireland initiative, we were provided with the number of jobs created, to guide members on the effectiveness of the programme. ConnectIreland provided a much larger number of jobs, at over 2,000, but IDA Ireland disputed this figure, stating that only 535 were created and that a portion had not yet been verified. The day after the Succeed in Ireland programme was shut down, a number of jobs were verified so they could not be included in official tallies or for the committee's consideration, making the programme seem less successful than it had been. When will the review be published?

I would like to see the review. We need to get resolution first so that we have all the details and can move on to do the review. I understand from IDA that, to date, the Succeed in Ireland programme, operated by ConnectIreland, has generated approved projects with the potential to deliver 2,831 jobs, of which 575 have been verified as delivered on the ground with a further five, notified in this quarter, awaiting verification. IDA Ireland pays ConnectIreland for each job delivered on the ground. I hope that, once we decide on the terms of reference, the review can be done because we need it to be done and published so that we can move on from this incident between the two bodies.

Brexit Issues

Maurice Quinlivan

Ceist:

2. Deputy Maurice Quinlivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the way in which she plans to address the level of unpreparedness of businesses for Brexit (details supplied). [30623/17]

The question is about Brexit and the unpreparedness that exists not just in Government, but in businesses across the State. A quarterly survey of InterTradeIreland showed that 97% of businesses have no plan in place to deal with Brexit, while a later survey showed that 98% had no plan, so the level of preparedness had gone down.

The Government is investing heavily in promoting and supporting the need for businesses to become Brexit-ready. I agree with the Deputy that we need companies to think very clearly about the challenges posed by Brexit. Ever since the result of the UK referendum, the agencies under my remit have been highly engaged in encouraging and supporting companies to prepare for Brexit. Enterprise Ireland created a UK export website featuring documents, videos, etc., addressing the key Brexit challenges, including the immediate currency aspects.

EI's current Prepare for Brexit campaign includes a Brexit scorecard and this is being taken up by more and more companies to self-assess their preparedness. It encourages them to think about the different elements of Brexit and how they may be impacted. There is also a Be Prepared grant of up to €5,000, which is available through the local enterprise offices. Some 12,000 businesses have accessed it and this shows that companies are thinking about it and analysing their situation. The LEOs and EI are also working directly with clients and Bord Bia has launched a similar tool.

InterTradeIreland interviewed 750 SMEs on both sides of the Border in the period January to March 2017, which is a relatively small sample. I am concerned about the lack of preparation in companies. My Department recently published the findings of a survey of over 1,000 SMEs on the challenges posed by Brexit, which indicated that, while only 37% felt that there was some immediate impact, 61% expected to be impacted over the following 18 months. Currency costs and financial issues were the key concerns.

The first survey showed that 97% of businesses were not prepared and the next showed 98%, when one would have expected it to go in the other direction. The level of unpreparedness is unacceptable one year on from the Brexit vote. The fact that the level has deteriorated should concern us a lot.

InterTradeIreland's staff levels have dropped consistently over the past six years and it has fewer staff than last year, despite the Brexit vote and the increased workload this has brought. A freedom of information request from the Department outlined that InterTradeIreland already operated on a very tight budget, given the cuts imposed jointly by both finance Departments, and it is just about able to carry on its legislative duties.

Enterprise Ireland has lost 273 members of staff in the past ten years. How can this agency realistically prepare businesses exposed to Brexit in addition to the usual work it does when staff numbers are depleted so much? Is the level of staffing and funding affecting the preparedness levels of businesses for Brexit?

There is much work to be done by all stakeholders, including the Government and organisations representing businesses. Judging from my experience yesterday with many of these groups and from a meeting I attended in Enterprise Ireland last week with a range of businesses, there is a wide variation in companies' preparedness for Brexit and awareness of it. Companies totally dependent on the UK market are exquisitely sensitive to the impact and are thinking through market diversification and the research and innovation they need to do. There is much thought and concern on the issue. Initiatives are being taken by many companies. Enterprise Ireland is working hard to ensure companies are putting plans in place. The Department is supporting InterTradeIreland and providing it with additional funding this year to undertake a range of initiatives to help SMEs adapt to changing circumstances. The impact on small and medium enterprises, in particular those with a dependency on the UK market, will be very challenging. They will need to diversify, which can be challenging at a time when companies are watching their margins and it can be difficult to put the money in. No effort will be spared to work with businesses and their representatives to ensure they have plans in place to deal with Brexit.

I thank the Minister for taking an interest in this issue. I also want to mention the recent admission of the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Coveney, that special status for the North is needed. However, we must ensure the agencies discussed today are ready to assist in all possible circumstances, including no deal being reached and World Trade Organization, WTO, tariffs introduced. As a result of the disarray in the Tory Government in Britain, this outcome is a very strong possibility, and we consequently need to prepare our jobs agencies to take pre-emptive action to help businesses and exporters. To assume the DUP will do anything positive for Ireland with respect to Brexit would be a massive mistake.

In excess of 1,933 categories of goods are traded South to North and 2,269 traded North to South. Businesses will need extensive help in navigating any obstacles should the worst come to pass and no deal be agreed. Will the Minister commit to re-examining staffing levels at these three agencies to ensure they are adequately resourced and staffed and can provide all necessary assistance and preparation?

I have made it clear that we will be supporting InterTradeIreland and increasing its budget. The Department and I have been working on further measures targeted at the needs of companies in terms of working capital, which is an issue, and business development. We will be surveying companies again in the near future. The Deputy is correct in terms of the impact on trade between North and South and the need to be alert to that. Trade between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland is currently extensive and far-reaching. The value of goods traded South to North in 2016 was €1.65 billion while North to South trade was €1.05 billion. It is very significant for SMEs. Over 15% of Irish SMEs' exports are destined for Northern Ireland and the key sectors involved include dairy products, meat and live animals. A recent study undertaken by InterTradeIreland and the ESRI analyses a so-called worst-case scenario whereby WTO tariffs would apply. It shows that there would be a very significant effect on trade between North and South if that eventuality were to occur. That points to the importance of the Brexit negotiations, the right outcome being reached and being very clear about the impact on trade.

Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement Legal Cases

Niall Collins

Ceist:

3. Deputy Niall Collins asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the collapse of a trial (details supplied) following the trial judge's comments regarding the conduct of the investigation by the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, ODCE. [30223/17]

I ask for the view of the Minister and the Government on the fallout from the recent trial of Seán FitzPatrick. All Members are now aware of how that case ended. Bearing in mind that it was a retrial and in view of the comments made by the presiding judge during the trial and after the verdict, some of which was quite damaging, damning and concerning, notice must be taken of the failings in the case.

The shortcomings and investigative practices of the ODCE highlighted by Judge John Aylmer in the case of the DPP v. Sean Fitzpatrick are completely unacceptable.  They fell far short of the standard impartial, unbiased and thorough investigation we expect and demand.

My predecessor, the Minister of State at the Department of Education and Skills, Deputy Mitchell O’Connor, wrote to the Director of Corporate Enforcement, Mr. Ian Drennan, on Wednesday, 24 May requesting a report, as Deputy Collins is aware, under section 955(1)(a) of the Companies Act 2014. She asked that the report provide an explanation of issues related to the investigations by the ODCE into Anglo Irish Bank since 2008. These included the issues referred to by the judge and Deputy Collins, including the coaching of witness statements, late disclosure of documents, a perceived bias by ODCE investigators, the shredding of documents, and any other relevant matters. I received the report from the Director of Corporate Enforcement on the day it was due. I thank Mr. Drennan for that.

I have sought advice from the Attorney General on the report. The report sets out the facts relating to the case and does not purport to be an investigation or an inquiry but is solely a review of the facts and will prove very helpful. Upon receipt of advice from the Attorney General, I will be in a better position to determine the next steps.  Action will then be taken to address any shortcomings.  This could include changes in procedure, organisational restructure, enhanced powers, and possibly new legislation. Once the report is published and thoroughly analysed, the direction for the future can be considered in terms of changes that may be necessary on foot of the report.

To recap on the details of the case, it was the longest-running criminal trial in the history of the State, as the Tánaiste is aware. It showed all and sundry how inept the State is in terms of investigating and prosecuting white-collar crime. The majority of the blame must rightly be laid at the door of the ODCE. Equally, an eye must be cast on the actions or inactions of the Garda Síochána and on the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP. Other trials are going on every Monday through to Friday. This House will have to consider who holds the Office of the DPP to account in terms of its quality control and throughput, much of which is questionable. I am glad the Tánaiste recognises the seriousness of the comments made by the judge in regard to witness coaching, the shredding of documents and the biased and partisan approach of the ODCE. The Tánaiste said she received the report on the date it was due and it is good that it was delivered in a timely fashion and sets out the facts. I hope it sets out a little more in terms of the role of the professionals involved in the case or the lack of professional involvement. Will the Tánaiste publish the report? How soon can Members expect to have sight of it? It is a huge issue of significant public interest and the public is entitled to know how such a serious case, dealing with events which impacted on the lives of so many people, failed abysmally.

It is very important that any action taken is in line with fair procedures, due process and natural justice and with full knowledge. I must be very aware of that. I do not want to take any action that would exacerbate the situation. The rights of persons named in the report would have to be respected and legal advice in respect of publication will have to be obtained. However, my intention is to publish the report and I would like to do so. The Attorney General received the report a couple of days ago when it was received by the Department. I want to give him time to consider the report and carry out any redaction necessary to protect those named in it. However, the Director of Corporate Enforcement was asked for a report of all the facts, which would cover various stakeholders. Deputy Collins mentioned the Garda and the DPP in this regard. The Director of Corporate Enforcement was asked for a factual report, which is what I have received.

There is some legal work to be done on it. As soon as I have that, I would like to publish the report.

The Tánaiste has just left the Department of Justice and Equality and has intricate knowledge of the detail on the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland and the body of work it is about to undertake. What is her view of the proposal that we should investigate establishing a serious crime and fraud agency similar to what exists in the UK? It was not explicitly mentioned or stitched into the terms of reference of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, but it is certainly something that we could look at in terms of addressing white-collar crime now and in the future. While the Criminal Assets Bureau focuses solely on criminal assets and follows the money trail in relevant cases, the State has been shown to be inept in terms of dealing with white-collar crime, which, with the advance of technology, takes place on so many different levels. Having a properly constituted and resourced agency similar to that in the UK is something that we need to give serious consideration to. Can the Tánaiste give her views on that, because she did say in her previous reply that she might look at restructuring. She seems to be open to a suggestion that will work.

We have to learn the lessons from what has happened here. We have to be clear about the applicability of what happened here and whether that is more widespread. This was a hugely important case. Was it confined to this case? If so, how and why did this happen? What are the facts that surrounded the particular approach to the issues that I have outlined, that the judge spoke about and to which the Deputy is referring? We have to think very seriously about whether we have the appropriate structures in place and whether an agency such as the Deputy described is necessary. On the issue of the future of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland, it will be looking at the administrative arrangements of Garda resources.

The Deputy mentioned that criminals are using ever more sophisticated technology. There is a specialist unit in the Garda at the moment, but it is inevitable that it will be advanced further, given what we are seeing now in terms of international crime and encryption.

Question No. 4 answered with Question No. 1.

IDA Ireland Site Visits

Alan Kelly

Ceist:

5. Deputy Alan Kelly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation the criteria which is being used by IDA Ireland to ensure site visits by potential inward investment companies to regional counties. [30516/17]

This is the Tánaiste's first time taking parliamentary questions relating to her new Department. I wish her well in her new role.

My question is on IDA Ireland. I have plenty of time for IDA Ireland. It has a very good chief executive and some fantastic people working for it, but I feel that it does not always have the resources that it needs. I have often argued in this House for more resources for it.

I want to raise the issue of regionality. The latter, and bringing jobs into regions, is a critical component of the programme for Government, and it is something that we all advocate in this House. I want to get into the detail of the criteria used for site visits and for pushing certain potential inward investment companies to certain parts of the country. What criteria are used when it is decided where some companies should be encouraged to go? We cannot break confidentiality for specific companies, but I want to see a transparency of process.

IDA Ireland remains firmly committed, as do I, to increasing regional development. That is why the agency has targeted a minimum increase in investment of 30% to 40% in each region outside of Dublin by the conclusion of its current strategy in 2019. Progress is being made towards that goal. Sometimes this is not reflected properly, and I will provide some statistics that support what I am saying.

In 2016 over half of all IDA Ireland-supported jobs created were based outside of Dublin. That is important. There are currently 23 IDA Ireland-owned units and 84 IDA Ireland-owned sites which are available for marketing as locations for investment.  These are spread throughout the country. If Ireland did not have those sites is would clearly diminish Ireland’s ability to win mobile foreign direct investment, FDI, particularly for the regions.

Determining which of these sites may be attractive to a client depends very much on the particular requirements of the company concerned.  Factors that are habitually important to overseas investors include the suitability of local infrastructure for the particular business, the proximity of transport hubs and the availability of skilled talent. It is often the case as well that multinational companies seek to base themselves as close as possible to businesses operating in the same industry. There is a wide variety of factors.

IDA Ireland always does its utmost to encourage clients to locate in areas that are most in need of investment. That is very important. I want to see that approach continue because we want to see the benefits of FDI spreading across the country into areas that need that investment. We have to remember, however, that the ultimate decision as to where to invest is always taken by the company itself.

It is also important to remember that site visit activity does not necessarily reflect investment potential because at least 70% of all new FDI comes from existing IDA Ireland client companies.  It should also be emphasised that FDI only forms one part of investment in regional locations.  Indigenous enterprise is responsible for a significant portion of employment growth, particularly outside of Dublin.

I am well aware that companies ultimately make their own decisions. I am also aware that the companies already here expand and make up a large proportion of the investment. Ultimately, companies that do come here have to be shown specific locations. There is no hidden agenda here. I have had direct experience in helping to get IDA Ireland into my own county. I was directly involved with First Data, the announcement in respect of which was massive for our county. I intervened and, as a result, we got Amneal into Cashel. I am working in a number of other areas at the moment. My real issue is that we can go out and explain to people that there is no hidden agenda and that IDA Ireland is doing its best for the regions. However, we could then look at the data, see a lack of investment in some regional areas, realise that €150 million has been put aside for investment in buildings under IDA Ireland's programme and the Action Plan for Jobs and identify the fact that some of the locations that should be targeted for investment have not been targeted. People then become concerned that the criteria are not fair and perceive that FDI clients, potential or current, are not being pushed towards the areas in which we need this investment most. We need to show some transparency and ensure that the public can have confidence, because it is not always backed up by the statistics or the capital funding that is available because it is being pushed into areas that already have FDI.

If the Deputy has any suggestions about increased transparency he should give them to me. There is nothing secret about the kind of work that IDA Ireland has been doing. I can give the statistics on the site visits which show that good progress is being made toward the goal that IDA Ireland has set for itself. It is clear that there is a goal of a 30% to 40% increase in FDI in every region outside Dublin by 2019. That is the goal and that is what it is working towards. Some 173 site visits were made in the first quarter of 2017. That is up from 136 over the same period last year. Given the number of visits that are being made, it is quite clear that it is spread across the country. There are areas to which it is more difficult to attract investment, and obviously there is a focus on those areas as well. IDA Ireland is extremely committed, from what I have seen since I took office, to investment in every region of Ireland. In 2016, 52% of all new jobs that were created were created outside Dublin. That is a success. The Deputy is probably referencing some particular areas, but clearly huge progress is being made with 52% of all new jobs being created being outside the capital. Some 55% of all the site visits in 2016 were to locations outside of Dublin, so IDA Ireland is behaving in a way that reflects the targets it has set for regional development.

I have a lot of time for the chief executive of IDA Ireland and many of the people who work for the organisation. They do a very good job but the transparency the Minister spoke about can come through in the way in which IDA Ireland converses with local authorities and, in particular, Members of the Oireachtas. We all have to use our own constituencies as examples. Benamore Park in Roscrea is one of the best sites in Ireland and I have not heard of it being the subject of any real visits. It has been there for years. Sky Innovation Park is located in Tipperary town. The latter and Roscrea are the two towns in Ireland - not to mention County Tipperary - which badly need investment. They have suffered a great deal. It does not come through that they are on the top of the agenda of those who make the decisions in respect of itineraries and visits. If we could deal with that and have transparency along the way, it would help all of us in doing our jobs. They are practical examples of how the Minister could bring about such transparency because the decision-makers in IDA Ireland need to ensure that they push this out to enough locations.

I take the Deputy's point and will ask IDA Ireland to consider his points because we need the support of Deputies and Senators and all local stakeholders in order to advance jobs investment. If there are initiatives that Deputies think could be taken in their areas, I want to hear about them, particularly as we now have regional action plans. I assume the Deputy is linking with the regional action plan in his area.

I launched it-----

If that is the case, he can direct some of these questions to the regional action committee-----

-----which means I am speaking with knowledge.

The regional action plans are very important in the context of the points the Deputy makes. As they become more powerful and attuned to the needs of their areas - they will have a certain level of familiarity in this regard already - Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland will listen to them and their recommendations will guide where the sites are located and where the jobs go. It does depend on the company and we have to recognise that.