IDA Ireland Portfolio

Ceisteanna (6)

Éamon Ó Cuív


6. Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she will consider transferring the non-urban properties owned by the IDA to Enterprise Ireland in view of the fact that most non-urban business developments are indigenous; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [10962/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Business)

When IDA Ireland was split and Enterprise Ireland was separated from it, for some reason all the properties were left in the ownership of IDA Ireland even though the chance of foreign direct investment going into some of the locations owned by IDA Ireland is very small. If there is to be proactive use of these sites it would be much better to transfer them to Enterprise Ireland.

The availability of marketable serviced land and buildings in advance of demand remains 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 significant investments, it also allows projects to begin at an earlier date by diminishing difficulties associated with land acquisition, planning and construction. That is why the IDA's property services are important when it comes to supporting enterprise and job creation in Ireland.

While the IDA itself is focused on inward investment, the agency manages its property portfolio for the benefit of both its own clients and those of Enterprise Ireland. IDA Ireland's property team, for example, works closely with Enterprise Ireland to support the needs of indigenous companies that may be seeking appropriate properties. There is also ongoing engagement between the two agencies about the property needs of their respective clients. This includes plans to develop campus style property solutions to support development and business-to-business collaborations.

As regards IDA Ireland's wider work in regional development, IDA Ireland does its utmost to encourage its clients to locate or expand outside of the main cities. This is just as much a priority for the agency as it is for the Department and the Government. Indeed, IDA Ireland is continuing to target an increase of investment of 30% to 40% in every region by the end of its current strategy in 2019.

The agency’s staff are also working hard to showcase the benefits of regional areas to firms considering investing or expanding in Ireland. At the same time, as I have said previously, we must recognise that the final decision in terms of where to invest is always a matter for the company. It is also the case that regardless of what efforts IDA Ireland or the Government make to underline the undoubted benefits of regional locations, certain overseas companies will only consider investing in large urban areas for operational reasons. That is a commercial reality. It is, nevertheless, important that the agency has a supply of available sites that can be offered to IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland, EI, firms considering making job-rich investments. This helps to encourage investors to initiate projects, particularly in the regions. It should be stressed that IDA Ireland works closely with city and county councils to ensure that its property acquisitions are in line with local area, county and city development plans.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

I want to emphasise that IDA Ireland-owned sites are never intentionally left idle or vacant. The opposite is the case. IDA Ireland is doing everything possible to market these properties to investors and to convince them to locate there. It actively brings regional locations and suitable sites to the attention of all its clients, whether existing companies in Ireland that are looking to expand or first-time clients overseas. More generally, we are achieving real results in deepening the spread of regional foreign direct investment, FDI. IDA Ireland's 2018 results bear out this assessment. Last year, the agency delivered 113 regional investments, with 56% of net new jobs created outside of Dublin. Moreover, the last four years have seen over 44,000 new FDI-driven jobs created outside the capital. We will continue to do our utmost to reinforce and strengthen these positive trends and to further job creation across the entirety of the country.

I thank the Minister of State for putting so much effort into answering everything but the question I asked to be addressed. I accept that a great deal of time was spent on drafting the reply but it does not address the issue.

IDA Ireland owns all of the sites. I acknowledge that if Enterprise Ireland needs a building, it will be facilitated by IDA Ireland but many of the IDA Ireland-owned sites in rural Ireland are not being proactively managed. I am in the happy position of being able to compare IDA Ireland's performance in my constituency outside of Galway city with the performance of Údarás na Gaeltachta. The latter proactively manages sites and puts them to multiple uses that create employment because it has an overarching responsibility in that regard.

I ask the Minister of State to discard the script and to try to answer the following question. Should consideration be given to the transfer of sites to Enterprise Ireland to ensure they are used for indigenous development rather than foreign direct investment?

Deputy Ó Cuív should have listened to the reply. I will repeat what I said, without the script. IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland work together. This collaboration is extremely important for job creation in Ireland. Without it, and the co-operation of the local enterprise offices, we would not be in the position we are in now where unemployment is at 5.6%. The IDA may have idle sites but they are important to IDA Ireland because there may be companies, whether overseas companies or indigenous companies, who want to locate in a rural location, as has happened in many instances in the past, including in Galway. The Deputy is missing the point. These agencies are professional and, as I pointed out earlier, they do work together. In terms of job creation, 57% of the IDA Ireland-created jobs were in areas outside of the greater Dublin area. In terms of Enterprise Ireland, the statistics are even greater. The collaboration of these agencies is extremely important.

I ask the Minister of State to outline IDA Ireland's planned engagements in regard to its business parks in Roundstone and Ballinrobe and whether Enterprise Ireland has been actively developing digital hubs in the same way that Údarás na Gaeltachta has been doing in these IDA Ireland-owned properties that are not used for any other purpose. If the Minister of State does not have that information to hand, he might come back to me on it.

I do not have the information in regard to Roundstone and Ballinrobe but I will ensure it is forwarded to the Deputy.

The Deputy asked about digital hubs. They are an extremely important part of the creation of jobs in the regions. If the Deputy had listened to my earlier reply he would have heard me say that Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland work closely with the local authorities and city councils in this regard. For example, in my own county, digital hubs were recently opened by Clare County Council in four small towns. We are providing digital hubs to benefit people in rural areas. The provision of digital hubs is a priority. The Government is currently preparing a national digital strategy and we will be launching the future jobs initiative on Sunday. This is a priority area for all of us, including the regions.

I reiterate that there is collaboration on these issues between the two main agencies, IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland. They are working hand in hand but Enterprise Ireland is focused on the indigenous sector and IDA Ireland is focused on foreign direct investment. If there is an IDA Ireland-owned vacant site in a rural area and Enterprise Ireland is actively seeking a site in that area, the agencies will work together to ensure the site is made available.

Regional Action Plan for Jobs

Ceisteanna (7)

Freagraí ó Béal (7 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Business)

The next question will be introduced by Deputy O'Dowd.

Joe Carey


7. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the regional enterprise plans; her views on the way in which the plans can support job creation in rural Ireland; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11166/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Will the Minister outline the status of the new regional enterprise plans and her views on the way in which they can support job creation in rural Ireland, particularly County Louth?

I thank the Deputy for raising this question. In April 2018, I asked all of the regional action plan for jobs implementation committees to start a process to refresh and refocus all regional plans to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020 in order that they continue to deliver jobs across the country in every region and can be robust to address the challenges we face, including Brexit. The outcomes of this refresh process are nine new regional enterprise plans to 2020, which build on the very strong progress made on employment creation under the Regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015-2017. I am in the process of launching the new plans in every region, with eight plans launched to date and a ninth plan, for the south east, scheduled to be launched by the end of this month. Shaped from the bottom up by regional stakeholders, and overseen by my Department, the new regional enterprise plans to 2020 complement national level policies and programmes emanating from the top down and there is strong alignment with Ireland’s national enterprise policy, Enterprise 2025 Renewed, and the forthcoming future jobs Ireland initiative.

The principle behind the regional enterprise plans is collaboration between regional stakeholders on initiatives that can help to realise the region's enterprise development potential. These stakeholders include local authorities, the LEOs, the enterprise agencies, the regional skills forum, tourism bodies, private sector enterprise champions, the higher education institutes and others. These new plans, therefore, have a strong relevance for rural Ireland, with actions focused on areas such as skills development, tourism, the food sector, agritech, the marine and maritime, regional enterprise co-working and remote working spaces, talent retention and place-making. I hope that successful initiatives being driven through these plans can be shared as best practice in all regions in rural Ireland.

I welcome the Minister's reply and her recent visit to Drogheda. The problem in County Louth is that the county is in the IDA Ireland north-east region but the land available for development in the region is one field outside of the town boundary and thus in the Meath IDA Ireland mid-east region. Will the Minister address this issue and will she arrange for IDA Ireland executives in Louth and Meath to market this site jointly to ensure that we have people working in the town? Every day, 7,000 people leave Drogheda for work outside of the town. These people would love to work in Drogheda. There is land available in the north-east region but because it forms part of the Meath IDA Ireland portfolio, we do not know who is marketing it. I ask the Minister to address the issue.

I acknowledge that the Deputy was at the launch of the north-east regional enterprise plan in Cootehill. I take his point about the regions. I want to encourage collaboration between the regions and IDA Ireland, which as the Deputy will be aware, operates on a national basis. I accept that we need to address the issue of people from the north east having to travel to Dublin for jobs.

That is recognised in one of the objectives of the north-east regional enterprise plan, which states: "Leverage the full extent of talent residing in the North-East to drive new enterprise investment and growth." There needs to be an audit of the skill set and we want to sell the fact that these people are available in the region for any potential investors that may be interested. These regional enterprise plans make a difference. I attended a number of events in Dundalk, where there is also much happening.

I welcome the Minister's commitment to the region. Without doubt, it was a first-class launch and it is an excellent plan. My question was whether we could arrange, through the Minister's good offices and the IDA, to discuss the Drogheda site, which is in the Border region but in the mid-east administrative region. It is important to address that.

Yes, I will do that. The site to which the Deputy refers is in the mid-east plans, which I also launched. In places such as Naas, the creation of co-working spaces is being considered in order that people can work, for example, a couple of days from home and a couple of days in Dublin. This is the sort of action that we want to facilitate, as can be seen in the future jobs initiative. We want more people to have a better work-life balance, which may involve working from home or working from a centre close to them and then travelling to Dublin for a day or two per week, or whatever they need to do. I will ask the IDA to examine the site the Deputy raised.

IDA Ireland

Ceisteanna (8)

Peter Burke


8. Deputy Peter Burke asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her views on the performance of the IDA in terms of attracting investment and creating jobs in the regions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11163/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (7 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Business)

What are the Minister's views on the performance of the IDA in respect of attracting investment and creating jobs in the regions, and will she make a statement on the matter?

As Minister, regional development is one of my top priorities. I am focused on sustaining existing employment in the regions while also working to grow significantly both job creation and investment in every county in the country.

The recent annual results of IDA Ireland have shown that we are making significant progress in increasing jobs supported by foreign direct investment, FDI, in the regions. In 2018, for example, 56% of all net new jobs created by the agency were in locations outside Dublin. Similarly, every region in Ireland posted net gains in jobs last year. More than 132,000 people are employed across 681 firms in IDA Ireland client companies outside the capital, with 58% of all IDA Ireland-supported employment outside of Dublin. This represents the highest number of people employed in the regions by IDA Ireland clients in the agency’s history, with 2018 seeing more IDA Ireland jobs added in the regions than at any time in the past 17 years.

IDA Ireland works daily to promote regional cities and towns to potential investors. Since the beginning of IDA Ireland’s Winning strategy in 2015, 407 investments have been secured for the regions, while almost 27,000 net jobs have been added in locations outside Dublin. To put that in context, an average of 102 investments annually have been won for locations beyond Dublin, compared with an annual average of 69 under the previous strategy. This is a testament to the focus that IDA Ireland has placed on regional investment and the whole-of-government action to enhance our regional offering.

It is important to emphasise that FDI forms only one part of investment in regional locations. Indigenous enterprise is responsible for a significant portion of employment growth, especially outside Dublin. Companies supported by Enterprise Ireland, EI, created more than 9,000 net new jobs last year, with every region benefiting from these increases in employment. There are now more than 215,000 people employed in EI-supported companies, and 64% of these jobs are located outside of Dublin.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The local enterprise offices, LEOs, have also performed well, with 3,656 net new jobs created in 2018. This brings the total number of people employed in LEO-supported companies to 36,666, with 83.7% of these jobs located outside Dublin.

I remain optimistic about the job creation potential of Irish companies across the regions. To date, I have launched eight of nine regional enterprise plans that my Department has spearheaded with regional stakeholders. The final plan for the south east will be launched in March. These plans will play an important role in encouraging regional investment and job creation throughout the regions. I emphasise that creating jobs in the regions will remain a key objective of IDA Ireland, EI, the LEOs and my Department. We are collectively focused on delivering the fairest possible spread of investment throughout the country. The energy and resources we have invested in regional growth is producing results, as the evidence illustrates. We will continue to do our utmost to encourage further such job growth in all parts of Ireland in the time ahead.

I welcome the Minister's detailed response. The year 2019 is the 70th anniversary of the creation of IDA Ireland and it is important that a Minister from regional Ireland controls this economic portfolio. It is no small feat that job growth of 66% has been obtained outside of Dublin and the Minister has had a considerable part to play in that regard by driving regional Ireland through initiatives such as the regional enterprise development fund, which has provided significant funding to encourage people to get on the road and ensure that investment in the area continues.

I am from a large regional town, Mullingar, where there is a 70-acre, fully serviced IDA Ireland park. It is one important area in which we seek investment, although I acknowledge that the council, in conjunction with IDA Ireland, is applying for planning permission for an advance factory unit. Any movement in that regard would be helpful to shorten lead times for investors in the locality.

I know about the IDA Ireland park in Mullingar and I agree that it is a fine site. I assure the Deputy that IDA Ireland will continue to market all of its sites to potential investors.

On regional investment and growth, I launched the regional enterprise plan for the midlands in Mountmellick on 6 February, which will build on the recent strong performance of job creation in the region. At the end of 2018, more than 3,400 people were employed in IDA Ireland-supported companies in the county, which was 53% more than in 2011. Recent job announcements include 200 jobs at Neueda Technologies in County Westmeath, as well as 100 jobs at Red Seal Cups and 200 jobs at Avery Dennison, both of which are in County Longford. The Deputy will be familiar with the fact that Center Parcs, for which I launched the recruitment process last year, will open in the coming months. That will create more than 1,000 jobs in the midlands, which will be a game-changer for the tourism industry in that county.

I welcome the important initiatives that are ongoing in the regions, such as Center Parcs that the Minister mentioned and other important investors who have entered the locality. I am hopeful that, in a post-Brexit era, the regions will be competitive as they will offer a viable option for investors to locate. Given that with Project Ireland 2040 we want the regions to grow twice as fast as Dublin, it is important that we continue that trajectory. I hope that IDA Ireland will put sustained pressure on the midlands to ensure that we continue attracting investment. It is important for all sectors, public transport and quality of life, and the regions have much to offer people. I am grateful for every effort that the Minister is making and for her ongoing support for Mullingar.

I acknowledge that the Deputy works hard to attract and promote investment in his county and region. It is important that we put forward the positives and tell the good story. Success brings success and we want to see more investment in the regions, which is a top priority for me. I do not want it to be a case of regions versus Dublin or Dublin versus the rest of the country because that is not good for the country. Rather, both should work together because strong regional support will lead to strong cities.

I was delighted to open officially Revive Active's new manufacturing facility with the Deputy in Mullingar a few weeks ago. The facility will create more than ten new jobs locally, which is good to see. More than 3,500 people are employed in EI companies in County Westmeath, which is up from just over 2,000 in 2011. Good things, therefore, are happening in the county and I want to continue to work with the Deputy to ensure that we attract investment into the regions.

B’fhéidir nach bhfuil cead agam ach ba mhaith liom fáilte a chur roimh Scoil Loreto as Baile na nGallóglach, Milford i gContae Dhún na nGall agus tá súil agam go mbainfidh sibh sult as bhur dturas anseo go dtí Dáil Éireann.

Before I call Deputy Deering, I call Deputy Clare Daly, whom I almost overlooked. How could I have done that?

Employment Rights

Ceisteanna (9)

Clare Daly


9. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps she has taken to recognise and ensure the rights of seasonal migrant workers through employment legislation. [11077/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (12 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Business)

My favourite Leas-Cheann Comhairle overlooked me. Shocking.

This question relates to the gap in legislative protection for seasonal migrant workers. I am aware that this is not solely the responsibility of the Minister. There is also a role for the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. We are talking about incredibly vulnerable workers on short-term contracts who come into the country. I am aware from the replies to previous questions that some of the recruitment agencies operating outside the State are exempt from regulations. What are our intentions in that regard?

I thank the Deputy for observing the time limit.

As Deputy Clare Daly pointed out, employment rights are a matter for my colleague the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty. Ireland has a very thorough employment rights framework. All migrant workers in the State, including those who are here on a temporary basis, are afforded, under employment rights legislation, the same employment rights as Irish citizens. Migrant workers from the European Union and the European Economic Area, EEA, do not require an employment permit to work in Ireland. My Department has policy responsibility for the Employment Permits Acts and administers the granting of employment permits to non-EEA nationals to work in the State. Under the Employment Permits Acts, additional protections for non-EEA workers include minimum annual remuneration levels. The original employment permit is issued to the employee. Information on employment rights is on the reverse of the employment permit.

There is no seasonal employment permit for non-EEA workers. The review which was published in September last year set out seven overarching guiding principles that provided a clear framework for the State's employment permit system. Specifically, it provides for a system with the flexibilities required to ensure it will remain supportive of the labour market at all stages of the economic cycle. The review recommended the introduction of a seasonal employment permit. My Department is assessing the options for introducing a permit, guided by best international practice. If introduced and in line with current practice, seasonal non-EEA workers will be covered by employment rights legislation in the same way as other workers. The Workplace Relations Commission's investigative and enforcement powers also apply and work to discourage abuses of the employment permits system. I expect to do something temporary for now.

I believe this is a time bomb. In the next period there will be explosive revelations about the mistreatment of seasonal migrant workers as a consequence of the lack of regulation. These workers are often very vulnerable. The issues that have been highlighted include the use of unregulated agencies; improper and possibly unlawful charges and levies being applied to the workers concerned by employers or agencies acting outside the jurisdiction; workers being enticed from their families and homes based on earnings and contracts, expectations which are not fulfilled when they arrive here; apparent collusion between agencies such as banks, medical providers, accommodation providers and even State services in the provision of national insurance numbers and the inoperability of the joint labour committees for agricultural workers in any meaningful way. These are critically serious issues where there is a legislative gap and need to be attended to. I am concerned about the Minister's belief everything is okay. Everything is not okay and I am sure many Members of this House know what happened in the jurisdiction across the water where there was a significant tragedy before action was taken. The situation is not dissimilar here.

I was about to compliment the Deputy on observing the time limit, but I will not.

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle has to give her leeway after missing out on her.

Traditionally, seasonal workers have mainly been involved in labour intensive industries such as horticulture, the hospitality sector and tourism. Statistics show that they have come from EU member states and do not require a permit. As rightly pointed out, there is an issue with non-EEA workers. There is a demand for seasonal workers, as the Deputy rightly pointed out and the Department has seen first-hand. That is why we are putting interim measures in place to see what we can do within existing regulations. In the longer term we will need new employment permits legislation, a matter with which the Department will deal. We will try to deal with the issue under existing legislation.

The problem is that there is a regular flow of migrant workers, specifically in the agri-food sector, who are tied into accommodation agreements which they have no choice but to enter into. They then find themselves stuck in bad accommodation, with money being deducted from their wages and no way to question the legality of these arrangements. There are serious issues related to the enforcement of regulations, as the Minister indicated to me previously. While agencies registered in Ireland are not permitted to charge employees a recruitment fee, those operating outside the State can and do. I remind the Minister of State that it took a significant tragedy in the United Kingdom when 21 migrant workers died in Morecambe Bay before the law was changed. We need to look urgently at these issues. We are dealing with people who in many instances come from deprived backgrounds, with a low standard of education and poor English language skills. The matter needs urgent attention.

With regard to the employment permits my Departments issues for non-EEA nationals who work in the State, they have protection under the Employment Permits Act under which they are entitled to minimum annual remuneration levels. Information on employment rights is on the reverse side of all permits issued to employees. I acknowledge the issue the Deputy has rightly raised and the example in the United Kingdom. We are working to have these rights for the seasonal workers who come here, particularly from non-EEA countries, and trying to deal with the issue under current legislation. In the longer term we will ensure we will have full legislation in place, given the high demand for seasonal workers.

Regional Action Plan for Jobs

Ceisteanna (10)

Pat Deering


10. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the status of the regional enterprise plans; her views on the way in which this will benefit County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [11204/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Business)

I ask the Minister the status of the regional enterprise action plans and how they could benefit County Carlow especially which is part of the south-east region and has been lagging behind in the last period.

Both the Minister and I have met the Deputy on many occasions. In April 2018 the Department asked the regional action plan for jobs implementation committees to start a process to refresh and refocus all regional plans to ensure their relevance and impact up to 2020 in order that we could continue to deliver jobs across the country in every region and be robust in addressing the challenges we faced, including trade wars and Brexit. The outcome of the refresh process is nine new regional enterprise plans to 2020 which have been built on the very strong progress made in employment creation under the regional Action Plan for Jobs 2015 to 2017. We are launching the new plans, with eight already launched.

County Carlow is part of the south-east region which has been included in the regional enterprise plan to 2020 for the south east which will be launched in March. The regional enterprise plan for the south east will be focused on a number of strategic objectives, each of which will involve a focus on County Carlow as part of the south-east region. Objectives for the south east will include putting a focus on enhancing the existing environment for enterprise activity and company growth and building regional economic resilience; effective marketing of the region as a place of choice for talent and investment; developing skills and talent in the region; and regional place-making. The strategic objectives and actions included in the south-east plan will be set out, with the core objectives of the enterprise agencies and the local enterprise offices in County Carlow and the wider region. In this way, the plan will add value and support the work of the agencies on the ground in the south east through a collaborative approach.

It is encouraging that the unemployment rate in the south-east region which includes county Carlow, with counties Kilkenny, Wexford and Waterford, reduced from 11.7% in quarter one of 2015 to 7.7% in quarter four of 2018.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

The focus for County Carlow and the south east in the period to 2020 under the new regional enterprise plan will be to maintain an emphasis on employment growth, aiming to outperform the rate of growth achieved since 2015 to date, and to ensure sustainable, quality jobs will be created and maintained the region. The aim will also be to reduce the regional unemployment rate to within 1% of the State average by 2020.

It is important to note that the Government has put several funding streams in place to support regional development, including my Department's regional enterprise development fund; the rural and urban regeneration and development funds under Project Ireland 2040; and the town and village renewal scheme.

Under the €60 million competitive regional enterprise development fund, REDF, the south-east region has secured total funding of over €10 million to date in the two completed calls. One of the projects is situated in County Carlow - the Insurtech Network Centre DAC - which aims to facilitate the development of a strong insurance and insurtech ecosystem in the south east and involves an investment of just over €1.4 million under the REDF. Guided by the forthcoming new regional enterprise plan to 2020 for the south east, the region and County Carlow are well positioned to build on this success and continue to see the benefits and results of collaborative and innovative initiatives that can make a significant impact on enterprise development in the region.

I thank the Minister of State for his comprehensive reply. I am delighted to hear about the south east plan to be launched in March. From time to time Carlow feels that because it is the northerly part of the south east, it is left out of the south east equation. I have highlighted this before to the Minister, Deputy Humphreys, and the Minister of State, Deputy Breen. It is ideally located, a little over an hour from Dublin, and we feel disappointed that there is not more progress in respect of jobs. I acknowledge that a lot of progress has been made in recent years. Employment has increased by 50% since 2012, which is a phenomenal figure, but we do feel there is more progress to be made in that regard.

Will the Minister of State give me more information on an issue that arose before, the advance facility that was due to be constructed in the Carlow area in the past year but has dragged on? It has been eagerly awaited.

I know Deputy Deering has a great interest in enterprise. Carlow is a great county. I have been there on several occasions with Deputy Deering.

We take a collaborative approach with the agencies and with local government, which is very important. Carlow is very lucky to have an information age technology college and the innovation centre attached to it, which plays a very important role in job creation. There have been some recent important job announcements in Carlow, from the IDA and indigenous enterprise. Recently, some rural enterprise development funding, €1.4 million, went to an Insurtech Network Centre in Carlow. We have also seen some other regional funding go to Borris railway viaduct and to Altamont House and Gardens. The local enterprise offices, LEOs, working hand in hand with local authorities and others, have had some success. Indigenous jobs are very important.

We receive many questions from Members asking why there are not more site visits or foreign direct investment in the county. SMEs account for almost 98% of the enterprises in the country and employ almost 70% of the workforce throughout regional Ireland. LEOs play a very important role, Enterprise Ireland plays an important role. This collaborative approach by all the agencies, including the third level institute in Carlow, will ensure that the regional plan that the Minister will launch will be successful and will build on the number of jobs we said we would create under the Action Plan for Jobs, that is, 145,000 jobs by 2020. We have already exceeded that and we will do a lot more. As one party on the other side of the House said once, "a lot done, more to do".

I concur with the Minister of State's final statement, "a lot done, more to do". Carlow is ideally located and has the facilities, the road infrastructure and an outstanding educational facility in the Institute of Technology Carlow. Yesterday, I had the honour of attending the local enterprise awards and the number of new businesses coming on stream is phenomenal. They all play a huge part in their areas. The final piece of the jigsaw would be for the advance facility that has been promised to be delivered in this coming year. It has dragged on for a while. I would always be a glass half full person. A lot of work has been done in the area. The figures have increased substantially in recent times. If this advance facility could be completed in this calendar year, it would be of great benefit.

That advance unit is very important because there has to be a facility for a company that is ready to move in. Carlow is very well located geographically. It is near Dublin and it has been a recipient of inward investment. Only recently the IDA announced 170 jobs in MSD there, Enterprise Ireland announced a Crowley Carbon investment in Carlow-Kilkenny, and Netwatch, an indigenous company, has announced 220 jobs in Carlow. The Minister and I have been working hard to ensure the advance facility is progressed further and is in place if Enterprise Ireland or the IDA has an employer ready to move into that area. The IDA is very much focused on having those advance facilities to ensure we can create jobs and to ensure that the unemployment figures will reduce in Carlow, as they have gone from a high of 11.7% in 2015 to 7.7% now. A stream of funding will continue under the rural regeneration project and the town and village renewal scheme under the regional enterprise development fund.

Brexit Supports

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Ceisteanna (11)

Michael Moynihan


11. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the discussions she has had with her EU counterparts regarding the possible 55,000 job losses Ireland will face if there is a hard Brexit; and the supports and advice that have been provided. [9386/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (4 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Business)

What discussions has the Minister had with her EU counterparts in light of Brexit and the indication that 55,000 jobs could be in jeopardy? What support and advice have been coming from our EU counterparts in different countries on the job losses that could occur, particularly in the agrifood industry?

I understand that the ESRI and Department of Finance are completing a more comprehensive assessment of the impact of Brexit on Ireland and these results are expected to be published later in March. I suspect that the jobs figure to which the Deputy refers is based on preliminary analysis undertaken by the ESRI and the Department of Finance which takes account of recently published UK impact assessments. However, I should point out that the analysis does not suggest that 55,000 jobs will be lost, but rather that employment growth will be slower than otherwise would be the case in the absence of Brexit. Nevertheless, and reflecting our still growing economy, total employment is expected to increase by around 178,000 by 2023.

In February 2018, my Department published the Copenhagen Economics report which examined the strategic implications arising for Ireland from changing EU-UK trading relations. While all scenarios examined produce a result that is less favourable than a non-Brexit scenario, the Irish economy is still expected to record strong and positive growth out to 2030. This report also highlighted a range of employment challenges, with employment shifts occurring from vulnerable agricultural and traditional manufacturing sectors towards a range of services sectors likely to experience job growth. The analysis also highlighted the disproportionate impact of Brexit on the regions.

This analysis was conducted on the basis of no policy change, that is, if no mitigation measures were taken by Government or by firms. In reality, of course, extensive work to prepare for the UK’s exit, including for a hard Brexit scenario, has been undertaken in my Department, across Government and throughout the enterprise sector. Over the course of the last three budgets I have introduced through the enterprise agencies an extensive suite of enterprise supports to assist firms to meet the challenges presented by Brexit. They range from liquidity support through short-term and long-term loans, to restructuring aid for businesses in severe operating difficulties. The majority of enterprise supports are open to all companies, including SMEs, and not just those that are clients of the enterprise agencies.

The ESRI and the Department of Finance are compiling a report which is going to be issued later in the month of March. Today is 7 March. We are within three weeks of Brexit. It is two and a half years since the vote was taken in the UK on Brexit. We are to accept that the Department of Finance and the ESRI are going to issue a report in March 2019. That frightens us because we have known the implications and challenges of Brexit. The Minister is quite right in what she has said about the regions because there are major challenges, not just in the agrifood industry but in the many companies that export to the UK. The management of many of the companies whom I talk to daily would say that the Government, the ESRI and the Department of Finance do not seem to be up to speed with it or treating it with any urgency. I have to challenge the Minister. Does she accept that March 2019 is not the appropriate time for the ESRI and Department of Finance report to be coming out and that it should have been done months, if not a year, ago?

Numerous reports have been compiled, but we have been acting on the information contained in the Copenhagen report which was compiled last year. The Deputy is right when he refers to exposed sectors that are vulnerable to Brexit. We have raised this issue with the Commissioner. We are working with businesses to overcome the difficulties of this possible shock. When I met Commissioner Vestager in January, the focus of our meeting centred on the severe challenges Irish businesses, especially SMEs, would face when the United Kingdom left the European Union. The Commissioner emphasised that the Commission stood ready to act urgently to mitigate the impact of Brexit on Irish firms. We recently received state aid approval for Carbery Food Ingredients Limited to help the company to finance a €65 million diversification project to mitigate the impact of Brexit. I know that the Deputy is very familiar with this good company which is going through a significant transformation as it moves away from the UK market. It is changing much of its produce from cheddar cheese to mozzarella as it targets the Asian market. The test case demonstrates what we want to do for the food sector. The dairy industry which has been working extremely closely with the Government has announced investment of between €700 million and €800 million.

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