Questions Nos. 1 to 11, inclusive, answered orally.

Trade Agreements

Ceisteanna (12)

Michael Moynihan

Ceist:

12. Deputy Michael Moynihan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she has spoken to her German counterpart in relation to the Mercosur agreement. [30008/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

As the Deputy will be aware, on 28 June, the EU concluded negotiations for an Association Agreement with Mercosur after nearly 20 years and 40 rounds of talks which would mark the EU’s largest trade deal to date.

The Agreement will see a significant reduction, or elimination, of tariffs and barriers to trade which will allow an increased flow of trade and investment between Ireland, the EU and the Mercosur region, potentially increasing the demand for Irish products and the jobs that supports.

As with every Free Trade Agreement, Ireland had "defensive" as well as "offensive" interests. The Agreement with Mercosur presents sectoral opportunities for Ireland across a wide range of sectors.  On the other hand, I was always keenly aware of the potential impact that this Agreement could present to the EU’s and Ireland’s beef sector. In that regard, Ireland, along with a number of other Member States, asserted early on in the negotiations that these agricultural sensitivities - and beef in particular - must be fully considered in the negotiations.  Ireland has also continually highlighted the cumulative impact of agricultural market access in relation to all EU trade agreements.

Our concerns have been raised at all political levels, including by myself and my officials raising the issues with counterparts, both at Trade Council of Ministers, and bilaterally with the EU Commission, and with my Member State counterparts. For example, in my discussions with fellow Trade Ministers, including from Germany, at the EU Council just last Tuesday, I reminded colleagues that while the Mercosur Agreement offers clear geopolitical and economic opportunities the beef tariff rate quota presents difficulties for Ireland given the current economic viability challenges faced by our primary producers.

I had previously written to the EU Trade Commissioner in May this year on beef – an offensive demand from the Mercosur side – identifying the very tight parameters that should obtain in terms of volume, the phasing-in periods, quota monitoring, quota composition, robust checks at point of import regarding "SPS" and food safety issues.  Additionally, An Taoiseach also wrote to the Commission in June to highlight our particular sensitivities in these negotiations, together with the leaders of France, Poland and Belgium.

We have also engaged on these issues throughout the negotiating period through the Trade Policy Committee in Brussels, as well as joining with other Member States in formally writing to the Commission outlining our specific concerns.

I might add that as recently as July this year I held a bilateral meeting with The State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy, Ms. Claudia Dorr-Voss, where once again I outlined Ireland’s concerns regarding the potential impact of the Mercosur Agreement on Ireland’s beef sector.

Enterprise Support Schemes

Ceisteanna (13)

Imelda Munster

Ceist:

13. Deputy Imelda Munster asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the details of consultation her Department or agencies under the remit of her Department may have had or research they may have undertaken on the matter of impediments to women working in business or becoming entrepreneurs; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41105/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I have a longstanding focus on seeing an increase in the numbers of women in business and women becoming entrepreneurs. As recognised in Future Jobs, increasing female participation is a vital way to grow the diversity and strength of our indigenous business sector.

My Department, and the Government as a whole, continue to monitor and assess the number of women in business. While I welcome Ireland’s recent improvement to 5th from 8th in Europe for the rate of female entrepreneurship in the 2018 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) Report, there is more we can achieve. My Department with Enterprise Ireland and the Local Enterprise Offices (LEOs) have introduced a number of initiatives to increase female participation in business, such as EI's female-only Competitive Start Up Fund and female specific training and mentoring run by the LEOs.  Enterprise Ireland has also developed a series of female accelerator programmes in partnership with knowledge providers such as Going for Growth and the National Digital Research Centres (NDRC) Female Founders Programme.

This spotlight on female entrepreneurship resulted in a doubling in the proportion of EI female-led high-potential startups from 11% in 2011 to 28% in 2017.

I have asked EI to bring forward a new Female Entrepreneurship Strategy by the end of this year. This new strategy will have a specific focus on addressing barriers to women in business including attitudes to risk, access to finance, networking opportunities and visible role models.

The new strategy will include initiatives to support women progressing to senior levels in business and to improve the broader entrepreneurship policy environment for women. The strategy will also target an increase in the numbers of ambitious female led companies that scale in international markets and increasing the numbers of female founded high potential start-ups.

Regional Action Plan for Jobs

Ceisteanna (14)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

14. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the steps Enterprise Ireland and the IDA are taking to drive job creation in County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40774/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I have made regional enterprise development one of my key priorities as Minister. That is why I led the development of the Regional Enterprise Plans, which are enterprise focused strategies that are the result of a refresh and refocus of the Regional Action Plans for Jobs to ensure their relevance and impact out to 2020.  The refreshed North-West Regional Enterprise Plan launched on the 25th February 2019.

In 2018, companies supported by Enterprise Ireland in Sligo employed 1,917 people, a 7% increase on the 2017 employment figure. Enterprise Ireland is actively working with companies with global ambition in Sligo to drive competitiveness, innovation and market diversification.  In 2018 there were record growth levels in employment in every region which saw 61% of employment growth occurring outside of Dublin, bringing total employment in Enterprise Ireland-supported companies in the regions to 64%, another record high.

Enterprise Ireland also works with the Institutes of Technology to support entrepreneurship in the regions. A total of 7 new companies from Sligo IT recently participated in the Enterprise Ireland New Frontiers Programme and it is expected that these will progress to either Enterprise Ireland or the Local Enterprise Offices for further support and development.

In 2018, the Local Enterprise Office (LEO) in Sligo had 236 clients which supported 920 jobs in the county. 

IDA Ireland markets County Sligo as part of the North-West region which includes Leitrim and Donegal. I am pleased that all three counties have seen net job gains with FDI employment in the North-West region increasing by 3% between 2017 and 2018.   There are a total of 2,251 people employed across 23 IDA clients companies in Sligo. 

The IDA continues to work hard to highlight the benefits of expanding or locating in Sligo. As part of the pilot phase of its Regional Property Programme in 2016, the IDA constructed an Advanced Technology Building in Sligo and successfully secured Abbott Ireland as a tenant.

Through my Department's Regional Enterprise Development Fund, Sligo County Enterprise Fund were approved for €1.9m for a development in Strandhill.  The project focuses on the development of the Strand Campus to operate as a leading location for entrepreneurs in digital gaming and associated tech sectors, providing holistic support for start-up, innovation and growth.

Work Permits Applications Data

Ceisteanna (15)

Eamon Scanlon

Ceist:

15. Deputy Eamon Scanlon asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to streamline the application process for work permits; the actions being taken to reduce the processing time; the number of applications received to date in 2019; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40821/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

It is an indicator of our economic and job creation success that the Employment Permits Section of my Department is experiencing  high levels of demand for employment permits. This has led to some delays in processing applications. 

In order to reduce processing times, the Employment Permits section has introduced a number of operational changes, streamlined processes and implemented ICT solutions.  Additional staffing resources have also been assigned to the section and a fast track training programme has been devised. 

An independent Business Process Review (BPR) is currently being carried out to identify further efficiencies that can be implemented in the short term and as a first step in the development of a new IT processing system during 2020 which will take advantage of all the new technologies available, including full digitisation.  The Review, which included engagement from key stakeholders, is close to completion with the report expected before the end of the year. 

I will also be amending the Employment Permits Act in 2020 to incorporate recommendations of the review of economic migration policy. this will ensure that our system is agile and fit to meet the changing economic circumstances. 

At end September 2019, 13,835 applications have been received, a 10% increase on the same time last year.  At the same time there has been a 46% increase in the amount of applications processed (13,715) compared to the same period last year.  In July 2019, Employment Permits Section processed more employment permit applications (1,828) than during any month in the past 11 years.  Quarter 3 of 2019 was the busiest Quarter in the last 11 years with 5,072 permit applications being processed so the changes currently being implemented within Employment Permits are resulting in higher outputs and reduced processing times. 

Employment Permits Section is working to further reduce the current waiting times of:

- 3 weeks for Trusted Partners which account for 73% of applications this year (down from a peak of 7 weeks).  Trusted Partners are regular users of the service.

- 12 weeks for standard applications which account for 27% of applications this year (down from a peak of 16 weeks).

Applicants are advised to apply for the employment permit at least 12 weeks in advance of the expected start date so that any impact of the current extended processing timelines on recruitment timeframes is minimised.

Foreign Direct Investment

Ceisteanna (16)

Tony McLoughlin

Ceist:

16. Deputy Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the progress being made under the IDA regional property programme in terms of developing landing space to attract FDI to County Sligo; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40773/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Government is committed to supporting job creation and investment in the regions, including in County Sligo and the North-West as a whole. We are determined to ensure that employment and investment are distributed as evenly as possible across the country and we have set ambitious targets in pursuit of that goal.

A "Landing Space" in Sligo was opened in November 2018 as a partnership between IDA Ireland, IT Sligo and Sligo County Council. It provides open plan, turnkey office space in Sligo City for companies who wish to quickly and effectively establish operations in the North-West region. The addition of this fast landing space has boosted Sligo's attractiveness to multinational companies and is a selling point for the area from a wider enterprise perspective.

County Sligo has also benefited from the IDA's Regional Property Programme (RPP), with the construction of an Advanced Technology Building there in 2017. The IDA successfully leased this facility to Abbott, leading to the creation of valuable new jobs for the area. Abbott's presence in Sligo also serves as another endorsement of the County's potential and should help to attract further foreign direct investment to the North West.

My Department and the IDA are determined to build on this success. That is why the second phase of the RPP includes plans for further facilities in Sligo. The IDA has already obtained planning permission for an Advanced Office Building and its construction is scheduled to begin at the end of this year. In addition, the Agency will construct an Advanced Technology Building in Sligo with construction expected to start at the beginning of 2020. Once the first and second phases of the RPP are completed, a total of three buildings will have been constructed in Sligo by the IDA. I am confident that these will stimulate further investment and job creation for the County and the wider North-West region.

There are other grounds for optimism that Sligo will continue to experience FDI-driven job growth, not least the number of recent job announcements there. For example, Allstate Sales Group chose Sligo as their first location outside of the US with plans to create 100 new jobs. GW Plastics has announced plans to expand its existing operations at Finisklin, which will create 200 new positions. These investments are a great vote of confidence in Sligo and they build on our commitment under the North-West Regional Enterprise Plan to boost investment and job creation for the region.

While progress has been made in helping to generate new economic opportunities in Sligo, the Government remains determined to achieve more. Our work will therefore continue, across Government, to further unlock the economic potential of the County.

Brexit Supports

Ceisteanna (17)

Jan O'Sullivan

Ceist:

17. Deputy Jan O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the amount remaining in existing funds allocated by her Department to various schemes to assist companies to prepare for Brexit; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40871/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

My Department and its agencies have worked to put in place an extensive suite of supports, schemes and advice to ensure that businesses can prepare for the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

Many of these supports have been designed to scale after an initial investment of funds, so that they can continue to provide support to any number of Irish businesses without the need for increased funding. These include facilities like Enterprise Ireland’s Brexit Scorecard, and the Customs Insight course, which offers businesses dealing with customs for the first time a resource for the key customs concepts, documentation and processes they will need to operate in a post-Brexit environment.

Direct supports to businesses, including EI supports like the Be Prepared Grant, as well as those available through the Local Enterprise Offices and InterTradeIreland, are demand-driven and available funding can be adjusted to ensure ongoing coverage.in the first 6 months of 2019, some 43% of the most exposed EI clients received grant aid.

Other supports and schemes available are limited by the availability of funding. Of the €300m fund made available for the Brexit Loan Scheme, €44.1 million in loans have been sanctioned as at 04 October 2019 to help businesses to mitigate their Brexit exposure. However, it should be noted that there is a large pipeline of businesses, with 833 applications to the SBCI, who have not yet progressed to the bank - loans sanctioned amount to just under a third of the net total of eligibility approvals.  This is also the case for the €300 million Future Growth Loan Scheme, which has had 1445 applications sanctioned as at 04 October 2019 - but more than 75% approved.

With the 31 October fast approaching, I encourage businesses to consider the range of supports available to them and to take advantage of those they feel are appropriate.

Flexible Work Practices

Ceisteanna (18)

Joe Carey

Ceist:

18. Deputy Joe Carey asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if she will bring forward proposals to encourage remote working among businesses; her views on the way in which remote working can support regional development nationally and in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40962/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

I, and my Department, understand the importance of remote and flexible working and the potential of new digital technologies to support well-paid employment in all parts of the country. As the nature of work and society changes, the way we organise work is also changing. A labour market which offers flexible working solutions can result in tangible benefits for employers, employees and wider society.

With cities becoming increasingly crowded leading to scarce accommodation and increased commutes, remote work is an intervention with the potential to lessen accommodation pressures and support the transition to a greener economy.  Remote work also has the potential to stimulate regional growth and to widen the talent pool in Ireland.

Harnessing this potential is a key focus of Pillar 4 of the Government's Future Jobs Ireland initiative.  This Pillar is focussed on increasing participation in the labour force and more equitable, balanced and sustainable development of Ireland’s workforce.  As part of this, my Department is conducting research on remote working to understand the prevalence and types of remote working arrangements within the Irish workforce and the attitudes towards such arrangements.

The research will also be informed by the inputs from a Remote Working Consultation Forum that I hosted in Cavan Digital Hub in July and which was attended by key stakeholders.

During February and March this year, I launched nine new Regional Enterprise Plans to 2020, including the new Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid-West region, which covers Clare, Limerick and Tipperary.

The Regional Enterprise Plan for the Mid-West, which includes Co. Clare has as one of its Strategic Objectives to create and roll-out a regionally co-ordinated co-working Smart e-Hub network, bringing talent and space together. The aim is to build on the region’s value proposition as a location of choice to live and work and is led by the local authorities in Clare, Limerick and Tipperary, working in partnership with community groups such as the IFA, ICA, Community Enterprise Centres, LEADER etc and Education and Training Boards. 

The project complements work already undertaken by local authorities and existing hubs. One of these new projects is Digiclare, a new initiative of Clare County Council as part of its Rural Development Strategy to support rural communities by providing flexible, affordable and local office facilities and high-speed broadband connectivity in rural locations in County Clare. In March 2018, the first three digital hubs in Kilrush, Feakle and Miltown Malbay were opened. Over the next 12 months, a digital hub will be developed in Ennis, including a hot desk facility and incubation units. A multi-service centre incorporating a digital hub and other social/community services is planned for development in Ennistymon.

Hubs and remote/co-working space in general will play an integral role in revitalising towns and villages in every region of the country.

Regional Action Plan for Jobs

Ceisteanna (19)

James Browne

Ceist:

19. Deputy James Browne asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation her plans to address the issue of unemployment and the need for further investment in the south east; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40776/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

Enterprise development and sustainable job creation in the regions is a key policy priority of this Government. A total of 17,000 more people in the South-East are in employment in Q2 2019 than in Q1 2015 when the Regional Action Plan for Jobs started and unemployment in the South East has reduced from 11.7 percent to 8.1 percent in the same period.

While we have had great success through the Action Plan for Jobs in reducing unemployment, in the context of Brexit and other global challenges, we need to also focus on the creation of quality and sustainable jobs. Future Jobs Ireland is our plan to meet these challenges. Launched last March, it includes ambitious targets and actions to drive this transformation of our economy.

In the South East, there are 15,580 people employed across 76 IDA Ireland client companies in 2018. This is an increase of almost 7% over 2017. The IDA will continue to work to identify opportunities for new investment or expansion in the South-East, promoting the region's strengths including the existing concentrations of financial services, IT and high-value manufacturing activities.

In 2018, there were 25,278 people employed in EI supported companies in the South-East, up 5% from 2017. 'Powering the Regions' is Enterprise Ireland's new regional plan which sets out the focus of its activities in each region, including a specific strategy for the South East. There was a net increase of 461 jobs supported by the five South East LEOs during 2018.

I launched the South-East Regional Plan last March in Waterford, with Strategic Objectives focused on: building enterprise resilience; marketing the region; a regional engagement strategy on key infrastructure priorities; ensuring the South East is a learning region; and tourism growth.

The Government has put several funding streams in place to support regional development, and the South-East has seen a number of successes, including under my Department’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF). Under the REDF to date, the South-East region has secured total funding of over €10 million. In June 2019, I announced a further €45m Call 3 of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund (REDF) and it is my intention that the successful projects will be announced before the end of the year.

Guided by the Regional Enterprise Plan, and with all regional stakeholders working together, the South-East is well positioned to realise its enterprise potential and see better quality, sustainable jobs and investment.

IDA Ireland Jobs Data

Ceisteanna (20)

Pat Deering

Ceist:

20. Deputy Pat Deering asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the number of new jobs created by the IDA in 2018; the percentage of these jobs which were outside Dublin; the efforts being made to increase IDA employment in County Carlow; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40966/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, a central objective of mine has been to create the best possible environment for enterprise, entrepreneurship and innovation. Attracting more foreign direct investment (FDI), and supporting the growth and expansion of overseas firms already located here, is an important part of that. Our country is performing very strongly in terms of FDI and we are looking for that to continue into 2020 and beyond, with a particular focus on increasing the spread of investment across Ireland.

2018 was a record year for FDI and FDI-driven employment in Ireland. Every region experienced FDI employment gains, with over 132,000 people, 58% of total supported jobs, now employed in approximately 700 IDA client companies located outside of Dublin. Some 56% of all net new FDI jobs created last year were outside Dublin, which represents the highest number of people employed by IDA clients outside of Dublin in the history of the Agency.

It should also be noted FDI only forms one part of investment,  indigenous enterprise and the role of enterprise Ireland and the local enterprise offices are also responsible for significant employment growth. 

As for Carlow in particular, it has experienced a year-on-year increase in FDI employment since 2011. In fact, there has been a twofold increase in employment by IDA client companies during that period. Last year alone, the number of IDA supported jobs in the County increased by 31% with 275 net new jobs added.

A key recent FDI development in Carlow was the beginning of the construction of MSD’s second manufacturing facility in the County. The new facility will focus on the production of vaccines and biologics and will create up to 170 new jobs. This expansion reflects Carlow's appeal to overseas investors and bodes well for future investment in the area.

The County will also benefit from the IDA's Regional Property Programme. The IDA has acquired a 12.6 hectare site at Rathnapish, Carlow Town and will shortly submit planning permission for the construction of an Advanced Technology Building there. I am confident that this new facility, once completed, will help attract further investment to the County.

Looking ahead, the IDA will continue to engage with its clients to identify further opportunities for new investment in Carlow and the South-East. The region is very well positioned to attract further FDI and the IDA is actively working with all stakeholders in the region in support of that goal.

Local Enterprise Offices

Ceisteanna (21)

Thomas P. Broughan

Ceist:

21. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if local enterprises offices have seen a decrease in assistance for entrepreneurial activities in the lead-up to Brexit and the potential threats to the economy; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [40863/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The Local Enterprise Offices are the primary providers of supports to assist micro-enterprises within the indigenous sector that are facing challenges arising from Brexit. My Department through the LEOs, has continued to promote the importance of local businesses preparing for Brexit, and has developed a range of supports to help them achieve this. The LEOs are working vigorously to enable companies to consolidate market share within the UK and to become more resilient by broadening their sales to other international markets. I am pleased to say that as part of Budget 2019, the LEOs were provided with an additional capital funding of €5 million in 2019 to enable the LEO network to ramp up its supports, in light of Brexit, to drive improvements, providing companies with mentorship and training programmes to prepare for any kind of Brexit. In particular the LEO network focused on promoting its core programmatic and soft supports for its client companies and individuals requesting Brexit related assistance.

Those core offerings were comprised of:

- The Brexit Mentoring Programme

- The Prepare Your Business for Customs Workshops

- The Online Customs Insights course from Enterprise Ireland

- The LEAN for Micro programme from Enterprise Ireland

- The Technical Assistance for Micro-Exporters (TAME) Grant

LEOs offer Priming Grants to support business start-up costs have seen an increase year on year which shows entrepreneurial activities continue to increase in the country regardless of the uncertainty that Brexit provides. With the direct grant aid and Brexit supports available it puts entrepreneurial activities in a strong position to the lead up of Brexit. 

The Local Enterprise Office is the First Stop Shop for anyone seeking information and support on starting or growing a business in Ireland.  The LEOs were established to offer direct grant aid to microenterprises which have the potential to develop into strong export entities. 

It is also worth noting that there is a strong pipeline of young and emerging entrepreneurial talent in the country right now.  I had the pleasure on 15th September last to present awards at Google's European Headquarters in Dublin to some of our finest young entrepreneurs from all parts of the country whom took part in the Ireland's Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE) competition, which is now in its fifth year.   The programme, which is run by the network of Local Enterprise Offices has gone from strength to strength, attracting over 1,600 applicants in 2019, which is well on a par with previous years. I recommend that you take a look at the IBYE website to gain a clearer picture of how promising the future of entrepreneurship in Ireland looks at this time. 

Clearly, Brexit is as much a challenge to microenterprises as it is to any other sized enterprise.  Nevertheless, I am pleased to say that there has been strong and meaningful engagement throughout 2019 from the microenterprise sector with the LEO network and in particular the LEO Brexit offering.  By way of example, the data in regard to the LEOs Brexit programmes and supports show a marked increase in 2019 relative to 2018 and this with three months of 2019 left to run. 

I am confident therefore that in the days and weeks ahead, the LEO network will continue its robust and meaningful engagement with its many clients and will remain an integral component in this Government’s toolkit to prepare our microenterprise sector to face any challenge that comes its way as a result of Brexit.

Market Access

Ceisteanna (22)

Bernard Durkan

Ceist:

22. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation the extent to which she expects to capitalise on job opportunities arising as a result of regional or global policy changes with particular reference to ensuring that exporters have ready access to alternative markets in the event of displacement for whatever reason; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [41083/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

The long-term response to ensuring exporters have access to alternative markets is for companies across all sectors to become more competitive, more innovative and to diversify their export footprint into more international markets. The agencies under my Department have a wide range of supports available to enable companies to consolidate their existing market share and also to become more resilient by broadening their sales to other international markets.

Enterprise Ireland’s focus is to assist client companies to build on the strength of their current performance by supporting them to start, innovate, be competitive and to diversify their global footprint. In delivering on this, new supports have been introduced, others streamlined, a Global Ambition campaign launched and an intensive programme initiated to support companies to take action and plan ahead so that they have the resilience necessary to navigate the challenges and opportunities posed by any kind of regional or global policy changes.

A key strategic priority of Enterprise Ireland has been to increase the diversification of client companies exports into new markets, with two-thirds of exports to go beyond the UK by 2020. The proportion of exports to the UK has reduced by 10% over the last ten years, reflecting the success Irish companies are having in substantially increasing and broadening their exports to other international markets which has resulted in strong export and employment growth. Exports by EI supported companies have doubled to markets outside the UK since 2008. 

Enterprise Ireland has assisted client companies to increase their exports to a record €23.8 billion in 2018, a growth of 6% compared to 2017’s exporting results.

In 2018, Enterprise Ireland assisted Irish companies to win 1,604 new overseas contracts, to establish 417 new overseas presences and helped 93 companies to export outside the UK for the first time.

My Department continues to promote high level international events including trade missions which support the goal of securing high level market access for Irish companies.

Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement Reports

Ceisteanna (23)

Robert Troy

Ceist:

23. Deputy Robert Troy asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation when she will publish the full Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement report into the collapse of the trial of a person (details supplied). [41112/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Business)

There has been extensive engagement with the Office of the Attorney General on the publication of the Report of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE) prepared under section 955(1)(a) of the Companies Act 2014.

Because of section 956 of the Companies Act 2014 the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation is prohibited from publishing reports prepared pursuant to Section 955 of the Act.

The Companies Act 2014 contains strict confidentiality obligations on information in the possession of the Director.  This is because there is a public interest in ensuring that ongoing and future investigations are not compromised by the disclosure of details of an individual investigation and the investigative process itself.

However, while it is not possible to publish the report itself, an account of the investigative shortcomings identified by Judge Aylmer, in so far as they relate directly to the role of the ODCE, was published on 4 December 2018 on the website of my Department.   The account sets out the factors which led to the investigative shortcomings identified by the Judge, including the need for a broader skills base, a greater range and depth of knowledge and experience of criminal prosecutions within the Office and a greater appreciation of the necessity to employ appropriate procedures and manage risk.

Since the time of the investigation, the Director has implemented multiple reforms within the ODCE, including staffing and procedural reforms that address many of the issues that led to the investigative shortcomings outlined by Judge Aylmer.  Further measures to be taken include the establishment, as announced by Government in November 2017, of the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement as a stand-alone agency, to provide it with greater autonomy in relation to staffing resources and ensure it is better equipped to investigate increasingly complex breaches of company law.