Tuesday, 3 December 2019

Ceisteanna (51)

Richard Boyd Barrett


51. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation if her attention has been drawn to proposals to establish a new enterprise at a location (details supplied); and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50142/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (9 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Business)

My question relates to the former Stena terminal building in Dún Laoghaire Harbour and the moves by the council to develop some sort of new enterprise there. The problem is that elected representatives - councillors and I - and the wider public have no clue as to how the expressions of interest process was set up, how the council decided to pick a preferred bidder and what criteria were used in doing so given that it excluded some and included others. In addition, there was no public consultation as to how all this would contribute to enhancing Dún Laoghaire Harbour as a public amenity. I hope the Minister will be able to enlighten us as to what the hell is going on in Dún Laoghaire Harbour because the people of Dún Laoghaire do not know.

I may not be able to do that and I will tell Deputy the reason. I am aware of the proposal to which he referred. I understand the process is being led by Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council. I welcome the development of support infrastructures for enterprise development from any quarter. The development in this case does not fall under the jurisdiction of this Department. The reason is simple. The Deputy asked what we knew about this development. To date, the Department has not received any application. It would be foolish of me to give the Deputy a detailed analysis as to what is happening with regard to that particular development. My officials have informed me today that the Department has not received any application from the Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown local authority.

The Deputy may be aware that the Minister has made available three successive rounds of funding under the Department’s regional enterprise development fund, totalling €105 million. This fund is aimed at supporting the development and implementation of collaborative and innovative projects that can sustain and add to employment at county, regional and national level. Applications to the fund must be from either a designated activity company, DAC, or a company limited by guarantee, CLG. I will explain that to the Deputy if wishes. To date, Dublin has received €9.3 million in funding through calls 1 and 2 of the REDF. The most recent round, a €45 million call 3 of the REDF, has closed and applications are being evaluated. The Minister will announce the successful projects on conclusion of the evaluation process in due course. Should the Government, through Enterprise Ireland, be in a position to launch further rounds of the REDF, the project promoters in this case may wish to consider applying for this competitive funding, subject to the project meeting the eligibility criteria for participation.

The Minister launched the Dublin regional enterprise plan last February, with strategic objectives focused on availability of skills and talent; increasing enterprise engagement in research, development and innovation; building a pipeline of sustainable start-ups; and enhancing the attractiveness of Dublin as a place to live and invest.

The Minister of State's time is up. He will have an opportunity to contribute again.

All I can say is the plot thickens. I would be delighted if there were funds available under the Department's regional enterprise development fund. What I find an absolute mystery is that Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council decided on a preferred bidder to set up a new enterprise in this central location in the middle of Dún Laoghaire Harbour and it has not even spoken to the Department about it. There is no more important site in Dún Laoghaire. The council will not tell local councillors or Deputies about this development and, needless to say, the public have been completely kept in the dark, even though the site in question is in public ownership. We discovered yesterday that the council decided it had a preferred bidder, a crowd called Lapetus Investments headed by Hilary Haydon. I took the trouble to go online to see who these people were and found they had an address in an accountancy firm on Amiens Street. That is all I could find out about them. They have now been given the green light by the unelected executive of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council to take over the centre of Dún Laoghaire Harbour. This is unbelievable. I am not blaming the Minister of State for not knowing about it but it is shocking that this could be done without any engagement with the public as to what they might like in their harbour in their town.

As the development referred to by the Deputy is being led by the local authority in Dún Laoghaire, it does not fall within the remit of the Department. To be frank, the Minister and I have not been given any substantial information on the development.

As I stated, the Department's REDF, totalling €105 million, was made available to stimulate enterprise growth and job creation in Ireland, including in the Dublin region. It is up to the councillors in the region and the local authority in Dún Laoghaire to make contact with the Department. I can give the Deputy all sorts of information about Dublin and what is involved but this development does not come under my Department's remit. I have been told by the officials that no application has been made to the Department. Therefore, it is almost impossible for us to comment on the important issue the Deputy has raised regarding the site.

It should be a matter of concern to the Government that an unelected executive is making decisions about a very important site, which is of huge value to the people of the area and could generate significant employment and benefits for the area, without reference to anybody. I cannot get information in the House. In the email I have in my hand, councillors are told that a preferred bidder has been picked but that they cannot be told who that bidder is until such time as all negotiations are complete. They will be told after the decision has been made and the contracts signed. I am aware that at least five other companies submitted expressions of interest but these were dismissed by the executive of the council without any democratic discussion with either the Minister of State or the council. That is not the way to do business with public property. This site in Dún Laoghaire is beloved and absolutely critical to the future of the town. People wish to locate a national maritime and marine sports centre or a diaspora museum at the site. They want something that will create employment opportunities to the benefit of the town rather than a mystery development. No one has any knowledge about, or say in, what the hell is going on in our town and harbour.

We are aware of the proposals. That is all we are aware of. As I said in my initial response, we understand that this is being led by the local authority in Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown. Having been on a local authority for many years, as the Deputy also has, I imagine that, if he feels something is not right, it would be up to the councillors of that authority to hold people to account.

The executive will not tell us about it. It is a secret.

It would also be up to the Dún Laoghaire authority to make contact with the Department on the relevant issues, if it believes that is necessary. To be frank, the Deputy and I have both sat on councils to which applications are consistently made which are not referred to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. This happens on many occasions. I will commit to investigating this matter to the best of the Department's ability and I will come back to the Deputy in that regard. If I say we will do that, we will do that. The current position, however, is that this matter is not within the Department's remit.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.