Key agencies department leading Brexit preparations fill just 17 of 70 positions

Jobs Minister Frances Fitzgerald’s failure to fill Brexit roles, with just one in four recruited, has been criticised as firms face an “existential crisis” with Britain’s EU exit on the horizon, writes Juno McEnroe.

Key agencies and the department leading preparations for Brexit have filled just 17 of 70 positions, where staff will assist firms and employers preparing for possible tariffs or trade barriers.

Ms Fitzgerald confirmed Enterprise Ireland and the IDA, among other agencies, had failed to fill roles — despite getting millions of euro extra to recruit staff to work on Brexit.

Details obtained by the Irish Examiner show Enterprise Ireland has only filled 13 of 34 Brexit positions. IDA Ireland has filled just four to date, while another six positions are still advertised. The agency is seeking another 21 staff in order to win jobs and investment targets linked to Brexit.

Ms Fitzgerald revealed the information in a written parliamentary answer to Fianna Fáil’s John Curran.

She outlined how an additional €3m this year has been allocated across Enterprise Ireland (€1,700,000), IDA Ireland (€750,000), Science Foundation Ireland (€150,000), the Health and Safety Authority (€150,000), and her own department (€250,000) to tackle Brexit and fill specific posts.

Ms Fitzgerald confirmed that Science Foundation Ireland is still trying to recruit three Brexit staff and the Health and Safety Authority is looking for two.

Mr Curran said it was worrying that agencies and the department battling Brexit were failing to fill roles they predicted were needed.

“Irish business is facing an existential crisis with Brexit on the horizon,” he said. “The British market, so long a staple of many an Irish SME’s exports, may become far more difficult and expensive to reach as a result of potential tariffs and trade barriers.

“One would have thought that of all departments, the Department of Jobs would have been to the fore in preparing for the threat of Brexit.”

A Fianna Fáil source said: “Just one third of Enterprise Ireland Brexit-related positions have been filled to date, 60% of IDA roles focused on Brexit unfilled.

“These two agencies, the main state vehicles for supporting Irish SMEs and foreign companies respectively, are crucial in protecting Irish business interests post Brexit.

“The clock is ticking towards Brexit. We cannot afford to wait any longer to prepare Irish business.”

This story appeared in the Irish Examiner

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