The IDA has been accused of stymieing jobs as part of a “turf war” with ConnectIreland.
The ConnectIreland initiative was set up in 2012 with the aim of rewarding the diaspora and others with links to Ireland for introducing potential investors to the Irish market and promoting Ireland as a place to set up operations.
Under the scheme, the connector received a “finder’s fee” of €1,500 per job if the company went ahead with locating here, but it has been claimed the IDA wrongly blocked a cash reward to more than 50 potential job creators.
Instead of approving the ConnectIreland reward payment, it is alleged the IDA claimed it had already been engaged with the companies involved. The IDA claimed ConnectIreland failed to reach the target set for the number of jobs the scheme was meant to create.
Catherine Murphy TD told the Dáil there are allegations that ConnectIreland was “possibly stymied in creating jobs by the IDA in what sounds essentially like a turf war”.
She went on to say that both sides of the dispute “significantly and fundamentally differ” on the numbers of jobs created.
“The core issue here is that potential jobs were lost to Ireland. There is also potential reputational damage,” said Ms Murphy.
“One can imagine it from the viewpoint of someone who wanted to invest, but there are two State agencies essentially almost in dispute with each other. We must look at the confusion that would create.”
She further claimed the IDA or the Department of Jobs could be facing a compensation bill of up to €14m.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny admitted to being a big supporter of the scheme, the contract for which is due to expire on Monday. “It is disappointing that it has ended up in this particular fashion,” he said.
“The intention was that if a person’s son, cousin, or daughter or whatever was working for a firm in Brazil, for example, and if that firm intended to invest in Europe, that employee would suggest if the firm was going to invest in Europe, it might consider Ireland.”
He said that it was never intended the numbers involved would be on the scale of the IDA.
Sinn Féin’s Mary-Lou McDonald said the suggestion the IDA “obstructed” jobs is “very disturbing and concerning”.
Responding, Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor said her department was drafting the terms of reference and guidelines for a review of the ConnectIreland initiative, but she said “it is very difficult to review” because of the continuing legal dispute. “We are hoping that IDA and ConnectIreland can come to an agreement,” she said.
At leader’s questions, Ms Murphy said: “The IDA refused a significant number of connections, yet, on review, over one-third of these refusals were overturned and this suggests a serious issue with the verification process used by the IDA.”
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