A decades-old IDA commitment means the agency is renting 34 empty facilities which, at current rates, will have cost €83m before leases run out in 15 years.
In addition to the 34 rented properties, the IDA owns another 53 factories which are also lying idle following the agency’s worst year in a decade for attracting full-time jobs.
Although the IDA is now seeking to sell these properties, it has no choice but to continue paying for all rented factories since they were all taken on in the 1980s on 35-year leases.
In addition, legislation regulating the agency prevents it from allowing the empty units to be used for any other purpose than manufacturing and internationally traded services.
“There is legislation there. We can’t actually change that issue without permission from the minister,” said Paul Cronin of the IDA’s property division.
“They were acquired for the purpose of industrial use and if we were to put them to another use then there would be questions about what we were doing in the first place,” he said.
Tánaiste and Enterprise Minister Mary Harney has responded to criticism of the IDA portfolio in the past by saying the agency needs complete freedom to operate successfully.
However, a spokesman for the Department of Enterprise said no alternative use for any IDA unit could be considered unless a submission was first made by the agency itself.
“It is open for the IDA to make a submission to the minister or the department about other uses for those properties.
“They are generally for industrial use but that’s not to say they couldn’t be looked at for other uses as long as there are no lease terms preventing that,” he said.
Fine Gael Mayo TD Michael Ring said the empty units were a national scandal.
“This is crazy. There is many a playgroup out there finding it very difficult to get premises. Even FÁS or some other group could use them. And if a company does want to move in they are not going to do so immediately. You could let people use the premises on a six-month basis or something like that,” he said.
Included in the list of empty rented facilities is a controversial factory in Ballinrobe, Co Mayo, which, despite costing €160,450 annually, has been vacant for most of the last 20 years.
Another 15 years remains on the lease, which was signed in 1983.
Green Party finance spokesman Dan Boyle said it was unacceptable to have so many empty buildings draining taxpayers’ resources.
“We would want them to somehow buy out those leases so the buildings can be used,” he said.