Diaspora job creation initiative should be saved

ConnectIreland rejects IDA claim that it has only created 527 jobs since 2012

Generation Emigration: Ciara Kenny meets delegates at the Global Irish Civic Forum in Dublin Castle. The conference brings together representatives of over 140 organisations working with the Irish diaspora globally. Video: Bryan O’Brien

 

Irish people around the world will today enjoy St Patrick’s Day, a celebration of Irish culture, people and the impact we have had on the world.

Irish Government Ministers will travel to the four corners of the world to promote Ireland as a great place to come and do business. They will be meeting with some of the most powerful politicians and government officials in global politics as well as business leaders and prominent members of the Irish diaspora.

Next week, I will have to close down the patriotic initiative, ConnectIreland, a not-for-profit jobs creation organisation which was set up to operate the ‘Succeed in Ireland’ programme. It is being terminated by the IDA on March 26th.

I set up ConnectIreland in 2012 because I wanted to do something about the unemployment crisis Ireland faced at the time. It seeks to harness the power of the diaspora to bring jobs to Ireland.

The way it works is simple. Individuals (or ‘connectors’) from around the world put ConnectIreland in touch with people who are thinking of bringing their business to Europe.

For this the individual gets a €1,500 reward per job created. ConnectIreland helps the company to set up in Ireland, providing assistance and information on a wide range of details such as planning permission, grants, employing staff etc.

Pipeline

So far we have had great success, with 79 new-name international projects announcing more than 2,200 jobs.

Our pipeline is enormous and is growing every day, particularly since the Brexit vote. Most of the companies we work with are small businesses and many of the jobs created are in rural Ireland.

We also have a global network of 78,000 connectors based in 147 countries and are receiving leads every day putting us in touch with companies who are interested in bringing jobs to Ireland.

I set up ConnectIreland because I love my country and I wanted to do what I could to help

An economic assessment by DKM consultants has found that over the period 2014 to 2020, ConnectIreland client companies are projected to add between €1.6 billion and €1.8 billion to Irish GDP and to deliver a return to the Exchequer in the range of €326 million-€374 million.

From 2017, total employment in ConnectIreland client companies is forecast to grow at four per cent per annum. While this is 1½ to 2 times the national employment growth rate forecast by official sources, it is appropriate given the profile of the companies supported by ConnectIreland, which are predominantly focused on high-growth sectors.

All of this will be lost if the IDA terminates the programme on March 26th. With the success it has had, especially in rural Ireland, this decision makes little sense.

However, it makes even less sense when you look at the costs. For every job that ConnectIreland creates, we are paid €4,000 by the IDA. There is no cost to the taxpayer unless jobs are being created. In comparison, the IDA spends around €11,000 for every job created.

The IDA have said that we have only created 527 jobs since 2012, but this is simply not true. Only 527 jobs have gone through the IDA’s verification process. We have actually created several times that figure already but they have not yet completed the verification process.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny: ‘Emigration has a devastating impact on our economy as we lose the input of talent and energy. We need these people at home. And we will welcome them.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins
Taoiseach Enda Kenny, March 2015: ‘Emigration has a devastating impact on our economy as we lose the input of talent and energy. We need these people at home. And we will welcome them.’ Photograph: Gareth Chaney/Collins

For our State to succeed into the future, the public and the private sector need to work innovatively and collaboratively together. Despite challenges, this project works. Challenges are not good enough reasons to put jobs at risk, lose our global job creation network and damage Ireland’s reputation among international investors.

This isn’t about petty squabbles and it isn’t about money. This is about jobs for Irish people. I set up ConnectIreland because I love my country and I wanted to do what I could to help.

Vital

What we need is for the Government to recognise what a huge loss it would be if the initiative is not allowed to continue. We have written to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor several times, dating back to August, regarding our concerns over the shutdown of the initiative but have received no response. We have also written to Taoiseach Enda Kenny and have also not yet received a response.

The Succeed in Ireland initiative is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs and was widely lauded by many politicians. It is vital that ConnectIreland is allowed to continue. It has brought dozens of companies from around the world to small towns and communities in rural Ireland. ConnectIreland is still receiving dozens of leads every week but we can’t follow them up because we may well be shut down.

Ireland needs more channels for job creation, not less. This project works, it is creating badly needed jobs in rural Ireland, all thanks to our loyal Irish diaspora across the world.

The Government and our elected representatives must do what they can to save ConnectIreland and the work we have done. Rural Ireland is still struggling and has not yet felt the benefits of the recovery.

We cannot afford to lose the opportunity of bringing even a single job to small towns and communities when their young people are still being spread all over the world.

Terry Clune is founder of ConnectIreland and the Taxback group of companies

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