May 18th, 1987


FROM THE ARCHIVES:Newly elected taoiseach Charles Haughey’s plan for creating 7,500 jobs at a new financial services centre in Dublin was greeted with considerable scepticism in 1987. John Stanley reported on the first moves to make it happen.

‘THIS IS by far and away the most effective group I’ve ever been part of,” P. J. Daly of the Industrial Development Authority admits candidly.

He is the IDA’s representative on a top level committee established by the government to set up the new financial services centre It had its first meeting on April 23rd and has met religiously every week since then.

“Its method of working is different to any other committee I’ve worked on,” says Daly, barely concealing his surprise that it is “the members of the committee who are doing the work.” Anyone who might reasonably have an input is involved. “Work doesn’t get held up because somebody says ‘but what would the Central Bank or the Revenue’s attitude be to this?’ ” says Daly

At the first meeting with Mr Haughey, the business was concluded with a minimum of fuss, Daly recalls. “All the players are here, he said, it’s your job, you’re the decision makers.” The target of 7,500 jobs, or even 50 jobs, sounded optimistic to many people. Mr [Dermot] Desmond’s vision was that the centre would respond to the need of many international businesses to operate across the world 24 hours a day. It is not intended to be another offshore banking centre, like Switzerland or the Isle of Man, deposit-taking being specifically precluded from the activities to be engaged in within the “ring fence” surrounding the centre.

Rather, the plan is to attract primary financial services, such as global treasury operations for multinational companies (many of whom already have manufacturing subsidiaries in Ireland) and a variety of market-type operations, and secondary financial services, the backroom operations for credit card companies, Japanese and American security houses, insurance companies and similar operations which require round the globe, 24-hour-day activity.

The concept is to sell special tax advantages to such companies, [with] an up-to-date telecommunications network, and an English-speaking and technology-literate young workforce. On the back of this, and supporting it, will be links to computer software houses and third level institutions

When he announced the project last February [in the run-up to a general election] Mr Haughey was reluctant to say where it would be located. [. . .] Sources indicate that there was strong political will not to adopt what might have been a natural course of setting up the centre in Shannon, for two reasons. Dublin, it was felt, needed this project, and more practically it was very hard to sell Shannon as a base. “Even trying to attract people to live down there, just to staff an operation, has proved very hard work,” according to one source.