Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Simon Coveney and the interim head of the IDA, Mary Buckley, have warned that Ireland “cannot take foreign direct investment for granted” as “threats” and economic “uncertainty” remain amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, inflation and disruption to supply chains.
While welcoming a $1 billion investment by US biopharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly at Raheen, Limerick, both Mr Coveney and Ms Buckley warned that Ireland faces serious economic challenges after job losses in the tech sector.
Despite announcing a “significant” investment in the Limerick site, Eli Lilly chief executive David Ricks said less US investment capital had gone to Ireland in recent years. “There was a time when more of that capital was leaving the US – that’s really changed for us anyway in the last 10 years,” Mr Ricks told The Irish Times. “We are investing in America extensively as well; we are currently building five new sites and (Limerick) is one of them – there is four in the US.”
Ms Buckley said Ireland needed to protect its FDI links by “remaining competitive”, and that it was “hugely important that we manage the carrying capacity of the economy for the future, and ensure that housing, planning, water, energy and talent policies are part and parcel of the focus”.
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Those words were echoed by Mr Coveney. While FDI remains “well placed” to contribute to the economy here, he warned of “serious global challenges” that threaten Ireland’s economic outlook.
“Threats remain from the high-level of risk and uncertainty in global markets, the future of the Russia/Ukraine war, inflation and monetary policy, ongoing disruption to global supply chains, EU/UK tensions – although I’m glad we are moving into a new space there – and geopolitical developments that are unpredictable to say the least,” said the Minister.
Despite threats of looming economic storms Mr Ricks said Ely Lilly was committed to Ireland, it has been operating here since 1978, and employs 2,700 at two plants in Co Cork.
“With challenges geopolitically we have to be careful where we put new sites. Ireland is seen as having a stable and practical government to work with; it’s in the EU and that’s helpful, we have other sites in Europe, and Lilly is investing accordingly.”
Mr Ricks said Ireland’s regional airports and ports, as well as its highly educated workforce, were key to maintaining its FDI links. “As we have seen during supply chain challenges in the last two years, it’s good to have airports and ports that are not reliant completely on the same resources, and so here we can use Shannon Airport and the Port in Limerick versus Cork, so (Limerick) is the ideal location for us.”
Mr Ricks said his firm – which employs 38,000 globally, including almost 10 per cent of its workforce in Ireland – hoped to launch four new medicines in 2023, “including a potential breakthrough in Alzheimer’s disease, which will eventually be made at the (Limerick) site”.