IDA spends hundreds of millions buying and developing ‘strategic’ sites outside Dublin

Inward investment agency now one of biggest players in property market amid concern about shortage of housing for workers and pressure on power supplies

IDA Ireland is spending hundreds of millions of euro buying and developing industrial sites outside Dublin for future job projects, as it battles the housing shortage and constraints on the national electricity grid.

The rapid rise in property market interventions by the inward investment agency has led it to spend more money on real estate than direct job supports after deciding to amass “strategic” sites to address what it describes as “market failure” in regional locations.

Such moves, designed to encourage multinational companies to move operations to Ireland, come amid concern about the shortage of housing for workers and pressure on power supplies that have led to curbs on the development of energy-hungry data centres.

They are in line with national policies aimed at rebalancing development away from Dublin, where housing problems are at their most acute, into regions that need new jobs to sustain local economies.


Amid anxiety in the Government at the State’s increasing reliance on corporate tax payments from a small number of large international companies, the drive for more regional projects also reflects the need to maintain high levels of foreign direct investment for the public finances as well as for job creation.

IDA Ireland is now one of the biggest participants in the property market, selling dozens of older sites deemed surplus to requirements while building up a new portfolio of modern buildings that can be used in a variety of high-tech industries.

Internal files released under the Freedom of Information Act show the agency has acquired 16 large properties in the last two years, all part of an effort to deliver “advanced building solutions” in 19 sites by 2024.

Such buildings are “ready-to-go” for investors, with high-grade communications, access to the road network and flexibility to be used by information or medical technology groups for pharmaceutical and other manufacturing activities.

At the same time, the IDA’s annual property budget has risen this year to €113.5 million from €39 million in 2020 in a plan estimated to cost up to €344 million in five years.

The 2023 property funding far exceeds the €26.2 million set aside for IDA Ireland employment grants this year and the €71.3 million allocation for research and development grants. The €93 million for property in 2022 eclipsed €23 million in employment grants and €62.45 million for research and development.

Records released to The Irish Times show the 16 sites the agency acquired since 2021 were in Louth, Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Westmeath, Kilkenny, Galway, Laois and Kildare. There were 10 such deals in 2022 as activity stepped up.

According to the agency, the locations were chosen based on “market insights”, analysis of regional property markets and engagement with industry.

“IDA is committed to the pursuit of more balanced, compact regional development which can deliver complementary efficiency and equity gains, with the overall impact of helping to advance national development,” the agency said in response to questions.

“Proposed expenditure is commensurate with this ambitious strategy.”

Internal records show the IDA has disposed of 45 sites in 15 counties since mid-2021. The locations were in Roscommon, Donegal, Westmeath, Galway, Cork, Kildare, Wexford, Wicklow, Monaghan, Waterford, Kilkenny, Offaly, Dublin, Limerick and Cavan.

However, the agency refused Freedom of Information access to large volumes of data from the records of its property management committee.

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley

Arthur Beesley is Current Affairs Editor of The Irish Times