In recent times, Ireland’s foreign corporate community has not shied away from making its voice heard about the shortage of suitable and affordable housing for its workers here.
Most recently, Kellogg Europe senior executive Tammy Winnie told the Business Post last weekend that lack of accommodation, a big challenge for the company when it comes to employee retention, is something the business is being forced to “work through”.
Winnie is certainly not alone. The American Chamber in Ireland, which represents some of the most deep-pocketed US multinationals based in the Republic, has warned repeatedly over the past two years that housing is a key issue for its members when considering whether to grow their company in Ireland. Chambers Ireland has also made similar representations on behalf of its member companies.
But instead of just talking about it, many domestic businesses, particularly in the high-end hotel sector where workers have been thin on the ground since Covid, are rolling up their sleeves. This week, the Merrion Hotel in Dublin confirmed it is progressing plans to build staff quarters in a building it owns around the corner from its Dublin 2 premises.
Powerscourt Hotel in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, is also seeking permission for a 56-bedroom staff accommodation block while Niall Rochford, general manager of the five-star Ashford Castle Hotel in Mayo, said this week his company is looking at “various options” as it grapples with the issue.
It begs the question why the Googles, Pfizers and Facebooks of the world have been so slow off the mark. There was a time when, as the Green Party’s Hazel Chu told Brendan O’Connor on RTÉ Radio 1 last weekend, large-scale employers such as Guinness and Irish Distillers built homes for their workers in Dublin.
Certainly, the cost profile of a residential development in the capital has changed somewhat over the last century and a half. Even since Covid, construction costs have inclined sharply, rendering many residential projects across the country unviable. But we are talking about some of the most cash-rich, profitable and influential businesses in the history of capitalism.
It seems noteworthy that when these companies were drawing up their Irish expansion plans over the past decade, solutions of this kind were not really considered.