Business group urges Government to prioritise affordable housing

Access to housing for workers a ‘key ask’ for US employers in Republic, lobby group says

Minister for Health Simon Harris told the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland’s annual Thanksgiving lunch that Brexit was “a lose-lose” for the EU and the UK.

Minister for Health Simon Harris told the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland’s annual Thanksgiving lunch that Brexit was “a lose-lose” for the EU and the UK.

 

Ensuring that workers get access to affordable homes must be a priority for Government, according to the leader of the Republic’s most influential business lobby groups.

American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland’s president, Barry O’Sullivan, told the organisation’s annual Thanksgiving lunch on Thursday that affordable housing was a “key ask” for US employers in the Republic.

“It has to be a priority,” he said, directly addressing the guest of honour, Minister for Health and Children Simon Harris.

Mr O’Sullivan, global manufacturing lead with contact lense maker Johnson & Johnson Vision, warned that the Republic needed to continue attracting skilled staff from abroad.

He pointed out that one in seven workers here were born outside the country. “We need a visa system that ensures that talented individuals and their families can come and work here,” he urged.

US companies now employ 155,000 people in the Republic, and their activities support roughly the same number indirectly, Mr O’Sullivan said.

He also noted that, on the flip side, more than 400 Irish businesses now employ 100,000 people in 46 states across the US and have invested more than $85.5 billion (€74.95 billion) there.

Mr O’Sullivan argued that Brexit provided the Republic with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become the natural bridge between the US and the European Union, once it was prepared to move quickly enough to seize that chance.

“We will be the only English-speaking, common-law jurisdiction in the EU,” he told the audience.

Development plan

Mr O’Sullivan said that the chamber welcomed the Government’s commitment to spend €116 billion on infrastructure under the Ireland 2040 national development plan.

“But Minister, speed is our friend here,” he stressed. “Let’s make progress on delivery, every month and every year.”

Mr Harris also pointed out that the Republic would be the EU’s sole English-speaking nation after Brexit.

“The UK’s departure was something we never sought and never wanted: on the contrary, we believe it’s a lose-lose for the EU and UK,” he said.

However, he argued that the Republic had identified its priorities once Brexit became a reality, including guaranteeing no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland.

Mr Harris that the deal struck by British prime minister Theresa May with Brussels last week ensured this, and also provided a managed, stable Brexit for business.

On taxation, a key issue for multinational investors, the Minister pledged that the Republic would maintain its 12.5 per cent charge on corporate profits and a stable, transparent tax system.