Funding at cross-Border trade agency cut six years in a row
It’s understood there has been increased support from Dublin since Brexit vote
Figures from the Department of Enterprise show staff levels at the agency have dropped consistently over the past six years
The agency responsible for cross-Border trade has had its funding reduced for each of the past six years in a row and is “just about able” to carry out its legislative remit, according to the Department of Enterprise.
InterTradeIreland is a cross-Border trade and business development body funded jointly by the Department of Enterprise in the Republic and the Department for the Economy in the North.
Figures from the Department of Enterprise released to Sinn Féin spokesman for enterprise Maurice Quinlivan under the Freedom of Information Act show staff levels at the agency have dropped consistently over the past six years.
“They have now [fewer] staff (33) than they did last year (36), despite the Brexit vote and the increased workload that this has brought,” said Mr Quinlivan.
“A Freedom of Information response I received from the Department of Enterprise outlined that: ‘InterTrade Ireland already operates on a very tight budget, given the cuts imposed. They are just about able to carry out their legislative remit.’
“The fact that the rate of unpreparedness has deteriorated in the past year when it should be dropping is very concerning.
“Enterprise Ireland has lost 273 members of staff in the past 10 years. How can this agency realistically prepare businesses exposed to Brexit in addition to all their usual work with their staff numbers depleted so much?”
Although responsibility for resourcing and funding the organisation is shared by the Republic and Stormont, more funding comes from Dublin because of the Republic’s larger economy.
It’s understood Dublin has offered an improved level of support to the agency since Britain voted to leave the European Union, and that discussions around staffing levels in the coming years may be on the agenda.
It’s believed this has contributed to a more reticent approach to increase funding to the agency.
Mr Quinlivan, who was addressing Minister for Enterprise Frances Fitzgerald in the Dáil, said there was a need for increased support in case the UK leaves the EU without a deal in place.
“As a result of the Tory government’s disarray in Britain, the outcome of no deal on trade and tariffs is a possibility, and so we need to prepare our jobs agencies now, to take pre-emptive action to help businesses and exporters,” he said.
“There are over 1,933 categories of goods traded South to North, and 2,269 traded North to South, so businesses will need extensive help in navigating these obstacles, should worst come to worst and no deal is agreed.
“I’m calling on the Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise to re-examine the staffing levels at these agencies to ensure they are adequately resourced and staffed and can therefore provide all the assistance and preparation required.”
A spokeswoman for InterTradeIreland declined to comment on the agency’s resourcing.