The Government has been accused of “anti rural bias” following a year in which IDA visits to potential foreign direct investment sites have continued to focus heavily on Dublin.
Site visits showcase the merits of locations to companies considering investing or expanding in Ireland with the assistance of the IDA, the development agency which publishes its annual results on Wednesday.
Of 1,148 site inspections during 2018 and the first three quarters of last year, 485, or 42 per cent were in Dublin.
"The figures reinforce the anti-rural communities bias of the Government with more rural areas further from Dublin receive less visits than their percentage of population would deserve," said Fianna Fail TD for Cork North West Aindrias Moynihan who sought the data.
The number conducted in Dublin last year now looks set to surpass 2018 even as the Government has stated its intention to increase regional development outside the capital.
Dublin site visits averaged 72 per quarter for the first nine months of 2019, compared to an average of 67 per quarter the previous year.
Other counties have received relatively few – Roscommon hosted five over the same near two year period, less than half of one per cent of the total.
Counties Longford, Monaghan, Wexford and Wicklow each received seven site visits by IDA teams, each amounting to 0.6 per cent.
Aside from Dublin, activity focused heavily in counties with major urban centres – Cork had 116 (10 per cent of the total); Galway, 89 (8 per cent); and Limerick, 78 (7 per cent).
Such visits examine prospective green field sites or buildings and are usually attended by senior executives. While they are not a definitive indication of interest in geographical areas, they are seen as a visible indicator of work on the ground.
In a statement accompanying the data released through a parliamentary question, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys pointed out that spreading regional development was a priority.
“We understand the importance of achieving the best possible spread of employment and investment across the country and we have been working hard towards that goal,” she said.
The minister said 58 per cent of all IDA client-supported employment is now located outside Dublin, the highest percentage to date, and it was hoped this figure would be further expanded during 2020.
However, Mr Moynihan believes site visits and consideration should be viewed in terms of population spread.
“Kerry has 3 per cent of the population. In 2019, it received four visits or 0.74 per cent, and in 2018 it received 10 visits are 1.65 per cent of visits,” he said.
“There is clearly an imbalance between a continuing overload of IDA visits into Dublin and a lack of them in more rural parts of the country.”
In a statement the IDA said such activity is “in no way indicative of IDA’s efforts to market a region to overseas investors or indeed of IDA’s activities in a region”.
It said its current strategy aims to showcase the benefits of the regions. According to its 2018 annual report, this has delivered an additional 27,000 jobs in locations outside the capital.