Stripe and Amazon meet Ministers over housing policy

Planning processes and digital education on tech companies’ minds, register shows

Stripe founders Patrick and John Collison. Lobbying returns for January-April show John Collison met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar “to discuss technology policy”. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

Stripe founders Patrick and John Collison. Lobbying returns for January-April show John Collison met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar “to discuss technology policy”. Photograph: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg/Getty Images

 

Tech companies Stripe and Amazon separately met Government Ministers earlier this year to discuss housing policy ahead of the planned growth of their operations in Dublin, returns to the lobbying register show.

Stripe, the online payments company founded by Limerick brothers Patrick and John Collison, has previously warned that housing costs in Dublin could be “a major impediment” to its future expansion in the city.

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government Eoghan Murphy met Stripe’s general counsel Jon Zieger and its international regulatory lead Michael Cocoman “to discuss the housing situation in Dublin”, according to the register.

Stripe already employs about 100 people in the city, but has signalled that its new engineering hub could get “significantly larger” in future.

However, chief executive Patrick Collison told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland in February that Stripe would be paying close attention to housing costs. “I think we collectively need to figure out ways to keep them in check,” Mr Collison said.

The brothers have taken an active interest in a housing crisis in San Francisco, where Stripe has its headquarters, with the company recently making a $1 million donation to California YIMBY (Yes In My Backyard), a group campaigning to bring lower-cost, higher-density housing to the San Francisco Bay Area.

Housing policy

Lobbying returns for the January-April period also show John Collison met Taoiseach Leo Varadkar “to discuss technology policy” with the intended outcome of the meeting being “improvements to better reap benefits of the technology sector”.

Amazon’s John Midgley, senior manager of public policy for UK and Ireland, met Minister of State Damien English and assistant secretary at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government David Walsh for “an update on housing policy and the Government’s intentions in relation to planning reform”.

Amazon employs close to 1,400 people in Dublin, as well as more than 1,000 in Cork, and has signalled its intentions for further recruitment.

The tech giant has received planning permission to build a new 20,739sq m data centre in Mulhuddart in northwest Dublin, although a legal challenge taken against it on environmental grounds will be heard in July.

In its filing to the register, Amazon said views were exchanged on “potential changes to the Planning and Development (Strategic Infrastructure) Act 2006”.

The State’s planning regime has been under the spotlight of late following Apple’s decision to cancel a plan to build an €850 million data centre in Athenry, Co Galway, after years of planning delays.

Hundreds of returns to the register were filed on Monday, the deadline for companies, organisations and professional lobbyists to disclose interactions with “designated public officials” in the first four months of the year.

Subjects discussed with Ministers and officials included healthcare, homelessness, tourism and transport, alcohol regulation, gambling legislation, online safety, mental health, sex education and media issues such as copyright and public media funding.

Apple, Google, Facebook and Microsoft were also among the tech companies to file returns.

Apple executive Claire Thwaites, senior director of European and Russia government affairs for Apple Distribution International, met Tánaiste Simon Coveney during the period to update him on the expansion of its facility at Cork. Ms Thwaites also had an introductory meeting with Minister for Enterprise Heather Humphreys.

Sam Sharps, Apple’s head of government affairs in the UK and Ireland, met the State Examinations Commission to brief it on the use of Apple devices in digital examinations, encourage the use of iPads as “an eligible device” and request the inclusion of its programming language Swift in the Leaving Certificate computer science curriculum.