Expect more ‘Brexit–related investment’, says IDA chief

Martin Shanahan critical of those advocating an Irexit-says it would hamper investment

 Martin Shanahan: ‘We cannot be complacent, these investments will not fall into our laps, they will have to be won’

Martin Shanahan: ‘We cannot be complacent, these investments will not fall into our laps, they will have to be won’

 

The head of the IDA has told the MacGill Summer School in Co Donegal he was confident Ireland would see more “Brexit-related investment” in the coming months.

Martin Shanahan, chief executive of the Industrial Development Authority, said Ireland was making steady progress on winning investments in the wake of the UK decision to quit the European Union.

“But we cannot be complacent, these investments will not fall into our laps, they will have to be won,” he said on Tuesday night.

Mr Shanahan added: “IDA Ireland has been engaging with companies affected by Brexit for over a year now. There has been a significant focus on financial services, but discussions have now broadened beyond that to other sectors.

“We have seen companies like JP Morgan, Barclays, Legal and General, Chaucer, and Almac announce investments in Ireland on foot of Brexit. Ireland is making steady progress on winning investments.”

But Mr Shanahan warned: “As we look east and west, we see our neighbours once again becoming more protectionist. We see a type of populist nationalism rising in the world that doesn’t recognise interdependence and the value of connectivity.”

“A more protectionist global economy is not good for Ireland but we have to deal with what is before us,” he added.

Mr Shanahan, without mentioning his name, was critical of former Irish diplomat Ray Bassett’s suggestion that the Republic should exit the EU with the United Kingdom.

“For those who have advocated for Ireland to consider following the UK and leaving the European Union, I say this - such a move would put an end to foreign direct investment as we know it,” he said.

“Investors in Ireland value our European access hugely. It is part of every conversation we have with our clients in IDA. It provides us with access to one of the largest markets in the world, unrestricted movement of talent and services, amongst many, many other things.

“To see how important these issues are you need only open a paper on any day of the week and read about the difficulties that the UK is facing in its own efforts to leave the European Union. Ireland must continue to remain open,” Mr Shanahan told the summer school.

“We must remain open and welcoming to people and the diversity they bring. We must remain open to ideas, to innovation, to business and to trade and investment. We must embrace the next wave of technologies. Ireland is an example of how a small, open economy can prosper in a globalised world - we must continue to lead by example.”

Recovery

Mr Shanahan said Ireland’s recovery since the 2008 economic crash was impressive but that he was concerned “there is now a feeling of ‘job done’, and once again the narrative in some quarters has turned exclusively to how we should distribute the wealth that the economy is generating”.

“While of course, it is entirely legitimate to debate how one improves the lives of citizens, and the relative merits of different cohorts’ needs and demands, to focus exclusively on it, to the exclusion of a discussion on how that wealth will be generated in a sustainable way into the future, would be folly,” he warned.

The IDA chief said the notion that the economy will continue to grow and “create jobs in perpetuity in absence of appropriate policy development and execution is naive”.

“There are real threats again to employment - particularly in those sectors that are heavily exposed to the UK market. We need to ensure that we, insofar as is possible, insulate ourselves against those threats and also maximise the opportunities that may exist as a result of Brexit with newly mobile investment,” he added.

The IDA chief said that Ireland looked “remarkably stable, centrist and consistent” in policy terms. “That is a major plus when it comes to attracting investment,” he said.

Mr Shanahan said he remained “cautiously optimistic” about the future, adding that in terms of foreign investment “the results over the past two years represent the strongest sustained employment performance since 1999/2000”.

“Employment in IDA client companies is at the highest level on record, just shy of 200,000 people, representing (about) 10 per cent of the labour force. Unemployment is at a nine-year low at 6.2 per cent. This is an incredibly positive turnaround over a relatively very short period of time,” he said.

“If we apply the same diligence now as has been applied to driving the recovery over the past number of years there is no reason to believe we can’t continue to achieve sustainable growth, and within that foreign direct investment will play its part,” said Mr Shanahan.