John Halligan says IDA cannot force companies to locate outside Dublin or cities

Fianna Fáil TD for Waterford Mary Butler claims there seems to be a ‘two-tier approach to regional job-creation’

The IDA cannot "force or cajole" companies investing in Ireland to locate their businesses outside Dublin or other cities, Minister of State for Enterprise John Halligan has said.

He rejected claims of a “two-tier” approach to regional job-creation as calls were made for a renewed focus on the southeast and northwest to act as a “release valve for the overheating in Dublin”.

Mr Halligan, who has responsibility for training and skills, insisted that the semi-State body which seeks and supports foreign direct investment in Ireland “does its utmost to encourage clients to locate in and expand to the regions”.

TDs repeatedly criticise what they believe is a lack of action on investment in regional areas, and claim the IDA is more likely to bring companies investigating Ireland as a potential location to Dublin or along the east coast.


Fianna Fáil TD for Waterford Mary Butler said there seemed to be a "two-tier approach to regional job-creation".

Ms Butler, who raised the issue in a Dáil parliamentary question, said the southeast and the northwest continued to struggle in relation to job-creation, and she highlighted Co Wexford which had the additional benefit of the port of Rosslare.

She said Waterford and other southeast and northwest locations “can act as a release valve for the overheating in Dublin. In light of Brexit I would like to see a renewed focus on Waterford, the rest of the southeast and the northwest.”

Location decisions

However, Mr Halligan, Ms Butler’s Waterford constituency colleague, said it was the companies themselves that made the decisions about location, and “we cannot force or cajole them and say ‘oh please don’t locate in Dublin. Please come down to Waterford’.”

Ms Butler said “I accept that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink” but she pointed out that 45 per cent of economic growth last year was generated in Dublin, and of all counties with cities Waterford fared worst with new jobs.

Only 471 jobs were created there last year, while 1,458 were created in Limerick, 1,971 in Galway and 3,177 in Cork.

And she noted fewer visits to border, midland and southeast counties.

“Of a total of 461 visits in the first nine months of 2018, 46 per cent were to the capital city. During the same period, eight counties including Longford, Cavan, Monaghan, Roscommon, Wexford, Carlow and Kilkenny, received three visits or fewer.”

The Minister told her that last year the IDA delivered 113 regional investments, “which is the equivalent of 56 per cent of new jobs created outside Dublin. In the past four years 44,000 such jobs were created outside Dublin.”

The IDA “do everything they can when they go to the USA, France or Israel to entice companies to come to particular regions”.

However, he said it was important to state that “many companies make their own assessment before they even go to a region and make their decisions”.

IDA properties

Meanwhile, Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on business, enterprise and innovation, Billy Kelleher, said information he had obtained shows 98 of the 152 properties owned by the IDA nationwide are idle.

“The majority of these 98 properties are in places outside of Dublin, and tend to be located in the parts of the country that are crying out for any degree of foreign direct investment in their community.

“We keep hearing of how this Government intends spreading regional jobs but the reality on the ground tells us a different story...It’s crucial that each of these properties is widely promoted as we face into much uncertainty post-Brexit here in Ireland.”

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times