IDA accused of misconduct in dispute with diaspora jobs contractor

No sign of review of ConnectIreland initiative nearly nine months after promised, says FF

Niall Collins: said ConnectIreland had written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claiming that the IDA’s behaviour “has laid waste to potentially thousands of new jobs and billions of euro of investment in Ireland”.

Niall Collins: said ConnectIreland had written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claiming that the IDA’s behaviour “has laid waste to potentially thousands of new jobs and billions of euro of investment in Ireland”.

 

An organisation in dispute with the IDA over the number of jobs it created has accused the State agency of “egregious, systematic and deliberate misconduct”.

Fianna Fáil jobs spokesman Niall Collins said ConnectIreland had written to Taoiseach Leo Varadkar claiming that the IDA’s behaviour “has laid waste to potentially thousands of new jobs and billions of euro of investment in Ireland”.

The organisation called for a formal public investigation into its dispute with the IDA.

ConnectIreland was part of the Succeed in Ireland initiative to use the Irish diaspora to create jobs in Ireland. It was developed at the Global Economic Forum after the economic crash and focused on smaller numbers of jobs, rather than the IDA’s target market of mainly larger corporations and multinationals.

Mr Collins said a review of the Succeed in Ireland initiative had been promised in March, but 8½ months later there was still no sign of it, no terms of reference had been seen and the members of a review panel had not been identified.

The ConnectIreland contract was managed by the IDA and ran out in 2017 and the Succeed in Ireland initiative was “brought to an end prematurely”.

The Fianna Fáil spokesman said the issue was about more than a contract dispute with ConnectIreland. It was about “significant resource of people around the world who want to create jobs and invest in Ireland”.

The initiative brought in 95 start-up enterprises and more than 2,500 jobs and that each job cost €4,000 to create whereas an IDA-created job cost €10,000, he said.

Last month however IDA chief executive Martin Shanahan told the Public Accounts committee that ConnectIreland had generated just 544 new roles at a cost of €2.2 million.

Mr Collins said he was not using Dáil time to “bash IDA Ireland” as it had played a considerable and successful role in job creation, “but it is not above questioning either”.

Tánaiste Simon Coveney said he had been involved in a number of promotional events with ConnectIreland and it was an example of new thinking and new ways of reaching out to the diaspora.

But he said any initiative that used public funding had to be reviewed and tested to ensure full value for money and to ensure “it is working in a complementary manner with the other arms of the State doing similar work”.

Initiatives had to be “open to independent and robust scrutiny” to ensure targets are achieved and “ConnectIreland cannot be an exception”.

He said in any dispute between ConnectIreland and other State organisations “we must ensure the will be an independent assessment to establish the facts”.

Mr Coveney said the “original business model did not provide a viable return for the operator and subsequently needed to be altered”.

A contacting arrangement was put in place and financial support provided. “We need to assess what happened with the business model” and if it was the best way of spending money to get the return required.

He added that “the only issue concerns the need for a robust, independent assessment of the story of ConnectIreland and the Succeed in Ireland initiative and to learn lessons from it”.