Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation

Challenges to Ireland's Competitiveness: Discussion

Photo of Matt ShanahanMatt Shanahan (Waterford, Independent)
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I thank Mr. Gilvarry and the other members of the council. In his statement Mr. Gilvarry has spoken about the renewed focus on productivity and I wonder whether, in the context of the programme for Government, the NCPC has looked at the productivity of our Civil Service. We will have protests outside the Dáil later today regarding forestry, and it looks like the five-year forestry targets will undershoot by over 80%, and this is essentially, I suppose, down to problems within the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine in processing afforestation claims, felling licences and all of that. It is something that should be examined.

There is a similar issue with wind development. We are still waiting to designate a wind port. We need to get that done or we will lose much of that business to other markets, whether it is in the UK or on the Continent. We also have issues with the grid infrastructure, and it again seems to be largely vested in problems with the Civil Service. My first question relates to Civil Service reform and whether the witnesses have any remit to speak to the Civil Service or meet the Government to discuss it.

My second question relates to the construction sector and the embedded costs, particularly the Government's take of development costs. There is also the issue of dominant suppliers. I have mentioned it before at this committee that if people buy building materials on the Continent, they will be up to 30% less than the equivalent in Ireland. That 30% difference does not comprise the cost of shipping those materials to Ireland. We definitely have a cost disadvantage. Is the council giving consideration to that?

A third question has been covered a number of times but it concerns apprenticeship schemes. There is a particular problem in the country with the wet trades, particularly plastering and blocklaying, as well as carpenters and electricians. I know many subcontractors in the area and they have no sons or nephews coming into the business. Nobody is following those people into the business because they do not see it as an attractive area in which to work. In Germany, there are two streams of higher education and the guilds can lead to a qualification at graduate level. Is that something the council is examining?

The fourth matter is insurance and we now have a wholesale exit of underwriters from the UK leaving the Irish market. There are a number of business sectors that will fail to get any adequate insurance as a result. What is the NCPC doing in looking at schemes of self-insurance or further legal reforms to this process?