Thursday, 16 November 2006
Industrial Development Bill 2006: Second Stage
M J Nolan (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this legislation. I understand the Bill is designed to facilitate the transfer of functions and to guarantee staff rights from Shannon Development to Enterprise Ireland. This debate provides Members of the House with the opportunity to outline the concerns and difficulties they may be experiencing in their counties regarding employment and the sourcing of direct investment by IDA Ireland.
We in the constituency of Carlow-Kilkenny, but particularly in County Carlow, are hugely disappointed with the efforts IDA Ireland has made to place foreign direct investment in Carlow. I recently saw a report that showed the number of IDA Ireland-created jobs in Carlow to be minuscule. I have discussed this with the Minister in the past. Ireland's economy has performed strongly in recent years and the type of jobs we are attracting has changed. The town and county of Carlow has provided prospects for potential employers. We have a third level institute that is willing to accommodate potential employers with suitable courses. We have outlined this to potential employers, but for some reason there seems to be a lack of interest or commitment from IDA Ireland to pinpoint Carlow as an area for investment.
County Carlow has reinvented itself to attract this type of business. I commend Enterprise Ireland and Carlow's indigenous entrepreneurs who have been singularly successful in creating well paid, highly skilled jobs in the county. It helps ensure that people who were born and educated in Carlow can continue to live and work there. There have been many contributors to the transformation, but the presence of a third level institute in Carlow has been a major factor in ensuring the local people who have a record of creating jobs have done so.
However, we can only do so much ourselves. We need the assistance and commitment of State enterprises such as IDA Ireland. I regret to say that this has not been forthcoming to date. Carlow is sited in an important and pivotal location. Indeed, the Minister's Department is relocating 320 jobs there. We hope to see an advance group of up to 90 civil servants moving to Carlow in the coming months. The county has everything a family or individual needs. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, the IDA is either not prepared, not committed, or does not want to see Carlow as a gateway for job creation. It is unfair on Carlow people who can see the number of jobs being created in other large urban centres.
The strategy in recent years has been to avoid congestion in cities such as Dublin, Cork and even Waterford. To pick up on Deputy Fleming's point, we need a regional airport in the south east. While there is an airport in Waterford, regrettably, it is on the wrong side of the city. People are not prepared to use it because they have to traverse the city and with bridge openings and congestion that can take as long as it would take to travel from Carlow or Kilkenny to Dublin Airport — that is time consuming too.
Only two weeks ago, we met with a potential investor in Carlow. One of his main concerns was that many of his staff would be coming from overseas and there would be significant interaction between overseas branches and the proposed Irish operation. One of the downsides he identified with locating in the south east was that it would take so long to get there from Dublin Airport. There is a strong case to be made for locating a new airport in the south east, perhaps somewhere on the Kilkenny-Carlow-Portlaoise axis.
I again highlight the need to get a commitment from the IDA to invest in Carlow, which has suffered significant job losses in recent years with the closure of Irish Sugar and a significant employer in the laundry business. We have had the downsizing of international companies Braun and, more recently, Lapple. It is incumbent on the agency responsible for bringing foreign direct investment into the country not to forget small counties such as Carlow, which have a tradition of enterprise and which will not let the side down when it comes to giving 100% on employment. We have a skilled workforce and everything a foreign company locating in this country needs.