Thursday, 18 February 2021
Covid-19 (Enterprise, Trade and Employment): Statements
I am sharing time with Deputy Conway-Walsh. I had hoped to have a question-and-answer exchange with the Tánaiste but I am sure he will appreciate that I must raise the proposed lay-offs in the Kerry Group. It is a very worrying development for businesses in north Kildare. The Tánaiste will be aware that the company itself employs hundreds of my constituents in Naas. These are highly skilled workers with large financial commitments, many of them crippled with mortgages as is the norm in this State.
The Kerry Group is synonymous with Ireland and its green fields, but not so much with Malaysia or Mexico. During my time on Kildare County Council, we pulled out all the stops for the company, whose representatives got the VIP treatment, the red carpet and everything else when they came to Kildare in 2016. The Kerry Group makes huge profits, including €797 million last year and €1 billion in 2019. Has the Tánaiste had any engagement with the company and what can he do to protect the jobs in Naas, if they are affected?
Second, I would like to raise the events sector, which was referred to earlier by the Minister of State, Deputy Troy. Will the Government look seriously and urgently at making the State an EU hub for the live events industry post Covid? The opportunity is there for the taking if we are ambitious and creative enough. The live industry is huge in north Kildare, much more so than I realised before I engaged with representatives late last year. It supports thousands of jobs directly and thousands more spin-off jobs. With the UK's exit from the EU, we have a critical opportunity to set ourselves up as an English-speaking gateway between the US and EU for live events. Pre-Brexit, Britain had 85% of the live production capability for touring. Now, acts from the US could come here, hire their crews, support and transport, do their rehearsals and set off for concert tours in the EU. What will the Government do to grow our live events industry and the jobs associated with it, building on our global reputation in arts and entertainment? Will the Tánaiste reach out to British live events companies that might want to transfer their businesses here and thereby create highly skilled jobs and investment in this country? We have huge talent here which traditionally had to go elsewhere. We could keep it here and the Tánaiste would have our full support if he were to look into that.