Dáil debates

Wednesday, 15 May 2024

Future Ireland Fund and Infrastructure, Climate and Nature Fund Bill 2024: Report and Final Stages


3:20 pm

Photo of Gerald NashGerald Nash (Louth, Labour) | Oireachtas source

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 8, between lines 15 and 16, to insert the following: “(3) The Agency may, in consultation with a Minister of the Government having functions in relation to a sector of the economy, develop proposals for investment in that sector in order to support economic activity and employment.”.

I am sorry for being a little late. I proposed this amendment on Committee Stage and there was a wide-ranging discussion that went beyond my own amendment. I know Deputy Doherty had other significant amendments that really amounted to the same thing. This amendment is to give an explicit function to the National Treasury Management Agency for a range of different matters with regard to the use of funds that will be put into the Future Ireland Fund, and funds we generate by investments to develop our regions, provide for additional resources to address the dire social and affordable housing needs we have in this country, other infrastructural developments and so on.

I was particularly explicit with regard to this Report Stage amendment, which is, in effect, the same amendment we debated on Committee Stage last week. I would like to see an explicit role being given to the agency to "develop proposals for investment in that sector in order to support economic activity and employment". It would obviously be up to the Government of the day to identify the sectors that would require particular support. My view is that our SME base and indigenous enterprise will need additional State support to address the innovation and productivity gaps that are very present.

We know we have an excessive reliance, in terms of decent jobs in this country, on jobs generated by the foreign direct investment sector. There are issues in our indigenous enterprise sector and there is a spectrum of indigenous enterprises, extending from high-performing Enterprise Ireland clients to locally traded services. My focus is on how we can develop innovative, productive SMEs to allow them to remain, grow and scale here in Ireland. We have an enormous reliance on foreign direct investment jobs. The reason we are deciding in this House to create this fund in the first place is the excess corporation tax receipts we have generated and will, in all likelihood, continue to generate into the future. That in itself shows the phenomenal performance of the FDI sector but also the vulnerabilities in terms of good jobs, the OECD process we are going through and the uncertainty around the level of corporation tax revenue that will be generated and available to us into the future.

There should be an explicit function for the NTMA around regional development. As I said on Committee Stage, we know that Enterprise Ireland generated jobs but last year the bulk of those jobs were generated outside Dublin. It is not the first time that has happened. That has been the case for a number of years. In some ways, I think Enterprise Ireland is an underrated enterprise agency. IDA Ireland attracts significantly more attention. Enterprise Ireland is doing very hard work in every town and county to generate the kinds of jobs and support the kinds of businesses that we need in this enterprise economy.

I argue for the acceptance of my amendment, which is required. The arguments from the Minister, Deputy McGrath, on Committee Stage last week seemed to be that he did not want to give the NTMA any explicit riding instructions or insert in primary legislation anything that might, in some way, tie its hands in the future. We know what the challenges will be in the future and this is one of them. As a Parliament, we need to provide the NTMA with the explicit position of this House, that we believe regional development should be at the core of what it does and that regional development and local indigenous enterprise development here in Ireland should be at the core of how this fund uses the resources to achieve the best possible outcomes for our society and economy.


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