Dáil Éireann - Volume 451 - 05 April, 1995
Adjournment Debate. - IDA Ireland — Forbairt Roles.
Dr. O'Hanlon Dr. O'Hanlon
Dr. O'Hanlon: Thank you, Sir, for allowing me to raise this matter on the Adjournment. I wish to share my time with Deputy Kirk.
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Treacy
An Ceann Comhairle: I am sure that is satisfactory and agreed.
Dr. O'Hanlon Dr. O'Hanlon
Dr. O'Hanlon: I thank the Minister for coming into the House to reply to the matter. We all welcome the Washington Conference and consider it a great opportunity for inward investment. In the past few weeks I met a number of business people, many of whom will attend the conference. It is essential they have an opportunity to meet American business people with similar interests who may wish to invest in Ireland for what it has to offer or as a route to larger European markets.
I approached IDA Ireland about this matter who told me it did not have any great involvement in the conference and that I should contact Forbairt. Section 7 of the Industrial Development Act, 1993, states that the function of Forbairt is to focus on the development of the indigenous industry and section 8 states that the function of IDA Ireland is to attract overseas firms and facilitate the expansion of overseas investment here. In that context and in view of its expertise, why does IDA Ireland not have greater involvement in the preparations for the Washington Conference? I  understand also that compared with Forbairt it has a large overseas organisation in the United States.
I ask the Minister to look first at the preparations being made for the conference to ensure that it realises its maximum potential. He should ensure, in so far as he can, that there is co-ordination and integration between the Department of Foreign Affairs, IDA Ireland, Forbairt, the trade board and others he thinks appropriate. I ask him also to look at the Border counties because President Clinton wants to see investment there following the peace process. What competitive advantages are we putting in place in the six southern Border counties which are facing competition from the IDB and the greater Dublin area? The Minister should ensure that money targeted at Border areas from the European Union and the International Fund for Ireland is for the development of roads, water, sewerage, telemarketing facilities which are essential for advance factories. Forfás policy on advance factories is not helpful to the Border areas because, it seems, the better place to be is within 20 miles of Dublin.
The Washington Conference presents a great opportunity for the Border areas in the wake of the peace process. It is important that members of different parties and the State agencies work together to ensure that it is a success.
Mr. Kirk Mr. Kirk
Mr. Kirk: I thank my colleague, Deputy O'Hanlon, for the opportunity to make a brief contribution on this important matter. That an investment conference is being organised is a clear indication of the support that is forthcoming from the United States to cement the process of peace and reconciliation on the island.
The format of the conference is important. It provides an opportunity for people in industry to meet business people in the United States and tell them of the advantages of investing in the Border counties. If Forbairt is to  have exclusive responsibility for organising, to the exclusion of IDA Ireland, that should be re-examined. There is also a danger that a multiplicity of groupings could go to this conference, all putting their own points of view, without the necessary co-ordination of approach. There is no point in a small grouping representing a few parishes, half a county or, indeed, a county putting its point of view to the detriment of the region in which it is located and of the six southern Border counties.
The conference is so important that the Minister should spell out its format so that people will know in advance what is required and the best approach to adopt.
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton) Richard Bruton
Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton): I thank Deputies O'Hanlon and Kirk for raising this issue. They have a genuine interest in it and I hope I will be able to deal with some of the issues they raised although Deputy O'Hanlon has raised a wide range of issues.
I assure both Deputies that there is no question of the IDA adopting a secondary role to Forbairt. The IDA focuses on foreign mobile industry which locates in the Border counties and it will be carrying that responsibility at the conference. On the other hand, Forbairt has different responsibilities, primarily, the matching of synergies in Irish companies with ones in the States and issues such as linkage between existing companies and those that might come in.
Linkage and the concept of competitive sub-supply is within Forbairt's brief. It is an area of immense opportunity. We have seen the creation of an estimated 12,000 jobs since 1985 by building linkage with foreign companies, and it is an area that has been targeted for £300 million worth of business over the next five years. We are making significant efforts to build on that. Recently I launched a programme for international competitiveness which was piloted in  Mayo and Galway, but this initiative will be spread to the rest of the country, including the counties represented by the two Deputies. The idea is to use the resource of foreign companies already located in Ireland to identify sub-supply companies in the region that have the capacity to expand their business and find new opportunities for sub-supply. It gives those new emerging companies access both to Forbairt and the expertise of the foreign companies that act as patrons to build up their quality and their ability to contract successfully for this type of business. That will be a key focus of Forbairt's involvement.
Forbairt also has responsibility for food and natural resources, and will examine foreign inward investment in so far as it affects those sectors and the Border counties. In the last couple of years we have seen very successful inflows from the United States. Investments since the beginning of 1992 have amounted to more than £600 million and there is a steady stream of applications coming to IDA Ireland in this area and also to Forbairt involving food and natural resources.
In regard to the conference, the focus will be on business, and will concentrate on Northern Ireland and the six Border counties covering trade, investment, tourism and business partners. The Irish delegation will include representatives from my Department, IDA Ireland and Forbairt. IDA Ireland will aggressively promote the Border counties for new inward investment opportunities from the United States. Forbairt, like IDA Ireland, will market the Border areas for inward investment in the food and natural resources sectors and will work closely with the US authorities to identify opportunities for closer links between the Irish and US companies. Recently an initiative jointly funded by both Forbairt and the International Fund for Ireland selected 20 companies that have the capacity to build up links with companies in the US. We already  have two businesses where successful linkages have been identified and we are developing those. The capacity of those 20 companies to employ, which now stands at 400, can be significantly expanded by that initiative.
Similarly, the organisers of the conference will seek 50 companies in the North and 50 in the South for matching with relevant US companies, and the agencies have submitted lists of potential invitees through my Department to be cleared via the US Embassy and, finally, the White House. For many Irish companies a partnership or strategic alliance with an overseas company provides a particularly attractive route to growth. A typical match is between an Irish company with a proven production and/or marketing capability and an overseas partner with product or process technologies.
The route builds on the strength of both companies to develop new business opportunities. I am assured that Forbairt and IDA Ireland continue to maximise the efficient use of State resources in helping Irish companies to access such partnership opportunities. Forbairt staff in North America, Germany and Japan are based in IDA offices, and the flow of information from IDA Ireland executives to their Forbairt colleagues about potential opportunities they come across remains, as before the agency restructuring process, as strong as ever.
Before and during the conference, Forbairt will work closely also with the US Department of Commerce Matchmaker Programme to widen the range of partnership opportunities identified. I fully accept the need for close co-operation between the main parties involved in linkage generally. I am assured that they have a close working relationship which will continue at the conference.
The US authorities expect follow-up conferences and trade missions in the Border counties by at least 100 of the attendees. In addition, follow-up by  education link-ups, student exchanges, twinning, technical and scientific links are expected. Both Forbairt and IDA Ireland will be closely involved as appropriate in the follow-up process, and I intend to ensure that the maximum benefits for Ireland are secured at the conference in Washington.
Dr. O'Hanlon Dr. O'Hanlon
Dr. O'Hanlon: I thank the Minister for his comprehensive reply.
An Ceann Comhairle Seán Treacy
An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy O'Malley was selected by me to raise a matter on the Adjournment. I understand the Deputy is unavoidably absent and wishes to extend his apologies to the House, the Minister and Department concerned.
Dáil Éireann 451 Adjournment Debate. IDA Ireland — Forbairt Roles.