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Sunday 19 August 2018

Conor Lenihan: No other word for what Enda tried to do but sabotage

Fine Gael's decision not to allow ministers travel to promote jobs, investment and trade for Ireland is a singular act of national sabotage.

The public rightly disdain unnecessary visits or trips by ministers where they feel there is little by way of hard outcome from such visits.

However Fine Gael, for base political reasons, are now disrupting ministerial activity that is aimed at pulling this country out of recession and into recovery.

Ministers

Agencies such as the IDA, who promote inward investment and Enterprise Ireland, who promote Irish companies to export more, hugely prize the presence of ministers when they travel to a foreign country to promote jobs in Ireland.

In my own role as Minister in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, I have seen at first hand the impact of these visits.

In the main they are focused on business and getting valuable business into the country whether it is for Irish companies selling overseas or big-ticket investors who want to start a new plant in Ireland.

In fact, on many of these visits the executives from the IDA and Enterprise Ireland readily admit they would not get the access they would like if a minister was not present.

On one recent visit, an investor candidly told me that they would not even have had a meeting with the agency involved were it not for the fact that a minister was attending.

Ireland's IDA is one of the best agencies in the world for attracting inward investment and jobs.

These jobs come at a price but the heads of this agency know that a minister on a visit will get an appointment that they may have tried for the best part of a year to land without success.

Often the enterprise agencies are desperate to establish a connection at a senior level within global firms and it can take a long time before you get your feet under the table to make a presentation.

Veteran

The Tanaiste Mary Coughlan is a veteran of such meetings from her time as Minister for Enterprise and Employment. She knows the ropes and within a meeting can get the message across.

Big global companies are always impressed at the level and seniority of access they get when it comes to Ireland.

Part of our appeal for these investors is precisely the fact that they can get this type of access quickly, an accessibility they do not experience in their own countries.

The Tanaiste's meeting has been in the pipeline for eight months, with the agencies carefully planning how it will run.

The trip was to copper-fasten relationships with prestigious American colleges who will ultimately send valuable students to this country to study at our third-level institutions.

We do not get nearly enough of the educational visitor trade, so the Government has responded with this new promotional strategy to underpin our efforts in the area.

The public rightly expect that the least ministers will do when travelling on behalf of the government will be to promote potential investment in jobs at home.

The partisan approach by Fine Gael on this matter shows both their immaturity and in some sense their unsuitability to be in Government.

Labour are to be thanked for taking a national view rather than a party political view of these visits.

However, it remains a pity that the decision, in this case, is just a 'once-off'.

Unfounded

In my view, there should be many more such visits by Irish ministers at this particular time -- precisely because it is important to put to rest the unfounded fears that are out there at international level about the Irish economy.

Conor Lenihan TD is Minister for Science, Technology and Innovation and a Dail deputy for Dublin South West

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