A shelved scheme to create jobs could be replaced after falling short of its target

The IDA claims the Connect Ireland initiative created just over 500 positions, instead of 5,000.

By Paul O'Donoghue Reporter, Fora

THE GOVERNMENT MAY consider starting a new employment initiative after one launched in 2012 allegedly delivered far less jobs that had been expected.

Launched in March 2012, ‘Succeed in Ireland’ was an initiative that offered financial incentives to individuals who helped bring jobs to Ireland.

A group called Connect Ireland, set up by Taxback.com founder Terry Clune, was appointed to promote and deliver the initiative, which was managed by the IDA.

It had a target to create 5,000 jobs within five years. The IDA said that it has only verified 527 jobs created under the scheme.

However, this figure is in dispute and it has been claimed that Connect Ireland created more than 2,400 jobs over three years, although this is still below its 5,000 target.

The idea was to use the connections of the Irish diaspora to link up with small- and medium-sized companies that were considering expanding, but would not normally be large enough to be targeted by state agencies like the IDA.

A four-year contract due to expire on March 2016 was extended by the IDA to March 2017. However, the IDA has decided not to tender for an extension of the programme beyond this date.

‘We want to continue’

Speaking to Fora, Connect Ireland chief executive Joanna Murphy said that the scheme has created far more jobs than the figure verified by the IDA.

joanna murphy connect ireland Connect Ireland CEO Joanna Murphy
Source: Youtube

“There are 1,046 jobs on the ground, they just haven’t all been verified yet,” she said.

“2,211 jobs is the entire projection (for jobs created by Connect Ireland companies), it depends on when they started.”

Murphy said the 5,000-job goal for the initiative is “in the pipeline”, although she declined to say when exactly that number of positions would be created.

“These jobs are additional to the ones that the IDA creates but at a fraction of the cost, as we get paid on a ‘win-only’ basis,” she said.

““Much of the cost has been taken up by Terry Clune. The last year has been the most successful one (for us) and we feel that there is no good reason that the programme should be discontinued.

“Should the programme be discontinued in March, all of our progress will wither and die. There have been challenges but Connect Ireland is open to resolving them.”

Wind down

Speaking in the Dáil yesterday, Minister for Jobs Mary Mitchell O’Connor confirmed that the IDA has decided not to renew the ‘Succeed in Ireland’ initiative. She said the state may look at creating a new scheme following a review.

“The purpose of that extension, agreed by both parties, was to allow an orderly wind down of the programme,” she said.

“I have asked my department to commission a review of the initiative. This will allow for a full assessment of its costs and contribution to employment generation in the State.

“Such a review may also consider the development of a new programme, including through examining the experience of similar initiatives in other jurisdictions.”

90431936_90431936 Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor
Source: Leah Farrell

The IDA has paid just over €2 million to Connect Ireland as a financial reward for the 527 jobs created that the state agency has verified. It also provided Connect Ireland with a further €150,000 for marketing support for the operation of the programme.

‘Connectors’ who helped create an Irish position under the scheme earned up to €1,500 per job created, up to a maximum of 100 jobs.

Tensions

However, the number of jobs created under the scheme are in dispute. While the IDA has paid Connect Ireland for 527 jobs, Clune told the Sunday Business Post that there are more than 1,000 people employed in companies brought to Ireland through the scheme.

He claimed that the number would expand to 2,300 in the coming years.

Speaking in the Dáil Fianna Fáil TD Niall Collins said: “Under the programme 79 international companies have been approved by the IDA with 2,411 jobs being created over three years.”

Social Democrats co-founder and TD Catherine Murphy questioned in the Dáil yesterday if there was friction between the IDA and Connect Ireland over the number of jobs created as part of the initiative.

social 115_90501723 Catherine Murphy
Source: Sam Boal

“I understand there are significant tensions between IDA Ireland and Connect Ireland to the extent that it has gone for arbitration.  Will the Minister confirm this?” she asked.

Mitchell O’Connor said that the two parties have entered into a “mutually agreed process to address whether differences have arisen between them in the course of the contract”.

“I hope that process will result in an acceptable outcome for both parties.  It would be neither appropriate nor helpful for me at this stage to comment on that ongoing process,” she said.

“An arbitrator has been agreed on by the two parties but is yet to be appointed.”

The minister said she was not in a position to discuss whether there will be an “offset for losses” in the course of the wind down of the ‘Succeed in Ireland’ programme.

Note: This article has been updated to properly reflect the fact that the number of jobs created by Connect Ireland is in dispute and to include additional quotes.

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