‘Miles ahead' Republic has no need to ‘poach' potential investors from the north

Criticism has been levied against the First Minister Arlene Foster for alleging the Republic’s government has been talking down the north’s economy and attempting to “poach" investment.Picture: Mark Marlow/pacemaker press.
Gareth McKeown

A BUSINESS commentator has said the Irish government has no need to "poach" potential investors from the north as they are "miles ahead" in their ability to attract business.

Former Irish News columnist Eamon Quinn said that First Minister Arlene Foster should concentrate on the potential "huge boost" for export business through a weak sterling rather than bemoaning a possible investment contract slipping through the grasp of Invest NI down south.

Speaking at the annual DUP party conference on Saturday, the First Minister accused the Republic’s government of talking down the north’s economy and attempting to “poach" investment.

"The comments are very odd, unless she's got specific detail of a big contract the north has lost out on," Mr Quinn said.

"It's a bit strange. Perhaps Dublin took it under the nose of Invest NI, maybe that's what she's going on about," he continued.

The Irish Examiner Business Editor said that the Industrial Development Authority in the south was "miles ahead" of its counterpart in the north, Invest NI, in the key areas of pharmaceuticals, the financial sector and ICT and did not need to compete.

"The IDA doesn't really have to fight too much as they're the most successful indigenous outfit in attracting investment in the world for the US market," he said.

When asked if it was possible the IDA could have 'talked down' the north's economy he admitted they could have "overstepped the line", in light of the Executive's failure to implement the 12.5% corporation tax rate and uncertainty over the cost of Brexit.

"Maybe so and why not. They do compete, but they don't need to compete with Invest NI, because Invest NI wouldn't go head to head in areas they know they're going to lose," he said

"If there was a contract that the IDA won or Dublin won which they thought Invest NI should have got well it's a drop in the ocean considering what would have went south automatically anyway," he added

In the wake of the First Minister's comments the Republic’s Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan spoke of his ‘surprise and concerns’ about allegations government officials were poaching foreign investment from Northern Ireland.

“I was concerned and I was surprised. These were issues that hadn’t been raised with me,” he said.

The Chair of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, Fianna Fail's Brendan Smith said it was "absolutely incorrect" for Mrs Foster to suggest that the Irish Government talks down the Northern Irish economy

“No Irish Government, irrespective of who is in office, talks down the Northern Irish economy. In fact, the opposite happens,” the Cavan Monaghan Fianna Fáil TD said.

When asked if Invest NI had briefed the DUP leader ahead of Saturday's conference over a possible lost investment to the Republic, both the offices of the DUP and Invest NI did not issue a response.

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