Harris faces fight to win post-Brexit jobs as EU members join race
The Government remains confident of luring the European Medical Agency (EMA) to Dublin - despite the emergence of major new competition.
Ireland was the early favourite to persuade the medical powerhouse to transfer its headquarters from Britain following the Brexit result.
But several other EU member states are now preparing to launch their own pitches in a bid to attract hundreds of jobs.
The EMA is responsible for protecting and promoting public health across the EU and currently employs 885 staff members.
The organisation is one of several expected to move its headquarters out of the UK as a result of the decision of voters to exit the EU.
While the Government remains confident it can persuade the EMA to move to Dublin, other member states have now mounted their own challenges.
These include Sweden, France, Denmark, Hungary and Bulgaria.
Despite the growing competition, a senior Government source last night said major efforts are being made to ensure Ireland's bid succeeds.
These include the arrangement of a meeting between Health Minister Simon Harris and EMA chiefs in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the Irish Independent has obtained briefing documents prepared for Mr Harris which detail the Irish bid to lure the EMA to Dublin.
The documents reveal that the Government expects the agency to make the decision soon after British Prime Minister Theresa May unlocks Article 50, which she says she will do by the end of March.
Among the key arguments set to be made by Dublin include the assertion the EMA is more likely to retain key staff members if it chooses to relocate its headquarters to Dublin as a result of Brexit.
"In terms of retention of expertise, Dublin's proximity to London would be a positive for EMA staff with families well established in the UK capital, while commonality of language and other facets of life may make it more likely that staff would remain with the EMA," the documents state.
Other arguments due to be used by the Government to lure the agency include the fact that Dublin has an "international airport 20 to 30 minutes from the city centre, with excellent air connectivity with EU capitals and continuing expansion of routes served."
According to the documents, Dublin also has the advantage of being in close proximity to the Irish medicines regulator - the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA).