WHEN bosses of big US tech companies are asked why they chose Ireland as a European base, they often revert to a hackneyed narrative.
"There's an educated young workforce."
"It's an English-speaking country with great connections to the EU."
"Ireland is an emerging technology hub."
Yeah, yeah. And the Guinness is good, too.
Last Friday, the founder of the latest US firm to settle in Dublin, Qualtrics, was at it again.
"We didn't come here for taxes," Ryan Smith told 'Sunday Independent' journalist Tom Lyons. "We came here for the people who can help us grow."
This is all a harmless merry-go-round of semi-fibbing that offends no one outside hardcore tax liability ethicists. Crucially, it takes attention away from the real, but relatively vulgar, plank of Irish foreign investment policy: tax breaks.
To be clear, skilled recruits and graduates are genuinely important to tech companies. But there are far more graduates in England, which is also an English-speaking member of the EU.
The thing about England, though, is that it has less generous tax breaks.
At present, the large majority of people employed by big tech companies here have little to do with tech skills.
The army of customer service, HR, accounts receivable and other 'skilled' jobs that make up the majority – though not all – of global tech firms' presence here could probably be assembled in Manchester, Birmingham or even Belfast. But we have a much better tax rate than any of those places.
However, so what? For anyone following the sector closely, this is not really news. Who cares if tech investors stroke our egos a little? Everyone gains a little, right?
And yet something odd and wonderful is starting to happen. There are now some real signs that the long years of subsidising big US companies to outsource their clerical, administrative and sales divisions to Ireland may actually be giving birth to something much closer to a genuine tech ecosystem with serious, high-end, tech jobs.
A couple of announcements in the last week illustrate why this may be the case.
The first came with Twitter's announcement of 100 new jobs to be created in its Dublin office over the next year. Among these positions are engineers. "This will be the first time the company has taken on engineers outside San Francisco," said the company's managing director in Ireland, Stephen McIntyre (pictured left).
A similar situation happened on Monday when the online travel advice firm, Tripadvisor.com, announced 50 new jobs here. For the first time, several of these positions are in engineering, rather than just the usual legal, HR and customer service roles.
But the biggest sign of a new tier being breached by Irish technology employees came from Intel. Late last month, it announced a major new line of processors that it hopes will help the company compete in new areas. The processors, called the Quark line, will be Intel's fourth line of chips, accompanying Xeon, Core and Atom processors. What Intel did not publicly announce at the time is that these chips have been largely designed in Ireland.
That's worth repeating: Intel's big new product is the result of three years' work in a lab in Kildare.
Whether or not the new chips, which are aimed at powering small devices such as 'wearable' technology items or household appliances, are an immediate success is beside the point. It is a significant event for Ireland that Intel is now relying on Irish facilities to design things for them instead of simply following manufacturing instructions emailed from California.
There are other such signs that Ireland is not just a tax-efficient base that also, as a bonus, has some pretty good people here to staff US tech offices.
Politicians and state-agency bosses have waffled for years about the workforce 'skilling-up'.
Now, it may genuinely be happening.