O'Keeffe bows to IDA staff plea
Minister will give funding so agency can reach employment-creation targets
ENTERPRISE Minister Batt O'Keeffe is preparing to accede to the IDA's demands for an urgent staffing boost so it can cope with the jobs crisis -- but he has refused to confirm if he would reinstate all of the 50 posts which had been cut.
The flagship agency has been starved of staff and resources at a time when more than 450,000 people are on the Live Register.
Last night Mr O'Keeffe said he had accepted the IDA's arguments for increased resources and would provide funding for extra posts this week.
The minister said the IDA would be "quite happy" and "satisfied" with the offer.
The chairman of the IDA, the most important state agency for new jobs, wrote to Mr O'Keeffe in May to express serious concern over the agency's ability to meet targets.
As revealed in the Irish Independent on Saturday, Mr O'Keeffe was informed that chronic staff cuts had left the agency unable to act adequately on the biggest issue facing the country.
The IDA currently has 258 personnel, a drop of 50 positions since 2008.
But after recent talks with the agency on securing more staff and resources, Mr O'Keeffe said he would sign off on a package this week.
"I think they will be quite happy," he said. "They have indicated to us what will allow them to meet their targets and I am going to ensure that that is available to them."
The announcement came after Fine Gael TD Fergus O'Dowd accused the Government of failing to take job creation seriously. He said it was difficult to comprehend how the Government could allow a staffing crisis to continue in the IDA at a time when latest jobless figures stand at 450,000 people.
"It is utterly illogical to deny personnel resources to a state body that has a crucial role in creating employment," Mr O'Dowd said.
The IDA staffing crisis, which has been the subject of negotiations over a nine-month period, was "further proof" of the Government's lack of commitment to job creation, he added.
According to the IDA, its current staffing levels mean it cannot adequately implement the Horizon 2020 strategy -- the Government's plan to create 105,000 jobs by 2014 and re-boot the economy.
Job-creation plans will have to be shelved, including initiatives in Sligo and Limerick, still reeling from a massive jobs cull at Dell last year.
The lack of staff would have an "enormous impact" on the agency's ability to staff overseas offices as they worked to tempt investors to Ireland, the IDA letter stated.
All public-service bodies have suffered a drop in staffing because of government initiatives to cut the headcount, including a ban on hiring.
But the IDA argued that the number of staff reductions as a percentage of overall staff was significantly greater in the IDA than in other public bodies.
The IDA did not respond last night to queries from the Irish Independent.
Meanwhile, Mr O'Keeffe has announced a new scheme to place 50 of the country's top graduates in export-led firms in partnership with UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.