Wednesday 13 November 2019

State agencies beef up staff numbers to meet Brexit threat


British Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg demanded Ireland’s ‘bluff’ be called over the border
British Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg demanded Ireland’s ‘bluff’ be called over the border

Fearghal O'Connor

With Jacob Rees-Mogg "threatening to call the Irish government's bluff" on Brexit and Boris Johnson warning of "the tail wagging the dog" on the border, it is hardly surprising that Ireland's state agencies are gearing up for battle.

A number of key agencies have spent a total of €2.8m on new staff resources specifically to tackle the unpredictable impact of Britain's politically chaotic and uncertain journey to leave the European Union.

Enterprise Ireland, IDA, Science Foundation Ireland and the Health and Safety Authority have all received additional pay allocations this year because of Brexit, Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation Heather Humphreys revealed when responding to a parliamentary question on the matter.

The hike in allocations does not include an unquantified extra amount spent by the department itself on a dedicated Brexit Unit established in 2016, which last year increased its staffing, she said.

Enterprise Ireland was allocated €1.3m to recruit 18 additional staff members for Brexit-related posts across the organisation during 2018 and to date six positions have been filled. IDA was allocated an additional €700,000 in funding "to further reinforce its staffing levels as a result of Brexit."

"It is intended that the agency will use this funding to create 10 new positions across a range of areas in the organisation," said Humphreys. "It will also be used to hire five more graduates who will be on fixed-term, rolling three-year contracts. The IDA has also established a specific Brexit Committee to oversee its response to the opportunities and challenges arising from the UK's exit from the EU. The agency also has a clear Brexit Plan, which includes one-to-one investor engagements and public relations and media campaigns."

Science Foundation Ireland was allocated an additional €400,000 to hire Brexit-related staff, while the Health and Safety Authority received an allocation of €400,000 for Brexit-related posts for 2018.

"Following a review of its Workforce Plan, a number of inspector posts were identified and business cases were submitted to the Department of Business, Enterprise & Innovation. Sanction has been given to fill seven inspector posts and the authority has commenced the recruitment process for these positions with preliminary interviews scheduled to take place in mid-June," she said, adding that her department would keep staffing requirements under review during 2018.

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