TDs and Senators have branded as shocking and regrettable a refusal by the head of the IDA to address them about the winding up of a scheme that used the Irish diaspora to create jobs.
The inward investment agency had been invited to attend yesterday's Oireachtas Jobs Committee concerning the end of the Succeed in Ireland initiative, operated by Connect Ireland, which has now become the subject of a legal dispute.
IDA ceo Martin Shanahan declined the invite to attend citing legal reasons. He also suggested the committee should not go ahead with the hearing, but if it did, to hold it in private in order not to "jeopardise the IDA's defence of any future proceedings".
The IDA appointed Connect Ireland in 2012 to deliver on the Succeed in Ireland initiative, which aimed to create a minimum of 5,000 jobs. It provides a payment to people who can host introductions to overseas companies that then subsequently invest and create jobs in Ireland.
But the IDA and Connect Ireland are locked in a bitter dispute about the number of jobs created through the initiative - the IDA says 535, while Connect Ireland says 1,046.
Representatives from the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation attended the committee on behalf of Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor, but nobody was present from the IDA. Connect Ireland ceo Joanna Murphy and founder Terry Clune were also present.
In a letter to the committee, Mr Shanahan said the Succeed in Ireland programme is the focus of a legal dispute, in which Connect Ireland and Mr Clune's company Taxback served a dispute notice on the IDA last August, claiming damages.
Mr Shanahan said that following legal advice, it would be "completely inappropriate" to air the dispute in public while legal issues are ongoing.
"As the dispute has yet to be determined, we believe it would be regrettable if the committee proceeds with a hearing on Succeed in Ireland," Mr Shanahan wrote. "If it is the case that the Committee wishes to proceed with a hearing on Succeed in Ireland without the IDA present, we respectfully request that the hearing is held in camera so as not to jeopardise the IDA's defence of any future proceedings."
Committee chairwoman Mary Butler told the hearing that the agency's absence was "very regrettable".
Fianna Fáil TD John McGuinness described it as "shocking".
"The level of arrogance shown by the IDA by not turning up is something that I have not seen in this House for quite some time," he said.
Ms Murphy told the committee that Connect Ireland wanted a "bridging contract", preferably with the department, to continue the Succeed in Ireland initiative. The current contract is due to expire on Sunday, the hearing was told.
Minister O'Connor has ordered a review into the initiative. Ms Murphy said Connect Ireland should be party to this.
She said Connect Ireland was "perplexed" by the decision to scrap the scheme.
An IDA spokesman told the Irish Independent that the scheme had "failed to meet its targets".
"IDA Ireland's Board may decide to tender in the future for a remodelled Succeed in Ireland programme, but it will not continue with the existing scheme, which has failed to meet its targets," he said.