'Succeed in Ireland' scheme ending in acrimony

Row erupts over how many jobs were actually created...

A high-profile ConnectIreland initiative to pay entrepreneurs who can attract jobs into the country is set to close on Monday, amid a dispute over how many jobs it created.

The 'Succeed in Ireland' scheme was founded by entrepreneur Terry Clune five years ago during the height of the recession. It intended to pay a finder's fee of €1,500 to so-called "connectors" for every new Irish job they managed to lure to these shores.

However, the IDA – which is footing the bill and is technically a rival body to ConnectIreland – has stated that it only created a quarter of the number of jobs claimed by ConnectIreland itself.

The company has said that it resulted in 2,000 jobs being created, with IDA putting the number at just 535.

There have been counter-allegations that the IDA blocked a cash reward to over 50 potential connectors, claiming that it had already been engaged in discussions with the companies involved.

It has evolved into a legal dispute, with Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor admitting today that there was no sign of agreement or the tender being extended. O'Connor confirmed that her department was currently drafting the terms of reference and guidelines for a review, but it was "very difficult" due to the legal nature of proceedings.

Taoiseach Enda Kenny said that he was "always a strong supporter" of the scheme and expressed his disappointment at it having "run into difficulties".

Kenny noted that the two bodies should not be competitors, with 'Succeed in Ireland' intended to deliver "smaller job numbers in places where the IDA would not normally be in a position to invite or attract jobs..."

He said that the exact numbers were not important and that the scheme brought a "verifiable number" of new jobs to "dispersed jobs".

Social Democrat TD Catherine Murphy (pictured)  told the Dáil that she had heard allegations that ConnectIreland was "possibly stymied in creating jobs by the IDA in what sounds essentially like a turf war".

She is also concerned that the IDA or Department of Jobs could be facing a compensation bill of as much as €14m as a result of the dispute.

Murphy said:

"The core issue here is that potentially jobs were lost to Ireland. There is also potential reputational damage."

She asked the Taoiseach if either the IDA or the Department of Jobs were potentially facing a compensation bill of up to €14m which would have to be paid from public funds and if any amount had been factored into the budgets of either the IDA or the Department for such an event.

Additional reporting: Gavan Reilly