IDA chief denies Republic is trying to "poach" Northern Irish business

Martin Shanahan reacts to Arlene Foster's harsh words last month...

The head of the IDA has rejected claims by Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster that the Republic is trying to "poach investment" from the North.

Martin Shanahan told the Irish Independent that he had no idea what Foster was talking about.

He said:

"I don't believe there's any justification. In truth, I don't know to what the First Minister is referring."

In her first conference speech as leader, Foster told the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) last month that the Irish Government was sending representatives around the world to "talk down" the North's economy in the hope of hijacking its investment. Foster claimed that a hard border exists in the mind of the Irish Government.

She said: "Now, I am pleased that relations with the Irish Government are probably as good as they have been at any point in our history and I will continue to work with them where it is in the best interests of Northern Ireland to do so.

"However, the reality is that political instability in Dublin, and fears of their own future, are driving their decision-making at present as much as any concern about Northern Ireland.

"And while they seek to take the views of people of Northern Ireland on the issue of Brexit at home, their representatives are sent around the world to talk down our economy and to attempt to poach our investors."

In his first response to those comments, Shanahan defended the Republic's strategy:

"Obviously the UK is a competitor, Northern Ireland is a competitor, but as a source of foreign direct investment (FDI) it is not something that the IDA is focused on. We are focused on Europe, we are focused on Asia, we are focused on the US."

Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan has already expressed surprise at Foster's words, deeming them to be unhelpful.