Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

14.30 4 Jul 2020


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A planning expert has called for the Government to be as 'bullish' in promoting big Irish businesses as it is in supporting SMEs.

Conor Skehan, a lecturer in planning at Technological University Dublin and former chair of the Housing Agency, spoke to Down to Business.

He suggested there's a risk of taking the importance of multi-nationals - including homegrown ones - in Ireland for granted.

Government should be 'bullish' in promoting big Irish businesses as well as SMEs - Conor Skehan

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Mr Skehan said he was struck by the issue when reading the recent programme for government.

He observed: "I was struck of the amount of reading in it about indigenous, small-scale support... there were pages and pages and pages of it.

"I said 'let's look at the balance' - what are we saying about large-scale businesses and multinationals? It's about two lines.

"We must try to keep sight of the fact that the real thing that pays the bills in this country are very large-scale multi-nationals - and the most important thing for us all to remember does not mean international alone. We have very big multi-nationals from Ireland trading abroad."

He pointed to successful Irish multi-national firms such as CRH, Portwest, Ardagh Glass Sales and Ryanair.

He explained: "The likes of Portwest... they have manufacturing plants all over the world now, from a start in Westport.

"The top ten Irish multi-nationals... they produce more money every year than all of the output of Ireland's SMEs. We've got to be as bullish for them... we have to have both.

"There's a real danger of us taking for granted the incredible success we have of sustaining and attracting multi-nationals - in fact it's an incredible miracle act that's the envy of the rest of the world."

Mr Skehan said the key is ambition and to challenge ourselves, suggesting that "good enough isn't good enough".

He told Bobby: "We are already very well-placed - we have the IDA who tend to look after the multi-nationals, and we have Enterprise Ireland who tend to look after the SMEs and indigenous sector. We have the structures in place.

"My only concern is about emphasis - that an official policy document like a programme for government only has two lines about the multi-nationals, and 20 pages about the other stuff."

Main image: File photo. Picture via Pixabay

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