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'Halligan is focused on his constituency but I have to ensure we deliver jobs for all of Ireland'

Halligan said he felt jobs announcements were being made in his constituency by Mitchell O’Connor, when they should be made by him.

Junior Minister John Halligan and Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor.
Junior Minister John Halligan and Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor.
Image: Leah Farrell

AFTER A TOUGH year of criticism from friends and rivals, alike, Mary Mitchell O’Connor was among the first ministers out and about in 2017, presenting herself as Ireland’s jobs chief.

Last year, the Fine Gael minister was dogged by abuse that she was not up for that task. It came from all sides – opposition deputies, certain areas of the media and even from within her own party. Those seated at the Cabinet table with her have got in on the act, as well.

In October, the Irish Examiner reported from a parliamentary party meeting that some rural Fine Gael TDs “tore strips” off Mitchell O’Connor after she gave a presentation. She was asked what she was doing to help rural Ireland – a criticism often levelled at both the Jobs Minister and IDA Ireland, the agency dedicated to luring foreign direct investment to this island.

The minister is now – perhaps belatedly – trying to hammer home the message that it is not her job to mind her party colleague’s constituencies but to attract and keep businesses across the entire country.

Parish-pump politics (something that is never far removed from the Irish landscape) became an issue for Mitchell O’Connor last week – giving her one last headache in 2016.

Her government colleague, Minister of State for Skills and Training John Halligan spoke out about “difficulties” he had been having with the minister (his direct line manager) over job announcements in his constituency.

The Waterford deputy said he felt the announcements being made there by Mitchell O’Connor should actually be handed over to him.

The junior minister said he had not been given advance information on some of the developments, describing it as unfair.

The Independent Alliance TD’s comments on RTÉ’s Today with Seán O’Rourke came as he said the current government will last ”two of three years”.

When asked by TheJournal.ie today if those difficulities with Halligan had been ironed out for the new year, the minister said politicians often look after the localities in which they are elected.

She said while Halligan might focus on announcing jobs for his constituency of Waterford, it is – as minister – her job to focus on delivering jobs for the entire country.

I have a very good working relationship with Minister Halligan. Obviously, it is the nature of politics that every minister, every TD, every senator, every county councillor, watches their constituency and watches that brief – so obviously Minister Halligan is very much, you know, focused as well on his constituency of Waterford.
But it is my job as a minister for the whole constituency of Ireland to make sure we deliver jobs right across the regions.

Speaking at IDA Ireland’s 2016 results event today (where IBM’s supercomputer ‘Watson’ made an appearance) Mitchell O’Connor also addressed concerns about the new US administration under president-elect Donald Trump.

She said her department will be watching developments “very closely” to examine what it might mean for US investment to Ireland.

IDA data for 2016 shows there were 176 investments made from north America – the highest number from any global region.

The mood from both the minister and the IDA is that future US policies are unknown.

“I have every confidence in the IDA. They are 67 years in business – they have been out there competing under different administrations and obviously we will be watching this very closely,” she told reporters.

“We will be doing our very best to ensure the American companies land in Ireland… [and] that the US companies that are here are helped to expand.

Martin Shanahan, CEO of the IDA added, “We have to await and see what policies will emanate from the US administration.”

He said it is possible companies could “hold off” on making investments until they see the details of Trump’s economic decisions.

“I think it as yet to early to say what the impact will be. Obviously, I think there is an expectation in some quarters that there could be tax reform in the US. There could be some repatriation of profits, it may be the administration is more protectionist, the answer is we don’t know yet. We will have to await the detail as to what the new administration’s policies actually are.

“It is my expectation that regardless of what those policies are that US companies will need to internationalise. They will need to internationalise in terms of accessing the market, they will need to internalise in order to access the talent that is available and they will need to internalise in order to access the innovation and research and development.”

There is no one country or one continent that has a monopoly on these things… I think they will continue to be in Ireland for all of the reasons that they have come here to date.

He predicted that some companies may await the outcome of the detail of US policies before they make future investment decisions, but he said no company has expressed concern about their investment in Ireland.

However, Shanahan added that it is perfectly reasonable that US companies might “sit tight until they see the details”.

Total employment at overseas companies operating within Ireland now stands at a record 199,877, with 18,627 jobs created over the past 12 months.

Read: John Halligan believes the government won’t serve its full term>

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