Belfast Telegraph

Invest NI in clawback bid as call centre goes

By Donna Deeney

Invest NI will try to claw back thousands of pounds it gave to help a firm from the Republic set up a call centre in Northern Ireland after it announced the facility's closure.

When Waterford-based Rigney Dolphin opened the centre in Londonderry in 2010 it was offered up to £1.2m if it delivered the 300 jobs it was promising.

The company initially created 30 jobs, but employment peaked at 90 before falling back again to the current figure of 30 – all of whom will be made redundant.

The outsourcing service provider had hoped its call centre in Derry would give it a foothold into the UK market. Among its clients are Meteor, BMW, Carphone Warehouse and Airtricity. It opened in Patrick Street with the help of Invest NI and its own investment of £4m.

Yesterday a spokesman said the company did not receive the full £1.2m from Invest NI and claimed to have contributed over £3m to the local economy. He confirmed the company had entered into formal consultation with staff.

"Our Derry employees have contributed hugely over the last four years in the company's efforts to grow our client base in Northern Ireland," he said. "However, despite this commitment and hard work, the Derry location has not met business expectations in terms of growth and opportunity. Part of the consultation centres on the staff being offered other jobs within the group."

The statement stands in stark contrast to the words of Celine Fitzgerald (above), Rigney Dolphin's CEO, when the centre was launched in 2010.

"We are very serious about our commitment to Derry and have demonstrated this by an anticipated investment of £4m-£5m, and although we are living in uncertain times, we envisage a long future for us in Derry," she said at the time.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Enterprise and Trade described the company's decision as "regrettable".

"Rigney Dolphin's decision to cease its operation in Londonderry is as a result of increasing competition and difficult market conditions," she said.

"In 2010 Rigney Dolphin approached Invest Northern Ireland for support towards the creation of a business process outsourcing centre in Londonderry with the potential to create 297 jobs. The company created 90 jobs and only received support towards these. Invest NI is currently exploring the potential clawback against the grant paid for these 90 jobs."

The closure was described as "yet another huge blow to the city" by Foyle MLA Colum Eastwood. "The news that a company which has benefited from Invest NI funding is to cease operations in Derry after such a short period of time is concerning," he said.

"It is another huge blow for Derry's economy which continues to feel the bite of decades of neglect in terms of investment in infrastructure."

FACTFILE

e Rigney Dolphin is an Irish company with 1,100 employees in Waterford, Dublin and Dundalk.

e Based in Waterford and established in 1990, it described itself as "a family owned and operated outsource service provider".

e The company started out as a recruitment business but over the years has expanded into call centres, customer relations, human resources, and consultancy services.

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