Belfast Telegraph

Dublin to maintain cash aid to InterTradeIreland despite Stormont's cuts

Paddy Savage of InterTradeIreland (centre) with Michael O’Hare and Ronan McGuirk of ASM Chartered Accountants;
Paddy Savage of InterTradeIreland (centre) with Michael O’Hare and Ronan McGuirk of ASM Chartered Accountants;
Thomas Hunter McGowan, chief executive of InterTradeIreland, with Alistair Carson, director of Advance Machinery Installation
Mr Hunter McGowan with the Northern Ireland regional finalists at the InterTradeIreland 2015 Seedcorn Awards
Margaret Canning

By Margaret Canning

The Republic's Enterprise Department has said it wants to maintain funding for cross-border body InterTradeIreland in 2016.

The organisation set up in the Good Friday Agreement to foster north-south trade is funded by the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) and the Republic's Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (DJEI).

DETI cut its contribution by around 10%, or £300,000, during this year - but Sinn Fein MLA Mairtin O Muilleoir has called for no cuts in 2016.

During 2014 - the last year for which full figures are available - the body received a £3.1m contribution from DETI and £6.2m in grants from the DJEI.

During the year, it funded sales development programmes for firms, as well as running the Seedcorn competition to recognise innovation in early-stage businesses .

Funding and cuts alike are calculated on a 2:1 basis, with the Republic's department theoretically providing or taking away twice that of its Northern Ireland counterpart.

However, according to DJEI, it did not match the cut imposed by DETI in 2015.

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Mr O Muilleoir said he had written to the Republic's Jobs Minister Richard Bruton to urge the department not to cut its 2016 grants.

The MLA added: "Given that 50% of InterTradeIreland's work is with northern companies, that it has helped create 3,000 jobs and spurred £1bn in cross-border trade, it's crucial that Minister Bell finds a way to reverse this cut."

A spokesman for DETI said the 2016 budget had not yet been finalised, while InterTradeIreland itself said it was unable to comment.

A spokesman for Republic's DJEI said the shortfall left by DETI's cut was made up with reserves, enabling InterTradeIreland to operate at "roughly" the same level as 2014 and revealed a business plan for next year had not yet been agreed.

"DETI's initial position is that they have not restored the full cut made in 2015 but have offered a contribution which would represent an effective 7% cut," he said.

"Our department is very keen that the body should continue its activities to assist the SME sector at the current level, and to date, therefore, we have not imposed any cut to our planned contribution for 2016.

"We are continuing to discuss the body's budget for 2016 with DETI in an effort to ensure that it can operate its full suite of programmes."

Belfast Telegraph