Outspoken GAA pundit Joe Brolly is involved in high-level talks aimed at bringing vaccine manufacturing to Ireland.
The plan is described as involving “high-powered people, at the very highest level in the world”.
Mr Brolly, a personal friend of US President Joe Biden, is acting as a conduit for a number of individuals with interests in the pharmaceutical industry in Ireland.
The Derry barrister met with Taoiseach Micheál Martin about his proposal. Senior executives in the IDA were also called in to follow up.
The plan would involve a specific pharmaceutical plant in the south of the country manufacturing vaccines next year for a multinational which has developed a jab.
However, the plan has hit a wall due to a lack of interest from vaccine developers in sub-contracting to other producers.
Most of the main players in the Covid-19 vaccine market are already based in Ireland, with Pfizer in Cork, Dublin and Kildare; Johnson & Johnson in Cork, Limerick and Dublin, and AstraZeneca in Dublin. The IDA is regularly in contact with these companies and a host of other medicine and medical supplies companies based in Ireland.
Mr Brolly held a meeting with Mr Martin last month, just days before the Taoiseach’s meeting with President Biden on St Patrick’s Day.
“The Taoiseach had a virtual call with Joe Brolly on March 11,” a spokesman for Mr Martin said.
“The Taoiseach asked the IDA to engage with the company to see if it could play any role in helping with vaccine supply.”
Mr Brolly was unavailable for comment. The IDA had no comment to make.
Sources close to the process say the plan would help Ireland secure vaccine supply into the future.
The production of up to 20 million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine at the plant in the south of the country was suggested.
The plant would need to be upgraded to produce the vaccines, so production couldn’t happen until at least next year.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar’s view on the proposal has been sought and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly was asked about the plan last week.
Fine Gael Senator Paddy Burke said he was aware there is a proposal before Government on vaccine production in Ireland.
“This would create jobs and would come at no cost to the taxpayer,” he said in the Seanad.
“The Taoiseach is aware of the proposal. Some very high-powered people, at the very highest level in the world, are involved. I hope that the minister will pursue this as it would allow vaccines to be produced in this country for next year and would give us the safeguard of having our own vaccines here.”
He also said the Irish Government has to ensure pharmaceutical firms based in the Republic, which may have spare capacity because there has been no flu this year, can produce Covid-19 vaccines. He wants the Departments of Health, Finance and Enterprise to assess if vaccines could be produced in Ireland.
The IDA made an approach to a major multinational involved in vaccine production to sound them out about using another Irish-based plant. However, the developers were not interested.