The time for business leaders to sit on the sidelines on the vital issue of the Lisbon Treaty has ended, and one of Ireland’s largest employers Intel has launched a campaign urging a ‘Yes’ vote.
Intel Ireland general manager Jim O’Hara said a Yes vote would send out a strong signal to Ireland’s existing and future investors that the country wants to remain an integral part of the European Union.
The importance of a Yes result to Ireland can be underlined by the fact that in the midst of one of the most crushing economic environments of the past 100 years, the leader of a major technology company has decided to speak out.
Intel employs 4,500 people at a major facility in Leixlip, Co Kildare and R&D operations in Shannon, Co Clare, and is considered the jewel in the crown of Ireland’s inward investment portfolio.
“Last year, like many others I stood back and did not speak up on this crucial issue for the country. I was convinced, to be honest, that a Yes vote was a foregone conclusion,” O’Hara said.
“This time, Intel Corporation’s management is supporting our Irish management team as we make our views clear that it is important for the country, and for multinational companies within the country, that Ireland remains a player at the heart of Europe. In addition to being a matter of corporate social responsibility, it’s also a matter of my strong personal conviction.”
O’Hara said that while Ireland as a sovereign nation has the right to say Yes or No to Lisbon, the stakes are very high and the voice of business – particularly multinational companies – should be clear and visible and put in the public domain.
He said that a Yes vote would send unambiguous signals to EU partners and to global investors that Ireland wants to remain strongly connected to the European Union.
“If, for the third time in less than 10 years, we reject a EU treaty, we must realise that this will create uncertainty in the minds of investors worldwide who are looking at Ireland as a gateway for Greenfield investment into the EU.”
O’Hara pointed to the strong link between international investment and membership of the EU. “Since Ireland voted to support the single European market, international investment has grown immensely. Ireland has become an important destination for inward investment into Europe.
“This has happened for many reasons – an English-speaking, well-educated workforce, low corporate tax rate and pro-business Government policies.
“More importantly it has happened because of Ireland’s connectedness to Europe, along with free access to vast EU markets, and our country’s ability to punch above its weight in influencing European affairs as a result of having a solid reputation as a committed team player,” O’Hara said.
More than 300,000 jobs are directly and indirectly linked to US multinationals and the total value of investment by US companies in Ireland is US$87bn.
Over the course of Intel’s past 20 years in Ireland, US$7bn of that total has been invested by Intel.
“As one of the biggest employers and one of the largest multinational investors in this country, Intel often engages in discussions of national importance and of importance to the competitiveness of industry,” O’Hara said.
“On this vital issue – Ireland’s full engagement with the EU – the decision lies with the Irish people.
“We are convinced that for future growth and innovation, Ireland needs to stay fully connected to Europe,” he warned.
By John Kennedy