IIA hits out at Tourism Ireland awarding Ireland.com contract to UK company

25 Jan 2013

Joan Mulvihill, CEO of the Irish Internet Association

The Irish Internet Association, a body representing internet professionals, has hit out at Tourism Ireland’s decision to pick a UK agency over a local Irish agency for the €2.5m development of Ireland.com.

Tourism Ireland this week launched its new website. The agency acquired Ireland.com from its previous owner The Irish Times for close to €500,000.

However, it emerged around the time of the Ireland.com relaunch that the €2.5m worth of web development work was awarded to London-based agency Hugo & Cat.

The IIA’s chief executive Joan Mulvihill expressed the organisation’s “serious disappointment” that an agency of the State preferred to employ a UK agency over a local one.

She said Ireland is a country in the grip of a jobs crisis and that IIA members were shortlisted for the tender.

Not only were local Irish firms shortlisted but the domestic rates being offered were more competitive than what Tourism Ireland paid for Ireland.com’s redevelopment.

Internet hub for Europe

She also said the decision to have the work done in the UK belied and undermined Ireland’s current reputation as a major internet hub.

“Beyond the specifics of this particular case, the political message that this decision is sending out to the world is counter-productive and anti-jobs.   

“On the one hand, we have the IDA and Government ministers working to increase foreign direct investment with a strong focus on the technology industry. On the other hand, in this single decision, we have a State agency saying that it is not possible to secure high quality and good value web design and development services here,” she said, voicing the obvious irritation of her members.

“Tourism Ireland is responsible for attracting visitors to Ireland. Holiday tourism is important but so, too, is business and education tourism. They are asking people to visit a vibrant and welcoming country but is it also one that is so insecure about itself, so lacking in faith in its own people that when given the choice they will partner with a foreign company rather than an Irish one?  

“The argument that this spend represents less than 10pc of its total budget for the year is reminiscent of boom years when pockets were deep.   

“The measure of value in these straightened times should surely not be that they got it for a small percentage of a large amount but rather that they got it for the very best possible price and in doing so factored in the multiplier effect of keeping those jobs in Ireland and promoting the world class-standards that exist within our country,” Mulvihill said.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years