A county Wicklow business park, the Wicklow Enterprise Centre, which is mired in controversy over expensive foreign junkets for its board members, spouses and children, over a payment to a director which is allegedly in conflict with its Memorandum and Articles of Association, over a bullying case taken to the Labour Relations Commission and with several of its board members resigning recently, has attracted a wave of negative reporting in recent weeks notably from The Phoenix magazine – not available online without subscription.
Now Enterprise Ireland is withholding a grant pending a review of its support for the business facility.
Wicklow Enterprise Centre is a business park in Wicklow town which offers 64,000 sq ft of office and factory space. It has a range of business tenants and is managed by Wicklow Enterprise Park Limited, set up in 1993. According to its latest accounts, has a strikingly large cash balance of over €5m, in part, in part, contributed to by the State.
The current board members listed on the Centre’s website include Blaise Treacy, the 78-year old former Wicklow county manager and the current €142,469-a-year Wicklow county manager, Eddie Sheehy. Board members are not remunerated but The Phoenix has recently reported about paid-for foreign trips which included jollies to Disney parks.
A fortnight ago, the Sinn Fein finance spokesperson, Pearse Doherty asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton about the state funding of the centre and about the apparent breach of the terms of the Memorandum and Articles of Association when an ex-gratia payment was apparently made to a departing board member in 2012.
The parliamentary question and response are here:
Deputy Pearse Doherty: To ask the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation if he will confirm for each of the years 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 the State funding provided to Wicklow Enterprise Park Limited; if he will confirm that it is a term of that company’s memorandum and articles of association that directors will not receive any remuneration or other benefit in money or moneys worth from the company; and if that term has been violated in 2012.
Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton: I am informed that only one of the State enterprise agencies, under the aegis of my Department, has supported the company. In this regard, I understand from Enterprise Ireland that they made payments to Wicklow Enterprise Park Ltd in 2011 of €110,627 and €25,000 in 2012. The support in 2011 was a Community Enterprise Centre Capital Grant and in 2012 the funding was a Community Enterprise Centre Employment Grant for a Centre Manager. No payments were made in 2008, 2009 and 2010.
I am informed by Enterprise Ireland (EI) that it is aware of certain issues in relation to Wicklow Enterprise Park Limited, that EI is conducting a thorough review of its support for this Community Enterprise Centre and that the payment of €25,000 outstanding against a Business Development Manager grant of €50,000 is being withheld pending the outcome of that review.