Hewlett Packard ( HPQ) plans to create 500 jobs in Ireland over the next 12 months as the tech firm boosts its lucrative services business.

The jobs will be located at the company's Liffey Park Technology Campus in Leixlip, County Kildare, according to the Irish Times, which said that the new roles will support H-P's service desk and outsourcing operations.

H-P's recruitment drive is welcome news for the Irish government, which has been feeling the ill effects of the global economic slowdown. PC giant Dell ( DELL), which is Ireland's second-largest employer, recently announced plans to cut 1,900 jobs at its manufacturing plant in Limerick.

The Irish economy, which was dubbed the "celtic tiger" on account of its rapid growth in the 1990s, took a further hit last month when drugmaker Elan ( ELN)announced plans to cut 115 jobs in Ireland as part of a major restructuring effort. Aer Lingus, the country's national airline, also contributed to the economic gloom Wednesday when its shares plummeted on a weak 2009 outlook.

H-P, which competes with IBM ( IBM), Sun Microsystems ( JAVA) and Dell, has also felt the impact of the spending slowdown.

Services, however, is proving to be one of the healthier parts of the tech firm's business, thanks largely to its $13.2 billion acquisition of EDS.

Martin Murphy, the managing director of H-P Ireland, said that the firm's Irish recruitment drive could double within the next two to three years, according to the Irish Times.

H-P, which has been identified as one of the more attractive tech stocks for the downturn, already hires more than 4,000 people in Ireland, where it has facilities in Dublin, Leixlip, Galway and Belfast.

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