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Speech by An Taoiseach Enda Kenny T.D. at the 56th World Congress of the ACI Financial Markets Association, Convention Centre, Dublin, Friday12th May 2017


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Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for your warm welcome. It is a pleasure to be here with you this morning.

Before I begin, can I congratulate Ger O’Brien and the team at ACI Ireland for their efforts in bringing the World Congress back to Ireland after a gap of 31 years. I have no doubt this year’s Congress will be a resounding success.

I would particularly like to extend a warm welcome to those of you who have travelled from overseas to attend this years’ World Congress.

I hope that your time in Ireland will be both enjoyable and productive. While I am sure you will enjoy the conference here in this fantastic convention centre, I would also encourage you to experience something of the unique culture that our country has to offer.

While many of you know Ireland as the gateway into Europe for the world's top companies, we are much more than this, as I hope you will discover during your visit.

We are a nation of innovators and entrepreneurs. And we are a nation proud of our cultural heritage. We boast many global icons of music, literature and the arts – names such as Yeats, Heaney, U2 and Riverdance, to name but a few.

Our country is there to be explored.

The Irish Economy
It is this culture of innovation and creativity that has fuelled Ireland's strong recovery from the unprecedented economic crisis that began in 2008.

Over the last number of years, thanks to the resilience and sheer determination of the Irish people, and through the effective leadership of Government, Ireland’s recovery has become firmly embedded across all key sectors of the economy.

Building on our record as the fastest growing economy in the EU once again, we are forecasting economic growth of 4.3% for 2017.

Our unemployment rate now stands at 6.2%, down from its peak of 15.2% at the height of the crisis in 2012. It has dropped 2.2% in the past year alone which is an outstanding record by international comparisons.

A key aspect of Ireland's economic recovery is our ability to attract world leaders in the fields of IT, financial services and pharmaceutical sciences to our shores. This has been made possible by significant improvements in our competitiveness offerings.

The 2016 IMD Competitiveness Rankings placed Ireland 7th in the world, while Forbes magazine in 2016 ranked Ireland as the best country in the Eurozone in which to do business. We are an outward looking country, we are keen to do business with the rest of Europe and the world.

At the core of our competitiveness is our highly educated young workforce. Ireland has one of the youngest populations in Europe, with 40% of our population under the age of 29.

We also have one of the most educated populations in Europe, with over half of all 25-34 year olds holding a third level qualification. These highly educated young people are the engine of our economy.

Many of the world’s leading companies in financial services, pharmaceuticals, medical devices, software and cloud computing have established in Ireland as a gateway into Europe and beyond. Following Brexit, Ireland will be the only common-law, English speaking country in the EU. This is a unique advantage to any company that wishes to operate within the European Union and the Single Market.

Ireland and the EU
Ireland’s membership of the European Union has been central to much of the social and economic transformation that has occurred in this country over the past 40 years.

Our people realise these benefits and have consistently shown that they are committed to Ireland's membership of the European Union. Recent polling shows that 86% of the Irish public support the EU.

EU membership allows our citizens and the companies who are based here access to a market of over 450 million people.

It is this market access and our competiveness offerings that have led to 200 multinational financial services companies covering the whole IFS sector including banking & funds, aircraft leasing and asset management and investment locating in Ireland.

Our international financial services sector also has a vibrant cluster of indigenous Irish companies that are competing successfully with the best in the world, in areas like FinTech, RegTech, data analytics, governance, risk and compliance.

Looking to the future, Brexit does, of course, present a major challenge not just for Ireland but for all of Europe. Although we do not welcome the decision made by the British people, we do respect it.

Given the impact that Brexit may have on Ireland, we have been preparing for Brexit for nearly two years. Prior to the vote we undertook a process of comprehensive analysis across government to identify threats and opportunities.

Since the result we have engaged with over 1,600 people through the All-Ireland Civic Dialogue process. This included a sectoral dialogue with the International Financial Services sector, to understand the industry-specific challenges and opportunities arising from Brexit.

Alongside this process of analysis and consultation, I along with the rest of the Irish Government have been engaging with our partners across the EU and the European Institutions to ensure that they are aware of our unique concerns.

Ireland has four main goals in the negotiations: protecting the Northern Ireland peace process, maintaining the Common Travel Area with Britain, minimising any negative economic shocks and promoting a stronger and more effective European Union.

We are pleased to see that the negotiation guidelines recently adopted by the European Council reflect Ireland’s unique concerns. Ireland will participate in the Brexit negotiations as a committed member of the European Union and from a position of strength.

This message was emphasised by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier who addressed a joint sitting of the Oireachtas yesterday.

IFS2020 & Brexit
In the meantime we are targeting the continued growth of Ireland’s international financial services sector as a key element of our response to Brexit. Our strategy sets out a five year approach to the growth and development of the sector.

The Minister for Financial Services Eoghan Murphy, who will be talking to you in a few minutes, oversees a whole of government approach to implementing this strategy, and works closely with industry partners towards achieving our strategic objectives.

We have a clear vision for Ireland to be the recognised global location of choice for specialist international financial services. Our strategy sets an ambitious target of growing the number of people directly employed in the sector by nearly 30% over the five year period to 2020.

We have already grown the sector by over 13% since the Strategy was launched less than 2 years ago with over 4,600 net new jobs created in the same time.

The Strategy combines long-term strategic thinking with the flexible tools to react to domestic and international developments, including of course Brexit.
Its success is based on strong links between Government, our enterprise agencies and industry.

I hope I have impressed upon you this morning the unique and outward looking society and business culture that we have in Ireland.

Since our independence in 1922, Ireland has weathered many challenges and has always emerged stronger, thanks to the resilient, innovative character of her people and our positive, open attitude.

Today we face new challenges – including Brexit – but we do so in a spirit of partnership with industry, our EU partners, and with our people.

To conclude, I want to wish you, the delegates and congress organisers, every success for the 2017 Congress.

Thank you.