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Speech by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., At the Global Ireland Lunch US Institute of Peace, Washington DC, Wednesday 14 March 2018

 

Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, Good Afternoon.

St. Patrick’s Day, our national holiday, is a time of great celebration for people around the world: those who are Irish, and those who want to be Irish – for a day at least!

It’s more than a celebration, it’s an opportunity to tell the world about Ireland and the Irish today, who we are, and what we can do.

Reflecting on and articulating our national identity is important because it helps us connect and reconnect with people.

It also helps us build bridges and do business more effectively.

When I became Taoiseach last summer I set-out an ambitious vision for Ireland’s place in the world. We are a new country, but an ancient people, and I believe that we can do more on the world stage.

Our intention, over the period 2018 to 2025, is to double our global footprint. That does not necessarily mean a doubling of agencies, embassies, staff or budgets, though we will increase all of these, but it does mean the doubling of our impact around the world.

There are more markets we can penetrate.

More countries with which we can build partnerships.

More opportunities for Ireland and for Irish people – education, research, tourism.

A wider diaspora that we embrace today from Argentina to Barbados to South Africa.

We want to diversify and grow trade, especially with Brexit. However this is is something we should be doing in any case.

We want to attract inward investment to Ireland, including from new sources. We want to strengthen links with our diaspora and promote our culture internationally.

Our culture – our music, drama, art, language and literature is the window through which most of the world sees us for the first time.

I believe doubling our global footprint will allow Ireland to fully realise our potential among the Nations of the World.

Expansion is, of course, already underway.

After years of retrenchment, we recently announced new resident diplomatic missions in Chile, Colombia, Jordan, Vancouver and Mumbai. And we will open an embassy in New Zealand very soon as well. An expanded presence here in the United States is also on the cards.

This offers a firm base on which to build our further plans towards 2025.

Here in Washington DC today, I am delighted to launch Global Ireland, an initiative that will help us greatly in communicating to an international audience who we are, where we come from, and what we stand for.

Ireland’s economy has recovered strongly from the economic and budget crisis of the last decade. The economy is growing and people are back working. Incomes and living standards are rising again. Poverty is falling and income inequality is narrowing.

After years of constrained investment, we are rebuilding our country.

Over the next few years - as we mark the centenary of the foundation of the State - we will invest €116 billion in infrastructure, housing, transport, health, energy and climate action, laying the foundation for our sustained and sustainable prosperity. This is Project Ireland 2040.

As an outward-focussed, trade-dependent country, we know that we need to be at the top of our game in telling our story to the world.

Global competition for investment, for trade, for market share has never been stronger.

Countries, like successful enterprises, have to make sure that their voice is heard when people make the important decisions– whether on policy matters or in business.

Global Ireland is how Ireland will tell our story in a more unified, compelling and coherent way, optimising our place in the increasingly busy digital world.

It presents a country that is self-confident, ambitious, outward facing, and forward looking.

The message is not new. It is being recast for a digitally-connected age, keeping us visible and bringing our story to new audiences, to parts of the world that have not yet had the chance to get to know us.

The first Global Ireland communications campaign is called ‘Ireland – Here we Live’. It presents Ireland as we are – not a small country on the edge of Europe, but an island at the centre of the world.

Through Global Ireland, we want to connect to people interested in Ireland – people who want to live and work there; who want to do business or study with us; who want to visit Ireland, for work or for pleasure; or those who simply want to know more about us.

The communications campaign will be delivered on our new online portal – Ireland.ie – a central hub for international visitors, with clear signposts to the wealth of information about us.

It provides an attractive and user-friendly way to engage with international audiences as well as the diaspora and indeed anyone interested in Ireland.

It provides a facility for companies – like yours – to easily make contact with Team Ireland internationally.

It reflects our conviction that our international reputation – our brand - is an essential part of how we build relationships and how we advance our political and economic objectives in the world.

Nowhere is this work more important than here, in Washington DC.

It is a place where we come each year to celebrate the deep connections that Ireland enjoys with the United States.

Consider for a moment the importance of the bilateral relationship between Ireland and the US.

Each and every week, €2 billion of trade flows between us. And there is a relative balance, with Ireland enjoying surplus in goods, more than offset by the surplus that the US has in services.

Irish companies’ stock of investment in the US totals $85.5 billion, a stake larger than countries many times our size, including Brazil, China and India.

Irish businesses employ over 100,000 Americans across all sectors of the US economy, in cities and towns right across the country in every state.

And this investment is increasing. Last year, Enterprise Ireland client companies opened 59 new offices across the US, bringing to almost 500 the number of Irish firms with facilities here.

They build American homes, hospitals, and communities. From CRH / Oldcastle, North America’s largest asphalt producer, to Kingspan, a market leader in advanced insulation, Irish firms are at the cutting-edge of US construction.
They also help save American lives.

For example, Aerogen’s revolutionary aerosol delivery system has improved health outcomes for more than 2.5 million American patients.

Icon’s award winning R&D has led to the approval of 18 of the world’s 20 best-selling drugs.

Households across the States enjoy food and beverage from Irish companies like Kerry, Glanbia, McCann’s, Greencore and Jameson.

Significant as Ireland’s direct investment into the US is, it represents only part of our contribution to the US economy.

A revealing statistic from the US Department of Commerce shows that the Irish leasing and airline industry supports 635,000 jobs here in the United States through its partnership with Boeing. It’s a relationship worth almost $122 billion.

America has always attracted some of Ireland’s brightest entrepreneurial talent who, through their US-based activities, achieve remarkable things.

This morning, I sat with senior executives from several of Ireland’s largest firms, all of whom outlined ambitious plans for the US market.

These are just some of the many Irish entrepreneurs doing business, and creating jobs, in the US.

Today, we have more than 700 US companies in Ireland, employing upwards of 150,000 people.

There are many reasons why so many US firms have chosen to locate in Ireland – and here are a few:

First is talent. Our population is Europe’s youngest, with 40% under 29 years of age. And, having invested heavily in our education system, our labour force is amongst the world’s best educated.

Second is competitiveness. Ireland has opened its economy to international trade, while developing a pro-business environment underpinned by a stable 12.5% corporate tax rate.

Third is connectivity. As a people, we are open, tolerant and diverse.

When my parents moved from the UK to Ireland in the early 1970s, my father was amongst a small minority of the population - less than one in twenty - to have been born overseas.

Today, more than one in six of our residents were born abroad, and our workforce is the third most international in Europe.

Fourth is our strong position in Europe. Companies with global ambition, like those represented here today, will always need a global presence in the EU. The UK no longer offers that option.

In an uncertain time, Ireland can become a bridge between Europe and the United States.

Ladies and Gentlemen, before I conclude I would like to take a moment to pay tribute to an Irishman who dreamed big dreams, and made them real - one of Ireland’s most remarkable entrepreneurs, the recently deceased Dr. Pearse Lyons.

This time last year, in this very building, Pearse was awarded the SFI medal, in recognition of his many accomplishments.

Not least among these accomplishments was the establishment of Alltech, a company which became one of the most successful Irish businesses ever in the US, employing more than 5,000 staff globally.

I would like to express my condolences to his wife and family who have suffered a tremendous loss.

I would also like to pay my own tribute to a remarkable man, who leaves behind a remarkable legacy.

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam dílis.

In a short moment, we will play the new Global Ireland message, “Ireland – here we live”. I think you will enjoy it.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is an exciting time in the history of Ireland as we imagine and build for the future. Thank you for being a part of it.

Go raibh maith agaibh a cháirde, agus lá Naomh Padraig shona dhaoibh go léir.