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Speech by An Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar T.D., Carlow Business Awards, Thursday, 27 September 2018

Issued by the Government Press Office
27 September 2018 

A daoine uaisle, good evening.

Thank you Brian. I am grateful to the County Carlow Chamber for inviting me to join you tonight and also to my colleague Pat Deering for organising my visit to the county today.

This event is an opportunity to recognise the tireless work you do in advancing the interests of the business community in Carlow, and promoting economic development across the south-east. 

I want to congratulate all of tonight’s winners so far. 

And, I am delighted to see that Eileen Brophy has been recognised this evening for her work, here in Carlow, with Tinteán and the Delta Centre Carlow. 

I know my colleague, Minister Eoghan Murphy, recently opened Tinteán Willow, the first group home for people with disabilities constructed to Passive House standards. I hope such projects can be used as a model for future housing developments.

This evening’s ceremony provides an opportunity to acknowledge the innovation, talent, and entrepreneurial spirit which is thriving here in Carlow. 

In April, I spoke at the launch of the new Netwatch Group, last year’s winner. This innovative firm now employs over 400 people and trades across four continents. It’s an example of how a local ambition can have a global impact.

When I look around Carlow I am struck by all the advantages you have as a business, investment and tourism location, including the fact that your colleges deliver a strong pipeline of talent and skills.

The Government wants to create opportunities for organisations and groups to work together to benefit their communities, towns and cities.

The South-East Region secured funding of €7m under the first call of the Regional Enterprise Development Fund. And I’d like to congratulate Insurtech Network Centre for receiving funding for the creation of an enterprise centre based in Carlow IT.

This €30 million fund drives enterprise development and job creation throughout Ireland. The second call was launched in April, so, there is a lot more we can do.

As a Government we want to enhance the quality of life for everyone, and so we are focussed on delivering strong economic growth in Carlow town and county.

As you know, Ireland is currently one of the fastest growing economies in Europe. 

So it is important that we build a country where every individual and every business can reach their full potential and all parts of the country can share in our prosperity. 

Our approach to this is based on six principles which will underpin Budget 2019.

The first is prudent management of the public finances and reducing our national debt. 

Second, we want to continue to raise living standards in a sustainable way for all our citizens.

The third is achieving full employment with good jobs. There are now almost 2.3 million people at work, more than at any point in the history of this state.

Carlow’s track record in attracting and retaining investment is a strong endorsement of what you have to offer. 

There has been a 35% increase in foreign direct investment employment in Carlow since 2012. Last year alone, the number of jobs in Carlow, from companies helped by the IDA, increased by 9%. 

However we are not complacent. 

So our new economic development strategy, the Future Jobs Programme, will set out a vision for the next phase of Ireland’s economic and enterprise development.

It will focus on areas like improving productivity, building resilience, creating and maintaining quality employment, jobs that will still exist in 20 years time and those that don’t yet.

The fourth principle is our commitment to reforming and modernising our public services. Better value for money for the tax-payer, for patients, for students, for families. 

The fifth principle relates to our role internationally, as an island at the centre of the world.

We see ourselves not as an island at the edge of a continent, but an island that’s at the centre of a connected and globalised world, committed to EU membership, the UN, free trade and free enterprise and deeper engagement with the US, Asia and Africa.

Over the summer the Government published an ambitious plan to double the scope and impact of Ireland’s global footprint over the next seven years. 

This is the most ambitious expansion of Ireland’s international presence ever undertaken. We’re opening new embassies and consulates; giving more resources to the IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Tourism Ireland and Bord Bia; and we’ll do more to promote Irish culture around the world.

The sixth and final principle is public infrastructure investment and it is the one I would like to spend most time on this evening because it offers a roadmap for building the Ireland of the future. Our ambitious Project Ireland 2040 plan is an investment of €116 billion over ten years in modernizing our public infrastructure, housing, healthcare facilities, education, transport, rural broadband, and climate change. A 25% increase next year alone, 25,000 new homes in addition to new schools and new hospitals.

At its core, is a commitment to balanced regional development.

The new €1 billion Rural and €2 billion Urban redevelopment and regeneration funds launched under Project Ireland 2040 will be game changers for communities and groups across the country.  

There are opportunities here for Carlow and I look forward to seeing what ambitious projects you develop.

Project Ireland 2040 also provides for a total of €11.9bn in funding for new infrastructure in the education and training sector over the next 10 years.

Also, We will invest in the emerging new Technological Universities, including the new Technological University for the South-East here in Carlow.

The new University of Technology for Dublin will be established in January 1stnext year, 3 months away. I want the South East to be next. Everyone needs to work towards a technology university in the south-east next year.

I know, Kilkenny and Carlow Education Training Board and IT Carlow have already developed a number of new training courses in the precision engineering and manufacturing sector. These kinds of collaborations will be at the heart of the smart economy of the future.

As we all know, Brexit presents one of the greatest challenges since independence. So the Government is working flat out to get the best possible deal for this country.  

We are preparing our businesses and our agriculture sector, as well as ensuring the transport sector is ready for whatever happens.

It is our desire that there will be the closest possible relationship between the EU and the UK after Brexit. That is limited only by the red lines the UK has drawn for itself.

As a Government we will be deeply engaged and vigilant on all aspects of Brexit. We will bring home the best deal possible and we will stand our ground.

Despite risks posed by Brexit and other international developments I am confident the future for Ireland and Carlow is bright.

Our mission is to build a country where every individual and every business can reach their full potential and all parts of the country share in our prosperity.

You all play an important part in helping to make that happen. You are the job creators, the revenue generators and collectors, the exporters and innovators who make everything possible.

And awards like this evening gives us an opportunity to give you the recognition you deserve. 

So I’d like to thank everyone here tonight, and I look forward to presenting the awards for Outstanding Small Business of the Year and Carlow Business of the Year.