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Speech by An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar T.D., Microsoft New Campus Building, Leopardstown 22nd February 2018



Thank you very much for the kind introduction and good morning everyone.  It is great to see such a great turn-out today.


I’m always very jealous when I’m in big corporate HQ’s such as this and I go back to my period building on Merrion Street where everyone has a pokey office with a big thick wall. I have the bright idea every now and then that maybe we should build a whole new Leinster House and a whole new Department of An Taoiseach and have work spaces like this but I would never get away with it so I’m afraid we are staying where we are.


I’d like to thank Cathriona Hallahan and Peggy Johnson for inviting me to be here today.


And I'm delighted to see so many of top-class talented Microsoft workforce here with us as well.


When I was looking back over the history of Microsoft, in Ireland in particular, I discovered that the first Microsoft facility was opened in Ireland in 1985 there were just 20 people working in the company on the translation of programmes and the rest copying diskettes, remember them? There were about 100 people in total doing all of that.


Today the diskettes and floppy-disks are long gone and there are around 2,000 people working here.  So for anyone who thinks that technology is going to take away all our jobs, I think this is a classic example of why that’s not the case. New technologies create new jobs.


Cathriona would be able to describe what it was like back then because she was employee number 24. I do hope they don’t really give you employee numbers, I think that’s very impersonal. But anyway, she began in the accounting department as an accounting clerk, working her way through different departments to eventually become Managing Director of this facility.  Through your hard-work and determination, through your boundless enthusiasm which is almost infectious, you’ve shown to everyone how anything is possible if you do what you love, and if you are given the opportunity to succeed, to show what you’re made of. 


I think it’s a success story that should inspire us all, and certainly inspires me. 


Through her leadership has helped Microsoft to diversify from core manufacturing to having, as mentioned earlier, an operations centre, a development centre, a data centre, and a sales and marketing centre for the entire island of Ireland.



It is those achievements that provide the context for the building of this wonderful new campus here in Dublin.  Together I think you have achieved something truly remarkable.


When I had a chance to visit your Redwood campus back in November I saw a really energetic, diverse and multicultural hotbed of innovation, creativity and industry.  There I got to hear all of the plans for the future that you have, and about your ambitions for the future. And also we discussed how the Irish government can support the ambitions for this company.


One thing that really struck me when I was over on the west coast was the number of Irish people working there. Just as there are people from so many different nationalities working here, 71 I believe in total.  That’s how it should be.  Because you are a multinational corporation in what is now very much a global economy, and Ireland is a multinational economy able to provide the opportunities to succeed for businesses all around the world. 


Diverse and talented workforces like Microsoft have contributed significantly to Ireland's economic progress.

But to more than that, a diverse workforce and bringing people with talent and skills in from over-seas doesn’t just make us a stronger economy, it makes us a much more interesting society as well and enriches us culturally.

While other countries may be building walls or issuing new passports or putting up new boundaries, that’s something this country isn’t going to do because we have learned from our own experience, whether it’s the millions of Irish people who have gone to live and work in other countries and build those countries we know the enormous benefits that it can bring and any of the challenges that arise can be managed.


I would like to take this opportunity to formally thank you for your commitment and sustained confidence our country over the past 33 years.


You’ve helped make Ireland the country it is today; an island at the centre of the world, confident about our future and how we can achieve it.


As a flagship multinational investor, you provide a strong endorsement to our country as a location for international firms to do business in.


More than that, your presence here sends out a very strong message to the world about the calibre of people that tech companies can recruit.  Talent that is needed to grow, to innovate and to succeed in global market place.

Employment & Skills

Just on the way in I’d a chance to take a look around the new DreamSpace here in the building, which will provide many opportunities for students and teachers to learn, innovate, and engineer experiences about technology in the world around them. I think we need a lot more of that.


So the Government is determined to ensure that Ireland is well placed to harness the new emerging technologies. This requires nurturing skills and talent, and with this in mind, we aim to be the leader in STEM education by 2023.


We also want to increase the numbers of women and girls studying STEM subjects and skills.


As you know, this year is the centenary - the centenary of women getting right the vote. But I also recognise how much more we need to do. 

Gender equality is Government policy and I really want to welcome Microsoft’s emphasis on gender diversity in the tech sector.


Your participation in programmes like ‘International Girls in ICT Day’ showcases the technology industry as a career path for young women to take and is something that’s a very worthwhile initiative and I want to commend you for it.


Research and Innovation

We also recognise the importance of being a leader in research and innovation.  Our enterprise policy is built around exactly this, with a focus on quality research which makes an impact.


We are now ranked in the top 10 for the overall quality of scientific research done in the world and we want to improve on that.


We are currently reviewing our research prioritisation programme to ensure that these keep pace with technological advances and future opportunities for Ireland.


Project 2040

Of course, none of this is possible if we don’t have a well planned and well built modern infrastructure in the country.


Last week, you’ll know the cabinet travelled to Sligo to launch Project Ireland 2040 – which is our plan for the country for the next twenty years. Planning for a country with 6 million people living in it, planning for where they are going to live, where they are going to work, study and how they are going to get around.

That is backed up by a €116 billion investment plan in our infrastructure over the next 10 years.


It will see public investment in infrastructure in Ireland go from below average to among the highest levels in the EU by the end of those 10 years. It includes investment in energy, telecommunications, fibre to every home, business and farm in the country, modern transport, housing, healthcare, education, innovation and enterprise.


This is an ambitious plan for the future which will ensure we remain a leading location for foreign investment by leading companies like Microsoft. Also as importantly, it will also improve our quality of life for our citizens.


A significant initiative in developing Ireland’s innovation ecosystem is the establishment of a €500m, competitive and challenge-based, Disruptive Technologies Innovation Fund.


It will drive collaboration between our world class research base and industry as well as facilitating enterprises to compete directly for funding in support of the development and adoption of these technologies, and seeding, we hope, a new wave of start-ups.  We will prepare for the future that has not yet been imagined.



Climate Change

I believe, Climate change is the greatest long-term challenge facing our world.  From the start in Ireland, Microsoft focused on green packaging, and today your data centre is one of the most environmentally friendly in the world. 


With Project Ireland 2040 we are making the biggest single investment in the environment - €22 billion to assist in the transition to a low carbon society. 

  1. Ending the burning of peat and coal in power plants.
  2. Investment in farming, solar, renewable heat, wind and recycling.
  3. Insulating buildings.
  4. Electrifying some of our rail lines.
  5. A ban on new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.
  6. From next year low emission buses only.


Digital Society

Back in 1985 Ireland only had two television stations, home computers were a distant reality, and it would be another 6 years before a Trinity College start-up (IEunet) would connect the country to the Internet.


That reminds us the world is changing rapidly, and the pace of change is increasing.


We recognise that we have to be ambitious when planning for the future, and we must prepare for the major challenges that are coming ahead. Robotics, artificial intelligence, driverless vehicles, renewable energy and smart grids will change our world in the next twenty years in the way the internet and mobile phones did in the last. Ireland should be an early adopter of these new technologies. 


We also have to recognise that digital technologies are transforming entire industries, and how society itself functions.


Of course, most of this cuts across national boundaries and can only be considered effectively at an international level.



So, Ireland has taken a leading position, working with our EU partners, to support the development of the Digital Single Market.  We believe that sharing standards, and removing unnecessary barriers to digital trade, can increase growth and productivity across the EU.


We are also positioned as a leader in Data Protection.  We have invested heavily in the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner, and legislation to enact the GDPR into Irish law is going through the Oireachtas at the moment.


With that in mind, I would like to thank Microsoft for the contribution that you have made to the Data Summit hosted by the Government last May.

A chairde, tá mé bródúil as ‘ bheith i láthair inniu chun an foirgneamh nua iontach seo a sheoladh.  Chuir an comhlacht Microsoft go mór le cur chun cinn gheilleagar na Éireann agus leis na hathruithe atá tagtha ar an saol mar sochaí ilchultúra  spleodrach.   Bhíodh ról mór suntasach agaibh i bhforbairt ár dtíre le blianta beaga anuas agus creidim go mbeidh a thuilleadh ratha i ndán daoibh sa todhchaí.


An American businesswoman and philanthropist once argued that it was sometimes necessary to take risks, ‘because that's how you move things along.’ 


That businesswoman is Melinda Gates. She recognised that to achieve your ambitions you needed a vision, and you also need to be prepared to take a chance to make them a reality.


Back in 1985 Microsoft took a risk on investing in Ireland, and we as a country took a risk on supporting the high tech industry of the future. 


Both paid off, and a shared vision helped move this country from stagnation to economic success. 

And that’s why it brings me enormous pleasure to declare this campus officially open.


I wish you every success here.

Thank you.