HomeNewsTaoiseach's Speeches

Speech by the Taoiseach Mr. Enda Kenny TD, Enterprise Ireland International Markets Week, Wednesday 5 October 2016


Good morning - I am delighted to be here to launch Enterprise Ireland’s International Markets Week and many thanks to Julie Sinnamon for inviting me.


This is a very important event for Irish exporters who are facing a changed landscape in the wake of the UK electorate's vote to leave the EU on June 24th last.

The Irish Government recognises we must now plan for a future in which the United Kingdom will no longer be a member of the European Union, but Ireland will be.


Following British Prime Minister Theresa May’s weekend announcement that she intends to trigger Article 50 by end March 2017, the Government yesterday discussed preparations for the negotiations that will then take place.


One of our next steps will be an all-island Civic Dialogue on Brexit with the initial meeting to be hosted by myself and the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade on 2 November in Dublin. Brexit will have a major impact on businesses in all sectors along with the communities they serve on both sides of the border and we need to hear their voices.  


Invitations will be extended to a broad range of civic society groups, trade unions, business groups and non-governmental organisations as well as representatives of the main political parties on the island.


We will also put in place a series of roundtable discussions with interested groups to allow for detailed consideration of Brexit issues arising from different industries.


Since the UK voted to leave the European Union, I have been pro-active in setting out Ireland's concerns, putting plans in place and in ensuring that our voice is heard at the highest political level throughout the EU.


Responding to these challenges is a top priority for every single Government Minister, Department and Agency and I will be coordinating through a new dedicated Cabinet Committee on Brexit.


High-level Government meetings will take place with Michel Barnier, the newly appointed EU Commission's chief Brexit negotiator, who will be visiting Dublin next week.


In all negotiations this Government will ensure that the best possible outcomes will be achieved for our citizens, for the economy, for Northern Ireland and for the Common Travel Area.


In the short term the Budget next week will contain a range of measures to ensure a national economic response to Brexit.


Enterprise Ireland, IDA and Bord Bia are working closely with small Irish businesses to help manage the many practical implications of the Brexit vote.


On this front the Government is acutely aware of the need to adapt existing schemes and introduce new schemes to help Irish businesses in these uncertain times. On foot of new legislation passed earlier in the year I expect that Government will shortly be in a position to roll out new initial products that improve the attractiveness of existing offerings related to risk sharing. The Minister for Jobs, the Minister for Finance and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland are working to deliver on these schemes in the coming weeks.


The volatility in the markets - and particularly in the currency markets was not unexpected in the light of the UK referendum result.  But fluctuations in the value of sterling naturally present particular challenges for Irish exporters into the UK market.  The effect of this is coupled with the uncertainty that currently exists around the future nature of the UK's trading relationship with the EU and overall economic impacts. 


Of course, the UK is a key market for Irish businesses and there is no doubt that it will continue to be one of our largest export markets.

We are taking action by putting extra resources and expertise into the UK and into other targeted overseas markets in support of our Irish companies.


Certainly for small and first time Irish exporters, the UK will remain a natural first market with all the benefits of proximity, same language and similar business culture.


So in the immediate term, the challenges and opportunities will be addressed by what we call a ‘boots on the ground’ approach. 


This involves additional staff and expertise in the UK, in Dublin and in other target world markets to support businesses to maintain sales, to develop new sales opportunities and to diversify into new opportunities and markets.


It is encouraging to see Enterprise Ireland clients recording €7.5bn in exports to the UK, representing a 12% increase on the previous year. In export terms, this underlies the importance of the UK market in terms of trade.


That said, the Government has been implementing a strategy to reduce overall reliance on the UK and to support companies expanding into new international markets. Over 40% of Enterprise Ireland client companies are now exporting to more than five countries, a clear indication of progress but more still needs to be done.


I intend to ensure Irish exporters continue to have the support to help them both deepen their presence in the UK and diversify globally.

Enterprise Ireland is also to be commended for its quick response to the result of the Brexit vote with the publication of its ‘Five Pillars of Support for Exporters to the UK’ which highlights how Enterprise Ireland is intensifying its supports to help Irish exporters to expand their global footprint.

International Markets Week is part of that plan and I am delighted that over the next 3 days hundreds of Irish exporters will pass through these doors and make their plans for the next year and beyond.


Trade missions to target overseas markets are also a vital part of that plan. The purpose of these trade missions is to create connections - to make introductions and to establish business relationships that will benefit your business and ultimately, Ireland’s economy.  It creates jobs here at home, in every corner and region of the country. 


It is great to see that Enterprise Ireland has a packed schedule of 162 Trade events and missions for 2016. Sixty-seven of those are trade events in Ireland while 95 take in territories across the globe – North America, Latin America, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, Europe and of course the UK.


Recent trade missions led by my colleagues in government have included Enterprise Ireland’s first ever Life Sciences Trade Mission to the Mid-West of the US - led by Minister Pat Breen, who joins us here this morning.


And those connections really are vital to Irish companies. This is why Enterprise Ireland has offices and overseas teams based at 32 locations internationally made up of Market Advisors.


I would also like to endorse Enterprise Ireland’s new ‘Global Ambition’ communications campaign which is being launched here today.  This is all about encouraging more exporters to scale up their export plans by showcasing entrepreneurs who have already gone global.  It will also inform those considering expanding their business internationally on how to succeed in exporting to new markets.


We will ensure that Irish exporters have the best support available to them – including the finances, the innovation, the leadership, sales skills and the scale to grow in key international markets.


Understanding new cultures is a key part of doing business in new markets. Being versed in the rules and regulations - getting to grips with the legalese, the laws and customs in a foreign land - is vital for doing business and this is where Enterprise Ireland comes in. 


I hope that you make use of the expertise on offer here at International Markets Week. I hope that you will listen to the advice of people who know - people who can make introductions… guide you on the best way to create connections… build relationships and partnerships that will go on to create opportunities for your business…


Enterprise Ireland and all Government Agencies will be working together to support you, Irish businesses, in expanding your global footprint.


I know that your businesses are agile and will adapt to the new realities. But in the uncertain period ahead, you will have the practical support of the Government and its agencies in coping and adjusting to the challenges, and opportunities that lie ahead.


Thank you.