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Speech by the Taoiseach Mr Enda Kenny TD at Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan Montreal International Leaders' Luncheon, Thursday 4th May 2017


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Prime Minister Trudeau, Ambassadors, distinguished guests. Madames et Messieurs.

I’m honoured to be here with you in Montreal. Thank you for inviting me.

We meet at the time of year that in Ireland is called Bealtaine, the Celtic season of the white fires, when we look ahead to the new life, new growth, new promise of the Summer.

It’s an auspicious time to come to Canada to celebrate the Growth, the promise, of the relationship between our two great nations, either side of the vast Atlantic.

For centuries, fleeing oppression or occupation or hunger, the Irish set out across that ocean to seek new life, new hope in Canada and you opened your homes and hearts to our emigrants.

We came and we became Canadians.

This is a great country and building on the open, global, liberal and generous qualities I predict that over the next 20 years Canada, will become an even greater force for the good of humanity as we face unprecedented challenges up ahead.

As we meet today, the research vessel the Celtic Explorer is making its way across the Atlantic from Newfoundland to Galway.

This is part of a six-nation scientific mission will examine carbon-dioxide levels in the ocean that both divides and unites our two countries, evaluating any changes in the last two decades.

As politicians we commit ourselves to creating better lives for our countries, our citizens into the future. And as we look to protect, secure and promote out people’s futures, we do it with both their immediate and also their higher needs in mind. It is exactly the space that politics needs to investigate and occupy, and this is particularly so with the questions, indeed the crisis, we face in modern any democracy. Where people look for certainty and stability in their politicians.

And they are finding it most easily, and beautifully packaged and bite-sized, in the politicians whose sole relationship with certainty is that - they suffer from it. And do so acutely.

It is a politics that is both deteriorating and degrading of people and democracy.

It is a politics that gains momentum because in the grip of recession some countries have neglected the centre ground where governments have lost connection with how, just as in
their private lives, people do not imagine themselves as living within the confines of a balance sheet, neither do they in their national or public lives.

And it is the Centre that the Irish Nobel laureate WB Yeats once said cannot hold, now must hold, and hold with alacrity.

Across democracies, our best are being pushed to the hard Left by anger to the hard Right by fear.

It is happening to the degree that the old battles of right and left might well be over, to be replaced by something that seeks, not to unite us, but to divide us, not only among ourselves, but from what they identify and objectify as the Other.

They see the people not for who they are as individuals, but as what they are as an ethnic or faith or economic group. Prime Minister Trudeau, you know the difference between patriotism and nationalism.

True patriotism burns quietly but furiously in the human heart. Narrow nationalism sets fire to decency, responsibility, memory even humanity itself. Sometimes in ways that might not appear ‘fanatic’.

In Europe the best antidote to toxic nationalism has been our Union of peoples, the EU formed from the ashes and destruction of 60 million people.

It has brought us one of the longest most sustained peace periods on our continent, generations have grown up without being called up.

Peace being its greatest strength has become its greatest weakness. Apathy and complacency have taken peace for granted.

This is something we need to address.

People want more from their lives, more in their lives than the relentless pursuit of market, or share or profit.

Because you live to, for the higher things, Freedom, Philosophy, Art, Ideas, Love, Spirit.

Mainstream politics has avoided that space. Maybe because it found it embarrassing.

And its to our own detriment that we have relinquished it.

But we took it back in Ireland when we decided to hold a referendum on equal marriage.

Who would have imagined that a small, historically catholic dominated conservative country would go from decriminalising homosexuality, to recognising same-sex marriage in the space of a single generation?

On that day in May two years ago, because we said YES to equal marriage, thousands of husbands and husbands and wives and wives were able and entitled to say I DO.

And I hope that many of you will be saying exactly that when asked if you do business with Ireland.

When I became Taoiseach in 2011, the Troika and the IMF had usurped our sovereignty our people were out of work, the banks were on the brink, our economy and international reputation were much like our nation’s mood and confidence: in freefall and in shreds.

We were under no illusions. To resuscitate the economy meant first, we had to rescue it. And people had to make serious sacrifices in that rescue. When some said ’no you’ll never do it to send the Troika packing’ but Prime Minister Trudeau we borrowed your father’s words and thought to ourselves Really? Well… ‘Just watch us’.

Today, I am glad to say our economic recovery is now firmly established, with key economic indicators pointing to continued solid economic growth, despite a challenging global environment.

Our Finance Ministry is forecasting GDP growth of 4.3% for 2017.

More than 2 million people are now in work – the highest level since 2008.

Export growth in recent years has also been exceptionally strong and Foreign Direct Investment also continues to be a key contributor to Ireland’s economic development and growth. Over 1,300 foreign owned companies have put down roots in Ireland. Our membership of the European Union has been key to this success, and has transformed our country over the past 40 years in Biotech, Pharmaceutical, IT, Financial Services, Telecommunications – they are all there.

At the centre of our open and competitive economy is our membership of the Single Market. That membership allows us to trade freely with over 500 million people and Irish people are free to travel, live and work right across the EU.

It gives us full access to EU trade agreements with other major markets including of course CETA, and a capacity to engage in global free trade that we could not possibly have on our own. We can do so much more with that.

Ireland’s pressing concern in the context of the EU is Brexit.
We didn’t want to lose our friend and neighbour from our Union, But we respect their decision. Brexit is not good for the Union and is not good for Britain.

In all our economic decision making that flows from Brexit we will be guided by the original principles of our union, peace and prosperity and strength in unity. We will remain a central member of the EU27.

In this regard, we are absolutely determined to protect the Northern Ireland Peace Process, to minimise any negative economic impact, to maintain our Common Travel Area with Britain and to promote a stronger, more effective European Union in the years ahead.

Protecting the gains of the peace process and Northern Ireland is a key priority for this government. I would like to acknowledge the staunch support from Canada for the Peace Process over many years including John de Chastelain who oversaw the decommissioning of terrorist weapons which was so fundamental to the peace of the past 30 years. Ireland’s efforts have been a success so far with Ireland's unique concerns being reflected in both the EU's Council guidelines now adopted for the negotiations and in Prime Minister May's letter triggering Article 50.

But we are aware that this is only the beginning of the process and Ireland will work tirelessly with our EU partners to ensure an outcome that is best for Ireland and best for Europe in its future relationship with the UK. This will also be best for Canada as important partners and friends of both Ireland and the EU.

Ireland is an important bridge between Canada and the EU. Post Brexit, Ireland will be the only English-speaking country in the EU, at the heart of the Single Market with unfettered access for companies, and in the Eurozone. We have got a well-educated talented population.

We are committed to a business friendly environment, for businesses large and small complemented by our stable and competitive corporation tax regime, as well as strong incentives for research and development.

The 2016 IMD Competitiveness Rankings ranked Ireland 7 th in the world and the Forbes magazine ranked Ireland the best Country in the Eurozone in which to do business in for 2016. These rankings are evidence of our outward looking vision and Ireland's positive business environment.

We will continue to promote the strengths which make Ireland so attractive to for FDI. And key to this is our strong commitment to international trade.

As a small, open island economy, trade and investment represent Ireland’s very life blood.

We see trade agreements such as CETA as an important aspect of our future economic growth and competitiveness offerings. CETA will see over 99% of tariffs removed and will create sizeable new market access opportunities in services and investment. It will end limitations in access to public contracts, open-up services market, and offer predictable conditions for investors. All of this will create significant opportunities for businesses on both sides of the Atlantic.

The European Parliament voted in favour of provisional application in February, and I know that your own legislation to implement the agreement is currently before the Canadian

We want to see Irish and Canadian firms benefit from provisional application of CETA at the earliest opportunity. An effective period of provisional application will surely prove the mutual benefits of a stronger EU-Canada trading relationship, and will provide the strongest possible support for the necessary national ratification processes in Ireland and other Member States in due course.

Migration/ Humanitarian support

I want to take this opportunity to recognise the approach and efforts that Canada is taking in their overseas aid programme.

Like Canada, we are working through our overseas aid programme to try to bring some relief to victims of the conflict, working through the UN, Red Cross and a number of NGOs.

We are also committed like yourselves to welcoming refugees fleeing conflict in Syria and other war-torn countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Both of our countries share a strong tradition of active support for the UNs role in promoting peace and security through our contribution to peacekeeping and through our peace-building efforts. We can build on this together.

Like you we have very significant business with the US.

Like you we must now work with a new administration.

Our two countries have held fast to our core values of freedom, equality, democracy and a compassionate and responsive to the most vulnerable. I believe these common values combined with concrete policy and legislative advances such as CETA will ensure our political, economic and people-to-people relations grow from strength to strength.

We live now in a fragile and furiously challenging world. The 4th revolution in the cloud brings with it enormous opportunity and unprecedented challenge with significant impact on populations the world over.

The collection and use of data, privacy matters, artificial intelligence, robotics, genetics, quantum computing, legal governance, the nanoworld all bring concerns and ethical anxieties, and change our world daily.

Truth and integrity are swamped in the seas of social media comment, allegation becomes conviction, rumour becomes belief and fake news becomes reality. The challenge of politics is to stand up against that, to be believed and to win trust in a time of extraordinary change and challenge in peoples’ lives.

Canada plays, and will play its part in winning that battle. Ireland will do likewise in answering that call.
Thank you for welcoming me here today

Go raibh mile maith agaibh.