Tánaiste's Remarks at the Wall Street 50 Event, New York, 22 September 201123 September 2011
Remarks by the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore, T.D.,
At the Wall Street 50 Event organised by Irish American Magazine
New York, 22 September 2011
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is an honour and a pleasure to join you this evening, at the Fourteenth Wall Street 50 Event.
Let me begin by paying tribute to Irish America Magazine and its co-founders Niall O’Dowd and Patricia Harty. Especially the role they have played in acknowledging the contribution which Irish people and people of Irish descent have made, and are making, at the heart of the world’s financial system, here in New York.
Each year, the Wall Street 50 hears from the best of Irish America’s leaders in Business and Finance. You continue this tradition tonight with Brian Ruane, CEO of BNY Mellon Alternative and Broker Dealer Services. Brian’s contribution to his company, to this country, and to Ireland has been outstanding.
The story that Niall and Patricia have sought to tell – the story of the Irish in America – is one of which we are all proud. It is the story of a people, who generation after generation, journeyed far, and have come a long way.
It is a story of hard work and hard knocks, but also of resilience and achievement .
It is story of success. And it is also a story of service.
On Monday night, I had the honour of paying tribute to one young man, who exemplified so much of what is good about the story of the Irish in America. In a firehouse in Queens, I presented the first Certificate of Irish heritage to the mother of Joseph Gerard Hunter, a fireman of Irish descent who died on 9-11. His family are enormously proud of his Irish heritage, and the people of Ireland are enormously proud of him, and of so many others of Irish descent who have given so much to this country.
Tonight, I want to talk about a new chapter that is being written in the Irish story. About how Ireland is, once again, showing resilience in face of adversity. About how we are confronting our difficulties, and about the role that everyone here can play in creating a new Irish success story.
I don’t need to tell the people in this room, that Ireland has been going through a profound economic crisis. That in the past few years, Ireland has too often been in the news for the wrong reasons. When the new Irish Government took office in March, we were confronted by the task of steering our country, already in an IMF programme, through a banking crisis, a fiscal crisis, and one of the most severe recessions in modern history.
As a Government, we took on that task with resolve and determination. Since March, we have been taking the difficult measures that are necessary to put our economy on the road to recovery. To cut our deficit, fix our banking system and get our economy moving again.
Doing so has required tough and painful measures.
Ireland is just 10 months into a three year IMF/EU funding programme, but the economy is already two-thirds of the way through a multi-annual fiscal adjustment programme that is unprecedented for a developed economy.
That is a tribute to the Irish people and their ability to adapt, to be creative and to work together through the toughest of challenges. I am not telling you anything you don’t know. Most of you with workforces in Ireland already know this well.
We have our eye firmly on the future. The Government has an unprecedented electoral mandate, and we are driving the reforms we need in order to prepare for our return to the financial markets.
The new banking structures we are setting up will provide us with a financial system fit for the needs of the real economy, with a new focus on credit for small and medium enterprises. Reform of the financial sector is advancing, with great progress to report on restructuring, recapitalisation and the de-leveraging of the banks.
The fact that the yield on 10 year Irish government bonds has, over the summer, fallen by 500 basis points is evidence that our policies are yielding results.
Improvements in our competitiveness are driving exports to record levels with exports to the United States up over 10%, for example, this year. We recorded a small balance of payments surplus last year. Exchequer returns this year are better than expected. And new research suggests that our debt as a share of GDP will stabilise in 2013 and begin to fall thereafter.
The good news today that the Irish economy grew by 1.6 per cent in the second quarter of this year – the first time that we have had GDP growth in two consecutive quarters since 2007 – is further evidence that we are now on the path – albeit a narrow and difficult path – to sustainable recovery.
We are meeting our targets, and our recent performance has prompted the Financial Times to advise that “other countries caught in the Eurozone’s sovereign debt and financial sector turmoil could learn from the way Ireland is nursing itself back to health.”
The decision by Canadian, American, and other investors to invest over $1.6 billion in Bank of Ireland underscores international confidence in our banking structures – particularly the robustness of our stress tests and subsequent recapitalisation – and in the growth potential of our economy.
Don Keough, the former President of The Coca Cola Company, and the first honouree inducted last year into the Irish America Magazine’s Hall of Fame, was in Wexford last week to celebrate the opening of a new Coca Cola manufacturing and innovation facility there. That continued investment in Ireland, by companies with long and successful histories there, is a practical demonstration of confidence in Ireland’s economic future.
Of course, our fortunes are closely tied to those of the Eurozone. While I don’t intend to dwell tonight on the challenges currently facing Europe, I do think it is important to say this: that I have no doubt that, among European leaders , the determination and the will are there to work through the challenges we face. You shouldn’t doubt it either.
Yes, the economic skies – both here and in Europe – still look troubled, but nobody should underestimate the stated resolve of the euro-zone leaders “to do whatever is needed to ensure the financial stability of the euro area as a whole and its Member States.”
No one said it will be easy. It won’t. But Europe and the euro will come through this challenge, not weakened but strengthened.
President Clinton, when he visited Ireland last year offered sound advice. He said that the only way to address a crisis is to turn towards it and face it head on.
We have no illusions, of course, about the challenges we face.
And there is no disguising the difficulties that face us in the months and years ahead.
But no one should be in any doubt about the collective determination of the new Government and the Irish people to pull together, and to do what it takes to put our house in order.
And no one should be in any doubt either, of the enormous potential that resides in Ireland and the Irish. Ireland is a young, vibrant, creative, innovative and enterprising country. We are an open and competitive economy, that already exports 80% of what we produce. We can and we will, realise that potential to create a new and successful chapter in the Irish story.
Tonight, I want to ask you to support us in this work.
First, support us in rebuilding Ireland’s high reputation in the global financial markets. We are putting firm foundations in place to support our reputation internationally. Ireland’s story is a good story – a story of endurance and the triumph over adversity. Help us tell it.
Second, help us to expand and deepen the global networks – so clearly evident in this room - that Ireland needs now more than ever to position ourselves for success in a challenging and competitive world economy. Some of you will be in Dublin Castle in two weeks time to guide us in developing these networks.
Third, we need your foresight, your insight, and your ideas. If I have one message this evening it is that this Government is listening.
Fourth, support us by continuing to think Ireland. If your plans for the future do not yet include Ireland, they should.
If you feel you can help in any of these areas, or indeed if Ireland can help you, get in touch with our team here in the US – with Ambassador Michael Collins, Consul General Noel Kilkenny or with our agency heads - you probably know them already but if you don’t they are all here tonight: John Conlon, of the IDA; Gerry Murphy of Enterprise Ireland; Joe Byrne of Tourism Ireland; and Karen Coyle of our food promotion agency, Bord Bia.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The Irish have made many significant contributions to New York and to the United States, most visibly perhaps in public service and in politics.
However their imprint can be found in all walks of life, in every part of this great country. It is fitting that, this evening, we celebrate and honour those who have fostered close economic and business links between the United States and Ireland.
Like all Irish people, I draw great inspiration from New York and from the Irish our role in building this city. Standing so close to ground zero, and so close to the 10th anniversary of 9-11, we cannot but draw strength from the story of a city that experienced great tragedy and adversity, but came through to build bigger and better.
Together, we can build a better and more secure economic future for both our countries.
Once again, congratulations to all the honourees this evening. And thanks to Irish America Magazine for providing this opportunity for us to reflect together on the great strengths and mutual benefits which the unique Irish American relationship brings to both our countries.