Chartered Accountants Ireland 125th AnniversaryTánaiste - 30/1/14
Chartered Accountants Ireland 125th Anniversary
Address by An Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Eamon Gilmore T.D.
30th January 2014, Convention Centre, Dublin
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First Minister Peter Robinson, Minister Burton, CAI President Brendan Lenihan, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to be here this evening to celebrate the 125th anniversary of Chartered Accountants Ireland, and I would like to thank Brendan for his kind invitation.
What strikes me most about this evening’s event is that Chartered Accountants Ireland is one of only a few organisations on this island that can claim to have done three things:
To have been in operation during the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries;
To be a genuinely all Ireland-body; and
To be as active, relevant and successful today as at any point in its history,
That is no small feat. I can think of only a few bodies – most of them in the sporting arena – that can make the same claim.
That is not to say that there aren’t issues facing the accountancy profession, or challenges for the future, but this is an evening to take note of what you have achieved and to celebrate it. In particular, the fact that we are joined here this evening by First Minister Peter Robinson, speaks volumes about the commitment of the organisation to maintaining its all-island approach. The fact too that the educational mission of your organisation continues to be so successful, that the qualifications you provide are so sought-after and that you compete successfully on the international stage, is something to celebrate.
For any organisation to survive and thrive after 125 years, it has to be able to do two things. First, you have to have a clear view of what you are about and what you are trying to achieve. And second, you have to be able to adapt to a fast-changing world. That is true of companies and institutes, and it is true also of countries.
I don’t have to tell this audience about the scale and trauma of the economic crisis that we have been through in Ireland. And there have been difficult economic times also in Northern Ireland. In the Republic, the crisis was, to all intents and purposes, an existential one. There were days when I had genuine concerns about our chances of financial survival.
Today, it is clear that we are emerging from the crisis. After almost three years of concentrated effort and some very difficult decisions, we have succeeded in exiting the EU/IMF bailout. We are now seeing a broadly based recovery in the economy. When this Government came into office, the economy was losing 7,000 jobs a month, but we are now gaining 5,000 jobs a month.
Of course, there are still fragilities. There are still many legacy issues that still have to be addressed. The Government still has to stay the course, maintaining fiscal discipline and pushing ahead with our reforms – and the Taoiseach and I are determined to do that. We have to do more to revive the domestic economy. I made the point yesterday, for example, that the number of houses being built in Ireland is now well below our long term needs, and that we have the potential to create an additional 12,000 jobs in the construction sector, by getting that industry back up to a normal level of activity.
But, having made the difficult decisions, and having seen the success, we now have to think about the future. So, that means, once again, being clear about our goals and objectives, and being ready to think about how to achieve them in a changing world.
I want Ireland to be a country which offers opportunity for its people to make a life here, to prosper here, have opportunity here, and grow old here. It’s a simple thing, but it’s not something we have ever achieved in the 19th, 20th or 21st centuries – at least, certainly not in a sustainable manner.
But it is possible. It is possible if we bring the same focus and attention to it that we brought to the exit from the bailout.
That is why, for example, the Government published the Medium-Term Economic Strategy before Christmas, to make it an explicit goal of Government policy to achieve full employment by 2020. We can, if we plan properly and push ahead with reform, replace the jobs we have lost during the crisis. But, more importantly, we can do so in a sustainable manner.
Let me mention just three examples of what we have to do to achieve that goal.
Firstly, we have to deal with the fact that we are living in a rapidly-changing global environment. We are a small, open, trading economy. We have important trading relationships with our nearest neighbour, the UK, with our friends in the US, and, of course, with our partners in the Eurozone. We know, for example, that we will benefit this year from improvements in the UK and US economies, even if growth in the Euro-area is more constrained.
But we also live in a world where the balance of economic power is shifting across the globe. Chinawill soon be the largest economy in the world. Some of the fastest growing economies in the world are now inAfrica. We have to develop and maintain our existing trading links, but we have to build new ones, not just because we want a share of that growth, but because we need to diversify the sources of our income. We must never again expose ourselves to a scenario where we are exclusively reliant on any one sector or market.
That is why we announced recently that we will be expanding our network of embassies and consulates overseas, opening eight new missions, to cover new and emerging markets such as Indonesia, as well as deepening our relationships in the US by opening a consulate in Austin, Texas. As a country we are traditionally comfortable in theUS,UKand European markets. Now we have to do more to build up a global footprint, led by diplomatic and cultural engagement, followed closely by trade.
Secondly, we have to look at the opportunities for greater North-South economic activity. None of us takes the peace process for granted. The relationship between North and South has been transformed in recent years, and we now have to do more to develop the all-Island economic dimension.
Peter will agree with me that, in our discussions at the North South Ministerial Council, we are all very aware of the need to use every opportunity to focus on getting better economic outcomes and putting in place policies that will lead to growth.
There are many ways in which all-island approach can reap dividends. You may have seen, for example, how Minister Varadkar and Minister Foster recently agreed to cooperate on a possible 2023 Rugby World Cup bid which could result in major benefits to the tourism industry on the island.
Your own profession also has an important role to play, both because you have 3,700 members in Northern Ireland, but also because professional services are now one of the main drivers of exports. And we have to think about how we can do more, working together, to promote activity and job creation.
Thirdly, we have to remember that this is a small island, and that what we achieve, we must achieve together. Whether that is about maintaining the all-island dimension, or whether that is about making sure that communities, on both sides of the border, share in recovery and future prosperity. Peace and prosperity have to filter down to all communities, whether that is to those communities inNorthern Irelandwho have been most affected by the troubles, or whether that is to hard pressed families who have paid the price of economic adjustment in the South. Peace and social solidarity are not optional extras. They are at the heart of the mission, of what we want to achieve. Whether that is in terms of social and economic development in the Republic, or in terms of how we advance to the next stage in Northern Ireland.
So, let me once again, thank you for your invitation, congratulate you on the past 125 years, and wish you every success in the future.