President Higgins calls on Australian entrepreneurs to work in Ireland

Enterprise Ireland chief announces new deals in Australia for Irish companies Combilift and Akari

President Michael D Higgins talks with New South Wales’ Governor David Hurley as they walk in the garden with Frances Fitzgerald at Government House in Sydney. Photograph: Steve Christo/Getty Images

President Michael D Higgins talks with New South Wales’ Governor David Hurley as they walk in the garden with Frances Fitzgerald at Government House in Sydney. Photograph: Steve Christo/Getty Images

 

President Michael D Higgins has encouraged Australian entrepreneurs to work in Ireland “as a bridge” to the European Union and Irish companies to work through Australia to reach the Asian market.

Speaking after arriving in Sydney yesterday, Mr Higgins addressed an Enterprise Ireland business lunch attended by more than 50 Irish companies and Australian businesspeople at the Sydney Opera House. The event was part of the agency’s trade mission coinciding with the President’s State visit to Australia.

Mr Higgins, addressing his audience against the stunning backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, spoke of the importance of international exports to Ireland’s economic recovery. He sought to reassure the Australians in the audience that the EU was “very cognisant” of the challenges facing Ireland from Brexit.

During his speech, Mr Higgins disputed any suggestion from “some of our neighbours in Europe” that it was their instructions that led to Ireland’s economic recovery. He instead pointed to the 40 per cent increase in exports from 2007 to 2012 as what lifted the country back from economic crisis.

He paid tribute to Enterprise Ireland and the IDA for seeking out new business and referred to “80 serious pieces of business” completed by the IDA in that five-year period that helped the country bounce back.

“People look at trade figures, economic figures and indicators, as dead figures on the page but success in business is achieved in trust, authenticity in the deal and actual ability to execute,” he said.

Martin Shanahan, chief executive of the IDA, told The Irish Times that the State agency was targeting companies in Australia and New Zealand who would have been drawn to invest in the UK in the past but are unsure of whether they will be able to serve the European market from Britain following Brexit.

“The Brexit effect isn’t just about companies that are based in the UK who have to now make a decision. It is as much and probably more for us about future investments that will come into Europe, ” he said.

IDA aims to grow investment into Ireland from the Asia-Pacific region more quickly than from the US.

Mr Higgins referred to the main areas of concern for the Government around Brexit, including the risks to the 46 per cent of the country’s food exports destined for the UK market.

Introducing Mr Higgins, Enterprise Ireland chief executive Julie Sinnamon said new contracts were being signed by Combilift, the Monaghan forklift maker, and Akari, the Cork educational software maker, in Australia during the trade mission.

In a deal that will bring in about $1 million (€660,000) in revenues, Combilift has landed a contract to supply Australian cement manufacturer Civmic with a machine that will be used to move prefabricated concrete sections to a new prison they are building in New South Wales.

“It challenged us to develop a highly customised machine which was fit for purposes on a difficult site,” said Chris Littlewood, country manager for Combilift in Australia.

“The deal speaks to the partnership that we look to develop in the Australian market and we have looked to develop here for the last 18 years.”

Australia is the Irish company’s sixth largest export market and worth about €10 million a year.

Eoghan O’Leary, chief executive of Akari Software, said that the company had signed contracts worth €5 million over the last year to supply software to five universities in Australia and one in New Zealand and launched a user group this week connecting all six universities on its software that manages curriculums.

“It means that Australia is now our single largest source of income so Australia is bigger than the Irish market by a factor of five or six in terms of turnover,” he said.