Getting emigrants home key to recovery, says Taoiseach

Diaspora has critical role to play, Enda Kenny tells fourth Global Irish Economic Forum

 

Attracting Irish emigrants back to Ireland will be key to sustaining our economic recovery, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has said.

Opening the fourth Global Irish Economic Forum at Dublin Castle, Mr Kenny said the economic crisis had led to a resurgence in emigration, which “has had a significant impact on our country, as we lost talent and energy”.

“As Ireland recovers, we need these people to come home, to their families and with their families, to share their experiences and take up good jobs.”

Next year would be the first since 2008 that the number of Irish people returning from abroad would outnumber those leaving , Mr Kenny said.

Almost 300 members of the Global Irish Network working in 29 countries are taking part in the two-day think-in in Dublin, which is focusing on sustaining the economic recovery.

Different place

Mr Kenny said Ireland was “in a very different place” to where it was when the first global forum met in 2009, thanks to “the resilience and the patience of the Irish people” and the assistance of the Irish diaspora.

While more than 1,000 jobs were being created every week and the country was on track for a balanced budget by 2018, the recovery was “still fragile and must be nurtured”.

The “advice, insight and support” of the Irish diaspora would continue to be invaluable. “You still have a critical role to play as we work to keep the recovery going,” he said.

Mr Kenny said many great ideas arising out of previous global forums had been implemented with huge success.

Among the most noteworthy were the Gathering, a year-long tourism initiative that resulted in a 14 per cent growth in visitors from the US alone in 2013, and the Year of Irish Design 2015, a programme of international events showcasing Irish design talent.

Inviting more ideas from delegates at this year’s forum, he said he was particularly interested to hear their perspectives on the possible UK exit from the EU, which he described as a “major strategic risk for this country”.

Commemorations

Speaking about the 2016 commemorations next year, Mr Kenny said the Irish diaspora would play a vital role. “2016 will belong to everyone on this island and to you, our friends and families overseas. It will belong to you regardless of political or family history simply because of who you are – you are part of our story.”

Tánaiste Joan Burton said she was glad to see more female and young voices at the forum this year. “I want to see more women leaders across all sections of society. I particularly want to see more women entrepreneurs, and the Government will do everything we can to support this,” she said.

London-based Irish tech entrepreneur Mary McKenna, who sits on the board of the Irish International Business Network, agreed, saying particular efforts needed to be made to invest in female-led start-ups, as only 7 per cent of venture capital funding goes to women.

London-based Irish comedian Dara Ó Briain said Ireland should focus on what it could do for the diaspora, as well as what the diaspora could do for it.

Referring to his encounter with a homeless person in Dublin, he said “not all economic indicators are on the up” here.

Economist David McWilliams also stressed how diaspora engagement should be a two- way street, with benefits for the community abroad as well as Ireland.

He said Ireland should protect itself against the cyclical nature of economic boom and bust by ensuring that wealth remained a constant.

Ireland could do this by radically changing its relationship with the multinationals located here, by becoming a shareholder in these companies, which would remove the threat of them leaving Ireland.

“We could create a sovereign wealth fund for our citizens. Norway has a sovereign wealth fund based on oil, but we could have one based on brains.”