'Friend of Ireland' Bill Gates pays tribute to aid effort
Microsoft founder Bill Gates was described as a “friend of Ireland” by Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore following an hour-long meeting in Dublin focused on overseas development aid.
Mr Gates, the US billionaire and philanthropist, also met Taoiseach Enda Kenny briefly yesterday at Government Buildings before calling on President Michael D Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin.
Mr Gilmore said Mr Gates paid tribute to the work Ireland continued to do in the area of development aid despite experiencing economic difficulties on the domestic front.
“He had encouraging things to say to me about Ireland’s recovery. He expressed a very strong hope that Ireland would recover. He’s a very significant person in the world of business,” Mr Gilmore said.
“He’s very much a friend of Ireland. He expressed that friendship and that’s one of the reasons he was here today.”
Mr Gates was visiting a number of European countries ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos. In an interview with RTÉ’s new Morning Edition programme, to be broadcast next week, Mr Gates praised Ireland.
“Ireland suffered from a pretty extreme real estate bubble and took a certain approach in terms of how the banks were bailed out after that bubble,” Mr Gates said.
“It’s like a one-time hit, a gigantic hit as a percentage of GDP but the basic quality of the workforce and attractiveness as a place to live is still there shining through, and so as you had to make cuts and trade-offs, slowly but surely those strengths are showing through.”
Fight against polio
Mr Gates and Mr Gilmore also discussed the EU budget, expected to be agreed next month, with Mr Gates expressing concern that development aid levels would be maintained.
They also discussed the drive to end polio, with the Tánaiste saying the disease had been eliminated in India but remained a problem in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
“Ireland is very much involved in making polio history,” Mr Gilmore said.