Irish start-ups have little to fear from Trump presidency, says Minister

Benefits to business links ‘work both ways’ for US and Irish economy

Actor Michael Fassbender takes part in the Made in Austin: A Look Into “Song To Song” panel discussion during  the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Photograph:  Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Actor Michael Fassbender takes part in the Made in Austin: A Look Into “Song To Song” panel discussion during the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas. Photograph: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images


The Irish startup community shouldn’t be overly concerned about economic policy shifts under President Trump, says Minister for Employment and Small Business Pat Breen.

Beginning a four-day trade visit to the US in Austin, Texas, Mr Breen is here to show his support for the 11 participating Enterprise Ireland tech startups who have made the trip this year to the burgeoning trade fair which takes place at SXSW, the annual conglomerate of film, interactive media, and music festivals and conferences.

“Trump is a businessman at the end of the day,” said Mr Breen. “We are the only country that is shown this unique hospitality and recognition through the special event held at the White House every year on St Patrick’s Day.” Because this tradition is being continued by the Trump administration, Irish business should not have undue cause for concern, according to the Minister.

“The US president has a presence in Ireland, in my own constituency in Co Clare. It’s a resort which employs 230 people in a very geographically disadvantaged area and he plans to grow the business there. He’s a businessman, that’s what he understands and that is key.”


Asked about Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s upcoming meeting with Mr Trump, the Minister said the two would get on fine. “Obviously the Taoiseach will be raising the hugely important issue of undocumented Irish immigrants, which affects so many within our diaspora. There’s no reason to think the Taoiseach will be anything but open and honest with President Trump on any and all issues.”

Mr Breen cited the two-way economic traffic between Ireland and the US as evidence that further economic ties were beneficial to both countries. “There are currently 600 Irish companies in the US employing over 84,000 people here. So it’s incorrect to think the US doesn’t have a vested interest in maintaining strong economic ties with us.”

The Trump presidency is a constant theme of the festival this year, with up to 20 “Tech Under Trump” sessions scheduled for the coming week.

“I hope the new administration is critical of what they see and hear at this year’s event,” SXSW director of programming Hugh Forrest told The Irish Times. “There are still a lot of unanswered questions regarding Trump’s tech and innovation policy.”

The crowd don’t seem to object. “Politics is at the heart of every aspect of American society so it doesn’t surprise me that a president as controversial as Donald Trump would be a major focus at SXSW, one pundit said. “He was going to come up in most panel discussions anyway, so why not just make it official?” said another.

However the issue of visas is haunting the festival. Brooklyn band Told Slant has pulled out of the SXSW music festival programme in protest against a contractual clause allowing the event’s organisers to notify US immigration if international artists were found performing at unofficial showcases while in Austin.


While SXSW authorities have agreed to remove the controversial deportation clause in its artist contracts “for 2018 and beyond” it is too late for Italian band Soviet Soviet who were denied entry to the US last Wednesday and deported back to Italy the next day, despite reportedly having all the necessary documentation and being an official SXSW showcasing artist.

On the band’s Facebook page the Italian three-piece claimed they were detained overnight, interrogated for four hours by US immigration authorities in Seattle, only to ultimately be refused entry based on the suspicion they would be generating revenue from the gigs they had lined up while in the US.