Irish expats gather in Shanghai to discuss Asian opportunities

Carlow venture capitalist says China remains great place to do business, despite slowdown

Shanghai hosted hundreds of Irish people for the biggest meeting to date of Irish expatriates in Asia on Friday.

Senior Irish business figures said China and the region should be a priority destination for young people from Ireland to expand their horizons.

"We have Irish businesspeople from across the board - diplomats, footballers, teachers, physiotherapists, entrepreneurs, from all over Asia, not just China - we have Japan, Australia, Korea, the whole region," said Ciaran Gallagher (28) from Ballindine, Co Mayo, who is head of the Irish Chamber of Commerce China and who works as Glanbia's business development officer in the biggest food market in the world.

Some 150 people attended the Asia Pacific Ireland Business Forum in the Wyndham hotel on Shanghai's picturesque Bund waterfront, an annual gathering of Irish which precedes the Asian GAA Games.


The event also marks 10 years of Cork’s twinning with Shanghai.

"You can never underestimate the power of that network. It's great to get to know people at these forums, they are pioneers here in Asia. It's learning from them and what they have to offer in the future and recreate their success and carry on the torch," said Ryan Twomey, from Ballincollig (21) who is studying commerce with Chinese at University College Cork and is doing a one-year programme at Shanghai University.

“The opportunity to get in early is very appealing,” said Mr Twomey.

"There are Irish people in Mongolia, there are Irish people in Vietnam, in Cambodia and in other parts of Asia. What a great resource."

Marcus Connolly (21) a student of commerce with Chinese at UCD, who is at Fudan University in Shanghai doing a one-year programme in Chinese, described the opportunities in China as "very appealing".

Orla Flynn, vice president of external affairs at Cork Institute of Technology, said there is now an "Irish wave of Chinese students" and said she was looking to provide supports for those at undergraduate level.

Paul Costigan, from Carlow, an entrepreneur who has worked with a number of US and European start-ups targeting China, said China remained a great place to do business, despite the recent economic slowdown.

“There is a lot to be done here. Look carefully, but do it right,” he said.

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan

Clifford Coonan, an Irish Times contributor, spent 15 years reporting from Beijing