Martin hails ideas forum input

 

Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin tonight told the 180 members of the Irish diaspora participating in a Dublin conference aimed at generating ideas that their input would help in the formulation of Government policy.

It is hoped the event will strengthen relationships between prominent Irish business people working abroad and the Government. It was developed from an idea by economist David McWilliams, who proposed that the Government should hold an economic conference similar to the one held every January in Davos, Switzerland.

At the close of today's session of the Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh in the Phoenix Park tonight, Mr Martin thanked those attending for their contribution.

"Your work this week will be taken forward and action will be taken," Mr Martin told participants at a press conference this evening. "We are going through a crisis at the moment which does require ... a very significant (cut to) budget. They are the over-arching priorities that the Government has at the moment and we have to try and work within that."

Mr Martin said the Government would look at creating an online portal for a virtual community of people of Irish descent to stay in touch, as well as more educational exchanges and diaspora-linked tourism. He also said he wanted to boost Ireland’s presence around the world to harness the Irish diaspora in countries not traditionally focused on before, such as Russia.

The delegates will attend a dinner hosted by Tánaiste Mary Coughlan at Dublin Castle tonight.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen told the forum yesterday Ireland faced “three immense and immediate challenges”.

Mr Cowen said “defining choices” would soon be made on the Lisbon Treaty referendum, the National Assets Management Agency (Nama) and Budget 2010.

The Taoiseach claimed attracting inward investment and related employment would be much more difficult if the Irish people failed to endorse the treaty.

He also said Ireland had been profoundly affected by the global financial crisis. “Some of our problems are also domestic in origin, such as an overheated property market and banking crisis and serious deterioration in public finances,” he said. Mr Cowen said December's budget would contain “further difficult decisions”.

The forum’s agenda was designed to seek advice on developments and initiatives abroad which could ensure Ireland was prepared for a global upturn, he continued. “We must act with hope rather than despair, courage rather than fear, and we must look ahead rather than behind.”

Keynote speakers were chief executive of HSBC North America Brendan McDonagh, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and the retired chief executive of Intel Craig Barrett. Other invitees were Aer Lingus chairman Colm Barrington, Coca Cola company’s executive vice president Irial Finan and businessman Denis O’Brien.

Financier Dermot Desmond, Cisco Systems senior vice president Barry O’Sullivan were also invited, as were the president and chief executive of the Ireland Funds Kingsley Aikins, secretary general of the European Commission, Catherine Day, anti-poverty campaigner Bob Geldof and Irish-American journalist Niall O’Dowd.