Big day in Dubai as Kenny’s delegation reaches new high

After tours and talks the Irish trade mission to the Gulf draws to a close

The bigger the better seems to be the way of thinking here in Dubai. The United Arab Emirates has the world’s tallest building, largest shopping centre and biggest brands – including an Armani hotel.

Good thing then it was the biggest name in Irish politics these days who led the Enterprise Ireland trade delegation into town. Having arrived on Wednesday night, Taoiseach Enda Kenny's day in Dubai saw him pay a visit to the biggest airline here, Emirates.

He met chief executive Tim Clark and outlined his big plan to expand the horizons of the 87 Irish businesses he led on the trip "beyond the shores of Ireland and Europe". "Tim Clark doesn't suffer fools gladly," he said. "I stand over our firms here and am happy to say that as Taoiseach."

Irish firms
A big figure in the airline game, Clark said he was glad to meet the Irish firms on hand as "you're sellers, just like me". He presented Kenny with a big cake to mark two years of Emirates flying in and out of Dublin and the airline then announced it was doubling the number of weekly flights to 14.

Clark has a house in Lismore, Co Waterford and Kenny promised to deliver "a big fish", presumably a Blackwater salmon, when next he visited. "I hope so," the chief executive replied. "I've no licence [to fish]."


Kenny’s next meeting was at the Zabeel Palace with prime minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum, who is a big fan of horses and Ireland. The Taoiseach and he discussed economics, the bailout exit and big opportunities in education.

Prior to that, Kenny was given a tour of the Burj Khalifa tower, the tallest structure in the world. As they walked to the entrance there was a loud thud and the biggest sound- systems many of the entourage ever heard began to blare a western ditty while water began to shoot, spray and dance its way from a fountain into the air. It was mesmerising stuff.

Water charges
The Taoiseach has a big enough fountain in the courtyard at Government Buildings, but with the water charges coming, it's unlikely he'll ever see the likes there.

Kenny’s tour guide at the big Burj explained how the steel used to erect the 828m high structure could stretch from Dubai to New York if laid out. It took about a minute for the lift to travel from the ground to 134th floor, then on to the 154th, where they couldn’t help but take the mobiles out to try capture the scale of the view. The Taoiseach even reached for his phone to grab a few snaps, but there were no selfies here.

Asked about his thoughts on the Dubai experience afterwards, he said it was a big city that was as good as “non-existent” just 30 years ago.

“Obviously, it’s Disney World on an enormous scale, but it is attractive for hundreds of millions of people in the times ahead.”

Dubai has big plans and will continue to grow, which for Ireland’s businesses “means future job opportunities”.

The afternoon saw Kenny attend the opening of a big new office for Dublin firm Glenbeigh Records Management. Its chairman, Philip Earle, gave a heartfelt talk about a business in which he has a big emotional investment and thanked Kenny for coming.

The Taoiseach was clearly moved by his words and offered Earle a big pat on the back for his successes with his “labour of love”.

Then on to the Jumeriah Creek Hotel to address a function for business groups and bring the biggest trade mission to the Gulf to date to a close.

It was a big day in Dubai, after a big week for the delegation. It’s home now, to await what many hope will be big results.

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll

Steven Carroll is an Assistant News Editor with The Irish Times