Taoiseach's tribute to ‘stoicism’ of Irish in dealing with crisis

Enda Kenny tells US business leaders Ireland faces ‘further economic challenges’

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described the struggle to overcome the financial crisis as a “battle” the Irish people are fighting for themselves, saying the current phase of the recovery is just the beginning. Video: Reuters

 

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has described the struggle to overcome the financial crisis as a “battle” the Irish people are fighting for themselves – saying the current phase of the recovery is just the beginning.

In upbeat remarks yesterday to American business leaders in Washington, Mr Kenny cited Ireland’s dead of the Crimean War and the Somme and said the Irish had fought the battles of many other countries for centuries. “Here is a battle we are fighting for ourselves in Europe, in the US and it is one that we are going to win,” he said.

Mr Kenny addressed the US Chamber of Commerce and, later, a lunch hosted by Enterprise Ireland. He also held bilateral talks with Northern Ireland First Minister Peter Robinson in Washington and he will meet President Obama today in the White House.

Citing lower national borrowing costs and the improvement in employment for 22 months consecutively, he said the creation of 61,000 new jobs last year would represent an increase of more than five million people working “in US terms”.

Reputational damage

He strongly defended Ireland’s corporate tax regime, but acknowledged reputational damage over arrangements for “stateless” companies, and noted the Government move to scrap it in the budget.

He said Ireland’s system was transparent and met none of the internationally-accepted criteria for tax havens.

The fair application of the 12.5 per cent corporate tax rate will a key part of Ireland’s economic strategy, he added.

Mr Kenny said the damage inflicted on Ireland’s standing in the world as a result of the banking crisis and the bailout had been overcome because his administration and the Irish people had demonstrated their commitment to stay the course.

“It is an example from a small country of a big message, and that message is that where politics needs to work it means Government have to level with the people. You’ve got to lead by example and let them know you’re serious and say this is in your children’s interest,” he said.

“When we came here three years ago, we were in serious difficulty. We’ve come a long way onto higher ground. I see where the brighter days and greater prosperity are ahead. That requires further challenges to be met and we will meet these.”

He paid tribute to the guts, drive and stoicism of the Irish people in exiting the EU/IMF bailout and said they had been practical and pragmatic in their response to the crisis.

“If everybody takes off their jacket, rolls up their sleeves and puts their shoulder to the wheel, there’s not a challenge we cannot meet. This an economic challenge and we’ve come a long way.”

American investment

On business link s between Ireland and US, he said 16 per cent of Irish workers are directly and indirectly employed by American companies.

At the same time, he said, there was much more to the bonds between the two countries than a simple matter of trade statistics and commerce.

The fact that seven Government Ministers are in the US for St Patrick’s Day was a recognition of American investment in Ireland and his determination to cement the relationship.