US support ‘invaluable’ to Irish recovery

Taoiseach attends breakfast in New York with mayor Michael Bloomberg


Taoiseach Enda Kenny marched up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan today as part of New York’s 252nd St Patrick’s Day parade.

In front of a crowd of about two million people, Mr Kenny walked with the United Irish Counties group behind members of the Defence Forces and ahead of a group from Breezy Point in Queens, New York which was hit by Hurricane Sandy.

Speaking at a breakfast held by mayor Michael Bloomberg in Gracie Mansion this morning, the Taoiseach said US support and investment in Ireland has been “invaluable” in Ireland’s drive for economic recovery.

Presenting Mayor Bloomberg with a replica of an Irish emigrant teapot, he said the Irish people were proud of the contribution which generations of Irish men and women have made to the city.

“The Irish are found in every borough every corner of New York. In previous generations they came heartbroken hungry in search of new life new hope,” he said. “Today they come in search of opportunity to work in finance, fashion, film.”

The Taoiseach told attendees of the progress that had been seen in the Irish economy in recent months.

“Our economy is entering its third consecutive year of growth. Competitiveness is up. Prices and costs have fallen back to 2003 levels,” he said.

Perched on a bend overlooking the East River on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, the mansion provided Irish music, food and even Irish coffees to a large crowd.

“It’s my first time to New York and this is just wonderful,” said Rose of Tralee Nicola McEvoy.

Mr Bloomberg and his Irish-American colleague Christine Quinn, speaker of New York City Council who declared her mayoral candidacy last week, welcomed Mr Kenny, emphasising the importance of enduring Irish American relations.

“This is always the greatest St Patrick’s day in the world,” said Mr Bloomberg. “It’s a time to remember all the Irish who built this city and this country – and to understand how New York is truly a city of immigrants.”

Standing among men proudly wearing sashes in the colors of the Irish flag, surrounded by a swarm of varying Irish accents, New York’s ample Irish community was apparent like it rarely is outside of St Patrick’s Day celebrations.

“If the Irish prove anything, its that, like New York City, you can’t keep them down,” Ms Quinn commented during her short speech. “It was the Irish and the Irish government who responded after Hurricane Sandy, and thank you so much for that.”

Mr Bloomberg also noted Ireland’s role in hurricane rebuilding efforts after Superstorm Sandy, which left many New York City neighborhoods devastated after it hit in late October last year. Some heavily Irish pockets, like Breezy Point, which the Taoiseach will visit on the morning of St Patrick’s Day, still resemble eerie war zones.

“They were extraordinary in their volunteering extraordinary in their generosity extraordinary in their compassion for this their adopted ‘home’,” said Mr Kenny.

Apart from Sandy, the theme of immigration reform infused the message of both Mr Bloomberg and Mr Quinn’s comments. After waking the crowd up with jokes about failing to secure the new Pope’s position – “hey, the church said they were looking for a CEO with global reach” - the mayor several times underlined the importance of campaigning for comprehensive immigration reform.

“We need to make sure that New York stays what it is, a city of immigrants.”

In the spirit of Irish-America, Mr Bloomberg and Mr Kenny exchanged gifts: the Taoiseach receiving a photograph of recently re-opened St Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church in downtown Manhattan, built by Irish famine immigrants.

Mr Kenny also presented Quinn with a Celtic medal and affirmed continuing Irish-American friendship: “We greatly value your friendship and devotion to this wonderful city and your connections with Ireland,” he said.

The Taoiseach spoke about Ireland's economic recovery efforts at an Irish-American chamber of commerce event later this morning, saying the country's corporation tax rate won't be changing.

He made his comments after Cyprus raised its corporate tax rate in return for emergency loans under an euro bailout.

Mr Kenny told reporters afterwards that the St Patrick's Day foreign trips by ministers were beneficial as they gave Irish people abroad direct contact with the Government.

Each member of the cabinet had also been given a programme of events before and after St Patrick's Day, he said.

That included dealing with the Irish diaspora, informing people about The Gathering and speaking about the "growing confidence of Ireland when we still have a long way to go and the fact that we are still in a fragile position."

The ministers would also try to encourage inward investment into Ireland on the trip, he said.

Mr Kenny said that Cyprus was in an "entirely different situation" to Ireland.

"Clearly the council of ministers has made a decision in respect of a once-off tax on deposits in order to bring Cyprus’s position into line," he said.

"It is a very good indication of the concentration and the focus of Europe on countries that have difficulties."