March 22nd 2021
Our speaker today is Tony Fox, Fish Ireland - A review.
Forthcoming Speakers and Events
Mar 29th Delma Sweeney - The Rotary Foundation - Transforming the World.
Apr 5th Easter Monday. No meeting.
Apr 12th TBA.
Apr 19th Gerry P Cahill, Presenter 103.2 Dublin City FM.
Apr 26th James Innes - Bitten by the Black Dog
President Alan was in the Chair at our meeting last Monday.
Thought for the Day
The thought for the day last week was given by president Alan who had been reading a review of Bill Gates’ recent book. Unlike the cynics, president Alan believes that Bill Gates is genuine in his desire to help people and to save the planet. It is thanks to the assistance of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that we are so close to eliminating polio. Alan was struck by two quotes he had recently come across. One was from Estes Snedecor, a former president of the Rotary Club of Portland, Oregon and was made at the 1921 Rotary Cnvention where he said “Rotary’s strength lies in the sincerity of purpose of its members.” The other was from the delightfully named Arch C. Klumph of the Rotary Club of Cleveland, Ohio who said “Rotary is built of men made of good stuff; the ideal of service is developing into practice. As a consequence, the organization will never stand still.” These line up with the fourth tenet of the four-way test – is it beneficial to all?
Visitors and Apologies
Last week we had apologies from Mary O'Rafferty and Rana Al Damin. There were 25 members in attendance. There were two guests, Alexandra Ndirango from Kenya (now working in Dublin) and Peter Van der Goudenhart, a colleague of VP Alexander. Peter introduced himself briefly. He formerly worked for Accenture and has spent time in the UK, the Netherlands and Turkey. For her part, Alexandra recalled the time that president Alan had spoken to the Nairobi club about his own career and, wait for it, whisky.
Rotary Rangers Schedule
Rotary Rangers outings are cancelled until further notice.
Hon Secretary’s Announcements
• There were no secretarial announcements last week.
• President Alan welcomed back PP Tony after a mild heart attack which has kept him out of action for a couple of weeks. Tony now has two stents which puts him one up on PP Brian’s single pacemaker.
• On the Bikes for Africa project, Alan said that efforts are being make to sign up another prison to work on refurbishing the bicycles.
• President Alan outlined the programme for the upcoming joint meeting with the Sacramento club (see below for a summary). Frank Bannister said that, as PP Derek would be singing the verses of Cockles and Muscles unaccompanied, he might like to look up the rendition of The Star Spangled Banner at the recent CPAC conference that is available on YouTube as a warning about the perils of intonation. He recommended the version with the piano accompaniment á la Rachmaninov.
• Hon Secretary Tony will be circulating the script from the recent meeting of District.
• Turning to the upcoming fund raising auction, Alan said that flyers have been sent to all local clubs. He had received an immediate reply from DG Connie. The auction is open to all and sundry. All of the items are being donated by members with the exception of a lithograph being donated by the artist Carmel Mooney. This is a valuable piece and will have a reserve. Roger Owens will be the auctioneer on the night. The guest speaker will be Professor Luke O’Neill who will be introduced by PP Ethna. Anybody who has any questions for Luke should send them to Alan in advance.
Members Wishing to Speak
There were no members wishing to speak.
Meeting with the Rotary Club of Sacramento
Approximately 20 members of our club plus some guests (of ours) joined the Sacramento club for a St. Patrick’s day meeting on Wednesday last. There were, at one point, over 100 people present.
Having a fierce dislike of paddywhackery, your duty editor logged in with a sense of foreboding, but the event turned out to be great fun with wonderful contributions from both sides of the Atlantic including, from our side, Hon. Secretary Tony’s opening greeting in Irish, president Alan’s explanation of what a Scotsman was doing in Dublin, PP Brian’s masterclass in Guinness pouring (with a chaser to follow) and PP Derek’s rendition of Cockles and Muscles (with decidedly asynchronous chorus provided by other members of our club). Sacramento president Kevin ran the show with great elan (and bang on time!). For some of us, the high point was the breakout sessions when we got to meet and chat with members of the Sacramento club, even if only briefly. Rana was on-the-ball enough to take a few screen shots including the one shown, taken during our breakout group.
The closing Irish toast was delivered by Dan McVeigh, PP of the Sacramento club and his cousin, Marie O’Connor, in Dublin. Marie is a former partner in PwC, Dublin.
Last Week’s Speaker
Our guest speaker last week, Mark Redmond, was introduced by past president Tom. Tom said that he did not know Mark personally, but he knew about him as the chief executive officer of the Irish American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland. The Chamber represents over 1100 U.S. companies operating in Ireland, between them employing a large number of people. This year the Chamber is celebrating its 60th anniversary. Tom said that Mark is not the first member of the American Irish Chamber of Commerce to talk to our Rotary Club. One of our former members, the late Bob Chalker, had been one of the founders of the Chamber.
Mark thanked the club for its invitation. He said that last week Leo Varadkar had launched the Chamber’s latest Business Report (see below for link to this). Tomorrow, Simon Coveney would preside over the launch of the report in the United States. He wanted in his talk to focus on where US/Irish business is today. This year is, as Tom had said, their 60th anniversary. The Chamber (known to all as AmCham) is a not for profit and nonpartisan organization that represents both U.S. companies in Ireland and Irish companies in the USA. There are equivalent American Chambers of Commerce in other countries such as France and Japan.
When the Chamber was founded on the 8th of January 1961, Ireland had been independent for about four decades and the economic policies pursued during this period had failed badly. The country was isolated and inward-looking. Some 90% of Irish exports went to the UK (compared to 11% today); 50,000 people a year emigrated. There were one million people employed out of a population of around 2.9 million. Today there are, allowing for the pandemic, approximately 2.3 million people in employment out of a population of 4.9 million. This population is predicted to grow by a further million over the next 20 to 30 years. The country is today outward looking and diverse. One in six people born in Ireland today is born to non-Irish parents.
The 60 years of the chamber have been bookended by two Irish American presidents. John F. Kennedy was inaugurated a week after its foundation in 1961 and Joe Biden was inaugurated shortly after its 60th anniversary. Two years into his presidency, in 1963, JFK came to Ireland. One important legacy of that three-day visit was that he helped us create a belief in ourselves. The then Secretary of the Department of Finance, TK Whitaker, persuaded Taoiseach Sean Lemass to open up the country. If we did not, he argued, we were facing economic Armageddon. We might as well hand the keys of the country back to England. The subsequent momentous change of direction is one from which we have all benefited.
Today US multinationals in Ireland employ about 180,000 people directly plus another 144,000 indirectly in the local supply and services sectors. The payroll for American multinationals runs to an annual figure of about €10 billion. A further €6.3 billion or spent on goods and services and €5.3 billion on capital expenditure.
However, and this for Mark is the killer point, Ireland is now the ninth biggest foreign investor in the United States. Irish companies employ approximately 110,000 people in the USA. Mark wondered what Sean Lemass might have made of these numbers. In the 19th century the Irish who emigrated to the United States became manual laborers and domestic servants. Today Glanbia is the USA's largest specialist nutrition company and CRH is its largest provider of building aggregates. After the tragedy of Brexit, as Mark put it, Ireland needs to find more new markets including in the USA and the USA is open for business.
Mark then invited questions and comments.
Past president Derek Griffith said that one reason that Ireland had been successful in attracting U.S. investment was that it was a country that, since independence, has remained stable. It is also English speaking. Mark agreed, but historic stability is not the only factor. What is also important is the fact that all of the main political parties remain committed to policies that attract US multinationals. Mark referred to the austerity imposed after the 2008 financial crash. People elsewhere in Europe have told him that if their governments had tried to impose the type of austerity that was imposed in Ireland there would have been a revolution. The pain was unfathomable, but Irish social solidarity was such that the country absorbed it and was able to make a fast recovery. Ireland has had a spectacular record of achievement since its entry in 1973 into the EEC – including in education. The latter includes Donogh O’Malley’s introduction of free education and the work of Micheál Martin when he was education minister. Ireland is now seen by the United states as its future gateway to the European Union. Its businesses practices and attitudes are well aligned with those in the USA. In addition its third level education system, despite recent falls in global rankings, is still outstanding as is the second level system. Research and development and supporting institutions and activities that are carried on in the state are outstanding.
Kevin McAnallen said that he had once worked for General Electric one of the first companies to arrive in Ireland. General Electric had, apart from anything else, provided a university level education in management for those that worked for it. One of their big claims was that during their early years they created 40 future managing directors for inward investment. Mark said that GE was an excellent example of the impact of American FDI. He pointed out that GE’s aviation arm had taken over the Irish firm Guinness Peat Aviation about 25 years ago and that now the wheel coming full circle - GE Aviation has just been taken over by the Irish company Aercap. Mark mentioned Digital and their plant in Galway. While there was a lot of distress when Digital closed down, by that time it had created a massive downstream industry. The on-line payment company Stripe, founded by two Irish brothers, had of this week become the most valuable private company in Silicon Valley. Stripe has announced that over the coming years they will be creating 1000 jobs in Ireland. One of the two brothers who set the company up first came to notice as a Young Scientist of the Year.
Past president Ted, naturally, brought Kerry into the discussion and mentioned the Liebherr plant in the country. He said that US multinationals seemed to be less keen about setting up in the more remote areas of Ireland. He asked whether there were any plans to change this policy? Mark said that a good counter example was Fexco in Killorglin, whose founder and managing director, Brian McCarthy, had been an AmCham board member for many years. Right now the IDA is focusing on this problem and looking to add more jobs in rural areas. Mark pointed out that certain sectors want to be in major metropolitan centers. Social media and software companies are two examples. On the other hand, the pandemic and its impact on working from home is going to change many things. Mark predicts that this will lead to a major shift towards more working outside of large cities.
Frank Bannister mentioned that he had recently been writing a memorial for Gordon Foster, who was born 100 years ago this year, and who was former professor of statistics at Trinity. In the late 1960s Gordon had written a report recommending that Ireland develop as a hub for software companies. He would be amazed to see where we are today. Frank asked Mark if he had any comments on this and on the role of the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) in this success story. Mark said that Gordon would be interested to know that the top five software companies in the world all have a major presence in Ireland today. For its part, IDA was, if not the best, certainly in the top three of inward investment operations in the world. Singapore was one of the other competitors. The IDA is extremely professional in its approach. This week, Saint Patrick's week, the IDA will be all over the airwaves in the United States. Enterprise Ireland also does an outstanding job for Ireland and, as mentioned earlier, little Ireland is the 9th largest investor in the United states. This was a case of where, to use the old cliché, we really do punch above our weight.
Roger Owens said that it was good to hear that Ireland was in a strong position now, but he wondered did Mark see any threats to this from future governments or political developments in Ireland. Mark said that he was glad to have an opportunity to talk about the future. There is a lot of talk at the moment about global supply chains, securing supply chains and bringing things home and back to America. However, in his view when people in America say this they are primarily talking about China. For example, a typical ventilator contains about 1000 components which come from 30 different countries. Ireland is the sixth biggest supplier worldwide of medical equipment. One third of the world's contact lenses are made in Ireland and seven out of eight brain surgery operations world-wide use components made by Irish companies. A key to the future of investment in any country, including Ireland, will be that that country is a place where people want to live. This brings up a whole raft of issues including available and affordable quality accommodation, good schooling, good health systems, social stability, English speaking and so on.
President Alan said that he too had a multinational background and wondered what a new CEO or managing director arriving in Ireland might get from the American Chamber of Commerce. Mark said that the chamber does two things. One is to be the voice of their members and the advocates for their members’ interests. The second is networking which includes development programs, the provision of useful data and so on. He said that anybody that would like to read more should look at their recent report which is available online at:
Past president Tom wondered what Mark felt about the impact of Brexit. Mark said that Brexit was a disaster, but it did offer opportunities to Ireland. One is that the US is now looking to Ireland rather than the UK to be its representative, as it were, inside the European Union. Small things matter. Ireland is the only country guaranteed an annual bilateral meeting with the US President, Vice President and Speaker every year. One of the first six calls made by president Biden to foreign leaders was to Micheál Martin. President Biden wants the Taoiseach and Ireland to be a bridge to the European Union. There is also enormous American commitment to the Good Friday Agreement with the UK being effectively told that if the Good Friday Agreement gets into trouble because of Brexit, there will be no US/UK trade agreement. This was an enormous compliment to the skill the Irish diplomatic corps over many years.
Giving the votes of thanks, Eamonn Allen thanked our speaker for a comprehensive and wide-ranging talk. He added a few statistics of his own. Including that the USA is Ireland’s largest trading partner - significantly larger now than the UK - that 10.5% of Americans claim Irish ancestry of some sort and that 23 of the 46 US presidents so far have some Irish genes in their blood. The sheer scale of the Irish software, medical equipment, pharmaceutical and financial services sector driven by US multinationals is impressive. They make a huge contribution to Ireland and he hoped that the sector would continue to flourish.
President Alan thanked Mark on behalf of the club.