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By Chamber Press Office, 08 February 2019
Niall Gibbons, Dublin Chamber President 2019, AGM Speech
Thursday, 7th February 2019
6 Feb 2019
Good evening and welcome to our many esteemed guests here this evening. An Taoiseach, Minister Zappone, Deputies, Ambassadors Robin Barnett (Britain) and Brad Borgess (New Zealand), ladies and gentleman, welcome to the 2019 Dublin Chamber AGM Dinner. I’m honoured to stand here this evening as the 131st elected President of Dublin Chamber.
I would like to start by putting on the record my thanks to outgoing President, Anne O’Leary, who has worked tirelessly for the Chamber over the last year. Anne had two big call outs this time last year. These included moving the dial on diversity in business and recognising that Dublin belongs to the people of Ireland not just to Dubliners – this resulted in a national conversation around the country led by Dublin Chamber which brought us all closer together - and I want to acknowledge the dedication that Anne showed during the year in advancing those priorities. I would also like to thank and acknowledge members of the Board and Council of Dublin Chamber who give their time generously to shape the agenda for the future of our city.
Over the last year, Dublin Chamber held over 120 events, with Ministers, policymakers, leaders of industry, future entrepreneurs and international experts. The Mission of the Chamber – helping your business succeed in a successful Dublin - is alive and well. The Chamber continues to serve as a place where the business community of the nation’s capital can come together in an environment of learning and collaboration. I would like to acknowledge our CEO Mary Rose Burke and the executive team for the great work they have done on behalf of our 1,300 members who employ over 300,000 people nationally.
Dublin Chamber Vision
Dublin Chamber remains at the heart of the City’s business environment, as was its intent when founded 236 years ago in 1783. And since then, as the city has grown in size, population and international standing, Dublin Chamber has grown with it in its ambition for the city.
Three years ago the Chamber launched Dublin 2050, an ambitious project, of which a key part was to encourage decision makers in Ireland to think bigger about their plans and aspirations for Dublin. The project to date has included the ‘Great Dublin Survey’ which asked 20,000 Dubliners about their vision for the city. Last year, under the 2050 umbrella, Dublin Chamber had a national conversation with the people and business communities of Cork, Waterford, Galway & Limerick. This discussion brought the cities together on Dublin's future, its relationship with other Irish cities and its role as the nation’s capital.
The conversation laid the foundations of City Regions Ireland, an alliance of Ireland’s 5 cities which was launched with Minister Eoghan Murphy last November. In 2019, City Regions Ireland will continue to lobby for urban Ireland’s future.
Dublin Chamber’s vision is not just for Dublin to be a great city, but to be world renowned for its quality of life and economic vibrancy. Dublin 2050 reinforces a bigger way of thinking that needs to continue. And part of that journey in 2019 involves benchmarking our city on the global stage.
In my role with Tourism Ireland, I was with the Taoiseach in Canada when he launched that ambition for Ireland – he launched Global Ireland 2025 which has the ambition of doubling our global impact over the next seven years. There is no question that Dublin Chamber has a key role to play in this. To double our impact in seven years also means knowing where we stand today.
As part of our Dublin 2050 journey, this year, Dublin Chamber will lead an international benchmarking study measuring our reputation on the world stage as a place to invest, study, work and visit. This study will find where Dublin as a city sits on the international stage, pinpointing our Global Reputation so that we can drive toward a better Dublin.
Also, for the first time, it will include an assessment of Dublin as a place to live for those who have chosen to come to Ireland and make his city their home. Given that 17% of people living in Dublin City and in some of our members companies up to 50% of staff weren’t born here, this is long overdue.
This project will unveil many positives, but it’s also important that we hold up the mirror to objectively assess the weaknesses. Some of them already find themselves in our policy agenda such as transport and housing.
Our International Plans for the Year
In 2019, Dublin Chamber will continue to set its sights toward furthering relationships and ties internationally. Something all the more important as we see political turbulence impact on what had been dependable political norms and institutions.
In fact, Dublin Chamber just recently returned from a mission to Hong Kong with 23 companies, where ties were further strengthened with a truly global city and the gateway to the wider Chinese marketplace.
This year, we in conjunction with the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce will lead a joint delegation of business leaders to Washington DC during St. Patricks week with a very clear message, that this island is open for business and that the Good Friday Agreement is the basis upon which we can all prosper.
Dublin Chamber will lead a mission to London in the autumn and will work with the Chambers Ireland mission to Brussels this month.
During the coming months, we will also receive delegations from Vienna, Malta and Seattle.
Dublin must continue to look outward, building new relationships internationally at a time when other major global cities have taken steps backward and begun to look inward.
Brexit – Ireland in the EU
Unfortunately, these days a speech is not a speech without mention of Brexit.
However, in a reality where Brexit has dominated the news cycle and monopolised the time and energy of many people, I would like to take a minute to remind us all of the road we have travelled.
When Ireland officially joined the European Economic Community along with Denmark and the UK, it was the start of a journey for nine countries which became a customs union encompassing 28, and one of the most important international institutions of the modern world.
In preparing for this evening, I reviewed the Chamber records from 1973-1978.
This time 46 years ago, the Dublin Chamber AGM and annual dinner were addressed by then Taoiseach Liam Cosgrave and the late Minister for Foreign Affairs Garret Fitzgerald. The issues of the day concerned electricity supply, traffic and public transport, the East Link Motorway network and adjusting away from the Anglo Irish Free Trade Agreement signed in 1965 which ironically brought the economic war to an end and on to the new Common Market and the future economic and monetary union.
On the one had one could say some issues haven’t changed, electricity supply has become water supply, traffic and public transport is now about MetroLink and Bus Connects and adjusting to the Common Market is about Brexit and its consequences.
But of course everything has changed enormously. Dublin has been transformed and the recent jobs announcements by Facebook and Salesforce are reminders of that. Europe has been an enormously positive force for Dublin and for Ireland. Dublin is now the capital of a country with an economy rapidly approaching full employment, the rate of unemployment now down at 5.3%, and GDP growth running at well over 4%.
However, today’s complacency is the enemy of tomorrow. And at times of threatening economic turbulence from external factors, our best step forward must be commitment to long term strategic planning and constructing our urban infrastructure with real vision - there are significant projects and issues that need our utmost engagement for our business community and city to thrive and I’m just going to mention a few of these;
Firstly, The Greater Dublin Area has long needed a joined up approach to urban planning and development. The Metropolitan Area Strategic Plan for Dublin, is welcomed by Dublin Chamber in its holistic approach to planning for the region. To make this a reality, a strong executive is required to drive implementation.
Second, Dublin’s water supply is at capacity. Last summer’s drought was a stark warning of exactly how little wiggle room we really have in our supply of an essential resource. The Water Environment Abstraction Bill, needs to be enacted as soon as possible. We cannot afford for the city to run dry.
Third, for a city to be successful it needs the transport infrastructure to support it, Metrolink is efficient, environmentally friendly and the best move toward city sustainability that we can make for Dublin. The time is now for all of us to take the leap to the transport infrastructure that will take our city to the next level.
Fourth, we must not forget to nurture the future of Irish enterprise. We need a competitive Capital Gains Tax of 20% so that business can continue to grow domestically.
And finally, we as a business community must live up to our responsibility to promote the wellbeing of our people through education and training, diversity and inclusion and above all we must work to ensure that no-one gets left behind.
Conclusion and Thank You
This coming year, like every other, is sure to have its opportunities and challenges for the business community and for Dublin. Working with our CEO Mary Rose Burke and her team, I’m sure that we will have an eventful and successful 2019, as together we work toward a joint vision for a better Dublin, at home and on the international stage.
I would like to take a moment to again thank our sponsors Arthur Cox for supporting this wonderful dinner, as well our guest speaker Mr. Denis McCarthy, CEO of Fexco.
To conclude, it’s worth remarking that the centenary of the first Dáil has just passed. It’s an event that didn’t get any attention in the records of Dublin Chamber in 1919. An interesting very early Dáil debate focused on trade and whether to boycott English imports, however, views were expressed that cigarettes, ale and beer should be excluded. The Minister for local Government at the time thought ‘it would be a mistake to exclude Bass as it was a medicinal drink and it would be hard to get a corresponding restorative of Irish manufacture to recommend in its stead’ . Revolutionary politics was giving way to pragmatism and free trade.
Taoiseach, I’m sure I speak on behalf of everyone here when I wish you and indeed all our politicians every success. These are tough times that call for cool heads but I can assure you and your colleagues the full support of this Chamber in the challenging weeks and months ahead.
Thank you and good evening.