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Niall Gibbons Speech from Dublin Chamber Annual Dinner on 10th October 2019

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11 October 2019

Annual Dinner Speech - Niall Gibbons, President

Lord Mayor, Tánaiste, Ambassadors (HE Xiangdong (China), Robin Barnett (GB), Richard Andrews (Australia), Brad Burgess (New Zealand)), Oireachtas Members, distinguished guests, good evening and welcome to the Dublin Chamber Annual Dinner.

I’m delighted to stand before you at Dublin’s biggest and best business dinner, bringing together 1,500 of the capital’s finest - policymakers, business leaders, Deputies, ambassadors, entrepreneurs and of course, Dubliners.

I would also like to acknowledge our guest speaker Alan Joyce, CEO of Qantas Airlines who has travelled from Australia to be with us.

And of course, welcome and thanks to our sponsors AIB and particularly to CEO Colin Hunt.

It’s great to welcome back two other global leaders to the stage – Sam Maguire and Brendan Martin. Sam is here for the fifth time in a row and Brendan for the three in a row.  A huge congratulations to both the Ladies and Men’s Dublin football teams.

Tánaiste, we really appreciate you taking time out of your very busy programme at a critical time for the future of our country. I know I speak on behalf of all 1,300 members of our Chamber who employ 300,000 people when I wish you every success in the weeks and months ahead.
Building Global Reputation
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 and more long term about their plans and aspirations for Dublin. This was followed by the ‘Great Dublin Survey’ which asked 20,000 Dubliners about their vision for the city. Last year, 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. I’m delighted that we have been joined by senior representatives of those chambers this evening. There has never been a more important time for all of us to work together.
At our AGM in February I announced a plan to benchmark Dublin’s reputation on the global stage as the latest part of the Dublin 2050 journey. The reason we did this revolves around our global ambition for market diversification.  *Because reputation has value.
Reputation creates a competitive advantage. Reputation helps close the sale. And our global reputation is central to us having the capacity to scale internationally - and if Dublin succeeds, Ireland does too. This project fits well with the Government’s ambition to double Ireland’s global impact over the coming seven years.
During the summer, we appointed the Reputations Institute to evaluate where Dublin sits in the mind of consumers across 10 different countries as a place to Live, Work, Study, Invest and Visit.
*5,500 people took part across the UK, USA, France, Australia, Germany, Spain, Canada, Sweden, India and China. We also asked 1,000 people from abroad who have now made Dublin their home what they think of their new city.
*Complacency never brings greatness and that is why asking the views of international Dubliners is important.
It is essential as we look out to 2050 that we work to create a Dublin that is welcoming, diverse, sustainable and competes well globally – and listening is the first stage in that journey.
So, what did they say;

Well according to our 5,500 respondents overseas in all countries, overall, Dublin has a really strong international reputation.

Dublin is regarded as having an appealing environment, an advanced economy and an effective government.
As you would expect, there is stronger familiarity in closer markets like Great Britain than China and India.
Dublin is known as a beautiful city, with history and an open and inviting environment.

Dublin’s reputation ranks in the top 20 cities worldwide better than Seattle, Boston and Barcelona but behind San Francisco, Toronto, Copenhagen and Sydney.

Our overseas respondents score us exceptionally strong as a beautiful city with a wide variety of experiences.
Over 80% rank Dublin as a good city for entrepreneurs.

Encouragingly, research in Great Britain shows no underlying negative sentiment despite the current political debate. 

While our overseas respondents see us as open and inviting, perceptions appear more traditional than modern with, for example, only 27% rating Dublin as LGBT friendly and 34% perceiving Dublin as a young city.  Our survey among our international Dubliners – people who have moved from abroad to live and work here - provided us with more modern perspectives that are closer to home. On the positive side, Dublin was seen as a beautiful city with a wide variety of appealing experiences.

However, poor perspectives on infrastructure, transport and public services were worrying. Over 90% of our international Dubliners said that housing was the biggest challenge to living in the city and that our public transport infrastructure is not up to scratch. Also, with safety a major driver in reputation, Dublin was seen as safe by only 1 in 7 respondents. Dublin was also seen as expensive with weak spots in health, visas, taxation and commuting.

Given this feedback, it is important to act now to ensure we continue to build on the economic success of recent years. The survey raises a number of issues that are a cornerstone of Chamber policy and I would like to briefly touch on four of these;
Housing and Infrastructure
Firstly, we need a high-density urban core for the long term, sustainable city living.

We need 14,000 units per annum compared to the current 7,000 being built.

More than half of international Dubliners have a decidedly negative opinion of our congested city infrastructure. In the short term, improving Dublin’s cycling infrastructure is something that can be achieved quickly and can have an immediate impact on commute times. In the medium/long term, investment in sustainable and resilient transport systems such as MetroLink and Bus Connects is a must to improve connectivity across the city.
Safe City and Public Realm
Secondly, great cities have Public Realm and pedestrian first policies that encourage life and vibrancy.
At its most basic level, a city needs to be safe for all. In recent times, safety has risen to become the most important driver of reputation internationally.

Regrettably, there are many parts of this city sorely in need of care and attention, and crucially, of secure investment. Infrastructure must also be accompanied by cultural and civic space for all its citizens.

Dublin for Business
Thirdly, I don’t need to tell anyone here that Dublin is home to the biggest names in global tech, pharma and financial services, that we are a city of start-ups and entrepreneurs, that we have a thriving and diverse business eco-system. (Congratulate Martin Shanahan and Julie Sinnamon) This reputation shouldn’t be taken for granted. Our surveys show that outside of the international business community, it has not yet become as big a part of Dublin’s Global Reputation as it can be.

Our full capacity as a city for business should be a part of the overall communication of what modern Dublin’s identity is. A truly forward-thinking city, from its vibrant city centre and picturesque coastline to its thriving business community and entrepreneurial environment.
Directly Elected Mayor
Finally, next year will see a Citizen’s Forum discuss the possibility of introducing a directly elected Mayor for Dublin. In the past, efforts to introduce such a role have not succeeded. Our focus is on the job, rather than the title and we need a champion for all of Dublin to tackle the priorities raised this evening. We need a Directly Elected Mayor with real powers to affect real change.

Our next step on the journey will be to host a working breakfast in Iveagh House where we will continue our engagement with key partners in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, IDA, Enterprise Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, Tourism Ireland and the private sector to drive toward an ambitious vision of Dublin 2050.
While we look ahead to 2050, we cannot ignore some other pressing issues which I will touch on now.
Firstly, we have emphasised time and time again the importance of capital investment and we are pleased to see a 22% increase in capital spending announced in the budget.
Second, maintaining business tax competitiveness versus the UK is crucial as it complementing our ongoing success in FDI and a sharp focus on developing the Irish SME base.
Budget 2020 was broadly welcome in this respect. The Chamber had advocated changes to the Employment & Investment Incentive Scheme, the R&D Tax Credit, and the Key Employee Engagement Programme. While for the most part changes announced on Tuesday have not gone quite as far as hoped, it represents a step in the right direction.
Third, in the medium term, Dublin Chamber will continue to encourage the Government to work towards a 20% Capital Gains Tax rate for all unlisted firms.
Global Footprint
This evening, we communicated a brief snapshot in time of Dublin’s Global Reputation. But that is not the end to the international focus of the Chamber. 

As ever, the Dublin business community looks outside the confines of Ireland, and Dublin Chamber continues to play a pivotal role in supporting internationalisation. By connecting Irish firms to foreign markets through the global Chamber network, the Chamber’s role in EU programmes is shaping the future of Irish international business.

We all know how important exports are to the Irish economy, but many of you may not know about Dublin Chamber’s work in Consular Services. The details of Carnets and Certs of Origin pass many by but they are vital to international trade, and service essential to internationalising and scaling businesses in Dublin.
*As I mentioned at the AGM in February, we have been on trade missions to Hong Kong, Italy, Germany, Malta, Spain, Finland, and Brussels and welcomed missions from China, UK, Austria, USA, and Greece, nurturing ties and building international relationships.

We have also strengthened ties closer to home.

We travelled with a delegation from the Northern Ireland Chamber of Commerce to Washington DC during St. Patricks Week. There we went with a clear message, that the island of Ireland is open for business and that the Good Friday Agreement is the only show in town. Arising from that visit, the CEO of the Northern Ireland Chamber is now on our Council. At our invitation, the Taoiseach attended a joint meeting of business leaders from both Dublin and Northern Ireland Chambers in Belfast. Two weeks ago, DUP leader Arlene Foster spoke to 80 business leaders from our Chamber in Dublin.

Also, in September, a Dublin Chamber delegation of over 20 businesses travelled to London to visit Westminster, Downing Street and the Irish Embassy to engage in dialogue with a range of business and political leaders. This platform for dialogue which the Chamber led is essential to maintaining good relationships.
In the weeks and months ahead, we are heading into extraordinary times. One cannot help but feel that global values are on a downward slide.  Whatever the outcome, we will all need to keep our values front of mind, engage in rebuilding trust and continue to build a strong reputation abroad. In that context, I think we have been fortunate to have the calibre of political leadership representing our interests on the world stage and again I would like to thank the Tanaiste for his hard work and perseverance.
Thank you and goodnight
Thanks to…. Tánaiste Simon Coveney ….Qantas CEO Alan Joyce…. Sponsors AIB
I would also like to thank my fellow members of the Dublin Chamber Council for their hard work in lending their time and expertise to the work of the Chamber. In particular, I would like to thank Niamh Boyle for her work around the Global Reputation Project. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mary Rose Burke, CEO of Dublin Chamber for her support and partnership over the past months.
*Just four years ago, Dublin Chamber started on its Vision 2050 journey, when it looked to the future with ambition. There are still 30 years left and plenty of ambition.   As I came on the stage this evening and saw the Sam Maguire, I thought about my school days and how the Dublin team of the 1970s inspired me to be proud of my city.  In 2050, it will be the turn of kids inspired by the Dublin football teams of today. I hope that both trophies will still be here but above all that we have delivered on the big questions that have been laid before us this evening.

Can I take the opportunity to thank you all for the support you have given me during the year, I hope you all had a great evening.

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