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President's Report 2008

Michael Gibbons - Ireland US Council President
Michael J. Gibbons
Council President

We can recall October 1987 when it looked like the financial world was coming to an end. Panic had gripped Wall Street, the Dow had plunged in a record-shattering crash and the gloomiest predictions were being promulgated about our future economic fortunes.

Black Monday is the name given to Monday, October 19, 1987, when stock markets around the world crashed, shedding a huge value in a very short period. The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) dropped by 22.6% - the largest one-day percentage decline in stock market history (yes Ð even considering the downhill slalom performed by the market in eight days recently).

As it happened, the Council's honoree at our 26th Annual Dinner that year was none other than John J. Phelan, Jr., who at the time was Chairman & CEO of the New York Stock Exchange. Mr. Phelan, who later served as President of the Council from 1988 until 1990, spoke to Council members and their guests on that evening just a few days after market chaos got everybody's attention. Many of those in the room on that special November night, wondered whether the financial panic in the stock market presaged a generation of penury. In his remarks, Mr. Phelan expressed strong optimism about America's economic future. And as we now know at this remove two decades later, his confidence turned out to be well-founded.

As we close the pages on another year of Council activity, we find ourselves in dark economic days again. Although the commercial connections between America and Ireland continued to grow stronger and deeper this past year, our joint future economic prosperity is under serious cloud. The current economic slowdown is accompanied by a financial crisis that, being at hand and up close, looks sharply tougher than the market crash of two decades ago.

As we plan our programs and activities for the coming year, all of which are aimed at achieving our Council mission of building business bonds between America and Ireland, we take note of the current economic predicament. However, our inclination is, taking heed of John Phelan's optimism and confidence in our system of Government and economic management, to express our faith that the market mechanisms will find equilibrium and will eventually lead to continued growth in the broader economy and ultimately in the economic relationships between America and Ireland.

New Work-Visa Program

New Work-Visa Program

In the past year, the Council has undertaken some notable initiatives in communicating Council views and suggestions on important issues to the Governments in Washington DC, Dublin, Belfast and London. It is extremely gratifying that in the matter of work visas between America and Ireland, on which the Council has invested sustained effort, we have seen positive and tangible results. We believe that the Council's advice to liberalize the rules on work visas will make an important and positive difference in strengthening the links between America and Ireland. We are delighted to salute these new rules with enthusiasm. We welcome the decisions by the U.S. Administration and the Government in Ireland to expand work visa programs between the United States and Ireland. These are important steps and represent the most significant changes in visa arrangements between our two countries in several generations.

These new rules will allow U.S. citizens to work in Ireland and Irish citizens to work in the United States for up to a year. Under the terms of a deal signed recently in Washington, D.C. up to 5,000 U.S. citizens will be allowed to work in Ireland for twelve months while a minimum of 20,000 Irish citizens who are in, or have recently completed, post-secondary education will be allowed to work and travel in the U.S. for one year. The new pact was signed at the State Department by Ireland's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. M’che‡l Martin and U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Ambassador John Negroponte.

The Council believes that by enhancing the ability of young people from the United States and Ireland to travel across the Atlantic and to work for up to one year will positively affect the relationships between our two countries. The existing Summer Student J1 visa program will continue to operate as a separate program. The Government in Dublin is also continuing efforts for new bilateral arrangements to provide reciprocal long-term working visas - known as E3 Visas, which the Council believes should also be introduced.

Tax Policy in Northern Ireland

Tax Policy in Northern Ireland

We have seen less success from representations that were made to the British Government which added the Council's voice to the proposal that the corporate tax rate in Northern Ireland be harmonized downward to the level prevailing in the Republic. We believed when we made our submission, and we continue to believe that such a move would provide a major growth stimulus to Northern Ireland's economy. All political parties in Northern Ireland support the concept of lowering the corporate tax rate in the North to match the 12.5% rate offered by the Government in Dublin. As we noted in our report last year, the submission to the British Government in London "reflects the broader Council commitment to bedrock principles of economic freedom, individual liberty and private enterprise".

Open Skies Agreement

 Open Skies Agreement

During the past year, the first steps have been taken in the implementation of an Open Skies agreement between Europe and the United States that affect Ireland's vital transatlantic air bridge to America. The Council has been a consistent proponent of looser rules governing air travel between Ireland and America. We fully expect that this agreement will bring good news for travel consumers Ð whether corporate, vacation leisure or visiting friends and relatives. These more liberal regulations on airlines offering services between the United States and Ireland will help bring us closer together.

On a related issue, the Council notes with satisfaction that plans are at an advanced stage for air passengers traveling from Ireland to the U.S. to clear U.S. customs on the ground in Ireland before departure. Currently, most flights clear only through U.S. immigration procedures in Ireland before take-off. This new facility, to be available shortly at Dublin and Shannon, will enhance the air bridge between Ireland and America and will be a welcome feature of westbound transatlantic travel.

2008 Council Programs

In my final report to our members as President of the Council, I want to say that it has been a privilege, an honor and a pleasure to serve the organization. It has been always enjoyable and challenging to engage in the various activities and programs carried on in support of the Council's mission.

The past year has been one of significant action for the Council which I am pleased to report to our members and friends on both sides of the Atlantic. All the program components and events which the Council has undertaken, in what has been an active and successful calendar of events, have been shaped to achieve the organization's principal goal of building durable business bonds between America and the island of Ireland.

Council Business Directory

Council Business Directory

During this past year, the Council has invested substantial resources in preparing, researching and compiling its Business Directory scheduled to be published in the near future. The publication will include a comprehensive database of those engaged in Ireland-U.S. business and economic activity.

This directory provides detailed information on every entity that is part of the broad and durable canvas on which the business relationships between America and Ireland have been shaped. From investment to trade and commerce to tourism, this directory includes details on corporations and organizations, every partnership and foundation engaged in the transatlantic business connection.

The Council will soon launch the 2009 edition of this unique directory publication. Each listing provides detailed information including valuable personnel and contact data and thumbnail project information on the subject's transatlantic business profile.

The directory is produced in a handsome zippered leather portfolio and includes a CD of the database, the printed database listing and other elements of Council-related materials. The product also features password-enabled online access to the directory's information resources.

Details on 2009 Business Directory

45th Annual Dinner of the Council

45th Annual Dinner of the Council

The 45th Annual Dinner of the Council was another full house and sold-out event at which the Council's Award for Outstanding Achievement was presented to Philip Lynch, Chairman & CEO of One51 plc and Chairman of The First Tee Charity in Ireland.

During the dinner, a Special Recognition Award was presented to long-time National Secretary Michael Alexander who has stepped down as National Secretary of the Council. The Award citation was introduced by Board Member John Reilly who paid tribute to Secretary Alexander's sustained commitment and invaluable service to the Council that have reached through five separate decades.

Member-Guest Reception in Dublin

Member-Guest Reception in Dublin

In December last year, the Council hosted a Member-Guest Reception at the impressive headquarters of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland in Dublin's Kildare Street, beside the National Library and D‡il ƒireann buildings. The Guest Speaker at the event was Dr. Reg Shaw of Wyeth Medica Ireland. Brian Goggin, the President of the Council's Ireland Chapter, introduced him to the large attendance of Council members and guests. The U.S. Ambassador to Ireland, Thomas Foley also attended the event.

Dr. Shaw was honored by the Council as the mastermind of the company's development in Dublin. One of the largest integrated biotech facilities in the world. Opened in 2005, the project involved an investment of $3.25 billion. Today, 1,250 direct staff and 600 indirect staff are employed on the company's biotech campus Ð two out of every three with third-level degrees.

Member-Guest Reception in New York

Member-Guest Reception in New York

Also in December last year, the Council hosted a Holiday Season gathering for New York members and potential new members at The River Club on Manhattan's East Side. An impromptu performance by celebrated vocal artiste K.T. Sullivan added glitter to the entertainment program that included a performance of carols and piano music.

A Book On Ernie O'Malley Launched in New York

Earlier this year, in January, the Council hosted a lecture & cocktail reception to mark the U.S. Book Launch of ÒNo Surrender Here! The Civil War Papers of Ernie O'Malley 1922-1924Ó. The book, published in Ireland by Lilliput Press, is an impressive volume by long-time Council member Cormac O'Malley, Ernie O'Malley's son. The Council event included video clips of part of a then just-released documentary on Ernie O'Malley premiered this year on TG4, the Irish Gaelic-language television channel.

Click here for full report and photos

2008 Winter Meeting in Florida

This year's Winter Meeting held this past February in Palm Beach, Florida, got a splendid kick-off at the beautiful oceanfront home of Council-member Bill Finneran. This was a wonderful gathering in a spectacular setting and was a grand welcome to Council visitors from throughout the United States and for those many who had traveled from Ireland for the meeting.

A key theme of the two-day gathering was education policy. We had two outstanding speakers Ð Ireland's then-Minister for Education & Science, Mary Hanafin, TD and the Provost of Trinity College Dublin, Dr. John Hegarty.

As usual, this year's calendar included golf at Mayacoo Lakes Country Club which was well-attended and a private black-tie dinner hosted by Mike & Cynthia Gibbons on the closing Friday night.

Click here for full report and photos

Irish Chamber Orchestra Concert & Dinner in New York

As part of the Council's program of growing support of the performing arts, this year we hosted a black-tie concert and dinner in New York in April for the Irish Chamber Orchestra at the start of its successful inaugural tour of the United States. The Irish Chamber Orchestra has established itself as one of Ireland's leading cultural ambassadors both at home and abroad. It is widely recognized as one of the leading chamber orchestras of Europe.

Based at the University of Limerick in the west of Ireland, it has raised $5 million to build its own home on the Limerick campus, which was officially opened this past year. The concert performance featured new works and old masterpieces. A highlight of the ensemble's program was the wonderful concerto for violin and strings by Felix Mendelssohn.

Click here for full report and photos

2008 St. Patrick's Luncheon in New York

This year the Council held its annual St. Patrick's Luncheon on Friday, March 14 for members and their guests at a sold-out gathering in New York. Greetings from Ireland were brought by the Guest of Honor Mary Hanafin, who had just switched Cabinet portfolios to become Ireland's Minister for Social & Family Affairs. She spoke eloquently of the historic and deep links between America and Ireland.

The entertainment performance for the occasion featured the exceptional talents of Celtic Thunder, the all-male Irish entertainment group that has enjoyed such great success in America this year at concert venues throughout the country and on the nationwide PBS television network. The audience at the event included this year's Grand Marshal of the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York, Tommy Smyth and the 2008 Rose of Tralee, the New York Rose, Lisa Murtagh.

The date for the 2009 St. Patrick's Luncheon in New York has been set by the Council for Monday, March 16, 2009.

Click here for full report and photos

Council Hosts Spring Corporate Lunch in Dublin

A Spring Corporate lunch meeting was held in Dublin on May 1 and was a fully-subcribed affair at which two speakers delivered interesting and thought-provoking remarks. P‡draig McManus, the Chief Executive of the Electricity Supply Board - Ireland's principal utility in generating electric power - delivered an address in which he described the company's capital investment plans - $33 billion to be spent over the next dozen years. Mr. McManus also discussed the crisis facing the Irish and global energy industry because of the chronic shortage of engineering graduates.

Also addressing the Council gathering was the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin, Robert Faucher, who discussed some key issues of importance in the relationships between America and Ireland. He noted that plans are at an advanced stage for air passengers between Ireland and the U.S. to clear U.S. customs on the ground in Ireland before departure. Currently, most flights clear only through U.S. immigration procedures in Ireland before take-off.

There was also a short program of entertainment at the lunch. Council member and Director of the Royal Irish Academy of Music Dr. John O'Conor accompanied the young Irish mezzo-soprano Naomi O'Connell in a short program of beautiful music. Ms. O'Connell is now pursuing further studies at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music at Lincoln Center in Manhattan.

Click here for full report and photos

The Bohemian Girl Opera and Gala Dinner in Dublin

The third and final part of a trilogy celebrating the founding of the RDS 275 years ago was staged when the Council hosted a concert performance of William Balfe's famous opera, The Bohemian Girl, at the Society's Ballsbridge Concert Hall. After the concert, a Gala black-tie dinner was held at the Four Seasons Hotel.

This spectacular occasion evidenced another happy partnership between the Council and our friends in the Royal Dublin Society celebrating this important anniversary of the Society's founding. We were very pleased to use this occasion to herald the bonds of friendship between America and Ireland.

At the post-opera dinner a special award was presented by Martin Cullen, TD, Ireland's Minister for Arts, Sport & Tourism. The Council's Award was presented, in conjunction with the Irish Arts Review, to Ireland's greatest sculptor, John Behan, to mark his notable and outstanding contribution to the arts.

Click here for full report and photos

Council Golf Day in New York

The Council's thanks are due to a committee of members and directors, headed by Niall Millar, President of AtlanticGolf in Stamford, CT who worked diligently to generate strong support for this successful event. A principal sponsor of the occasion was Tourism Ireland.

This year, Diageo-Guinness USA sponsored the Connie Doolan Memorial Trophy in memory of our beloved and long-time Council member who sadly passed away earlier this year.

Click here for full report and photos

Council Golf Day in Ireland

For two years in a row, the Summer weather in Ireland has not been the best. However, the Council was blessed with blue skies and sunshine at the famous K Club in Straffan, County Kildare for our Council Golf Day in Ireland on Friday, August 29 this year. Led by Ireland Chapter President Brian Goggin, the Ryder Cup course at this great parkland golf venue was given a stiff challenge by the full-field gathering of Council supporters.

Click here for full report and photos from the K Club

A Council Lecture & Reception at Stormont in Belfast

A Lecture and Reception for Council members and guests was held October 2 in the magnificent Parliament Buildings at Stormont in Belfast. The event was part of our continuing program to build activity and support in Northern Ireland for the Council's mission. The event was presided over by the President of the Council's Ireland Chapter, Brian Goggin, Group Chief Executive of Bank of Ireland.

The Council's Guest Speaker was Ambassador Marc Ginsberg, a former U.S. envoy to Morocco and currently the managing director and CEO of Northstar Equity Group, an affiliate of APCO Worldwide, America's third-largest independent global public affairs and strategic communications company. He is also a FOX News contributor, where he comments principally on foreign policy matters.

In his remarks, Ambassador Ginsberg discussed the various issues facing the electorate in the November 2008 national elections in the United States. He also commented on the Northern Ireland Peace Process as a template for conflict resolution elsewhere in the world, especially in the Middle East.

At the event, Helena Keenan, one of the Council scholars from Queen's University Belfast was presented with her Council award citation. She has completed her third year in a four-year degree program to graduate as a Bachelor of Science in Accounting and French at the School of Management at QUB.

Click here for full report and photos

Scholarships Program

The Council's Scholarships Program was the headline feature of a Council lunch in New York on June 12 of this year when citations were presented to this year's Council scholars. The Council's scholarship awards program was inaugurated over 25 years ago for students from universities from all parts of the island of Ireland.

These scholarships are presented to students in their third year of four-year college undergraduate degree programs. The scholarships take the form of U.S.-based assignments in Council member-corporations in America. The candidates are chosen by the academic faculty in the university departments receiving the awards.

The Council partners on this program with Fordham University for Council Scholars based in New York City. These scholars are accommodated in the residence halls of the Lincoln Center campus of the college during their time in Manhattan. In addition, the Council works with Fordham University on a separate program of internship placements in corporations in Ireland for U.S.-based postgraduate scholars.

Click here for full report and photos

Internships Program

Fordham University

The Council's U.S. Internships Program in Ireland was operated during the past year with Fordham University, the distinguished Jesuit college in New York City. In conjunction with member-companies, the Council has sponsored post- graduate students in the United States to undertake internships of varying lengths in Ireland. The placements under this program are designed as project-oriented assignments in corporations in Ireland.

At the Council's Member-Guest reception in Dublin last December one of those Council scholars from the United States was presented with his award by Jim Nugent from member-company Pragma Consulting. Graham Farrell, who graduated Fordham College with a degree majoring in Information and Communications Systems, completed high school in St. Louis, Missouri and is a native of Harbour Springs, Michigan. At the time of the award presentation Graham was completing his work assignment in Dublin with Pragma Consulting, which is one of Ireland's success stories in the international project management business.


As we come to the close of the Council's 46th year in existence, we know that there is great strength in the quality and substance of the transatlantic relationship between America and Ireland. We believe that the coming year will present unique challenges to those engaged in trade, investment and tourism between the island of Ireland the United States.

Michael J. Gibbons
Michael J. Gibbons - Council President
Council President-Emeritus
November 6, 2008

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