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The Ireland-U.S. Council 2017 President's Report

Brian W. Stack - Ireland US Council President
Brian W. Stack
The Ireland-U.S. Council

These are uncertain times in economic relations between the United States and Ireland. While there are sharp differences in Washington D.C. in almost every policy area between the Obama and Trump administrations – the contrast on tax matters is particularly sharp.

During his two terms in the White House, President Obama namechecked Ireland in a negative and critical way several times on its business-friendly corporate tax strategy. These days, the tune heard from Washington DC is the opposite. The Trump Administration is quite open in its admiration for Ireland’s successful low-coporate-tax policies. Neither situation is to Ireland’s advantage or comfort.

The current Administration has proposed a sweeping and fundamental reform of America’s tax code which, if implemented will have implications for Ireland’s attractiveness to mobile international industrial investment flows sponsored by U.S. companies. The operative phrase there is “if implemented”. The final shape of changes to the U.S. tax code may not be finally revealed for quite a while as the legislative machinery grinds through its necessary motions before hard decisions are made. As the old Beltway adage goes “The President proposes - the Congress disposes.” And for sure, this is where the uncertainty comes in.

If one of Ireland’s principal attractions for American investment is its enlightened and long-standing corporate tax regime, then any response in Ireland to major changes in American tax policy must be prudent, measured and carefully constructed. We in the Ireland-U.S. Council will be monitoring this matter with keen eyes. Watch this space.

By the same token, one often-overlooked component of the dynamic economic relationship between the Emerald Isle and America is the flow of job-generating investment by companies from Ireland into the United States. Indeed, Ireland-based companies employ almost as many Americans in America as U.S. firms employ Irish people in Ireland.

Clearly, big changes in the corporate tax regime in the United States will have impacts on this process also – although by the looks of things America’s tax code is likely to end up being more business-friendly than it has been. At least that is the declared intention of those in charge in Washington DC. How things turn out could surprise us. We will have to wait and see.

Having said all of this, from the vantage points which we occupy in Ireland and in the United States, as we see it the shape of the broad and multi-faceted economic relationship between America and Ireland is stronger and healthier than ever.

In the past year since we last reported to you, we have seen a continuation of the dynamic, positive trends of more capital investment, more commerce and trade, more tourism and more technology transfer between our two countries than has been witnessed in the long history of business connections between the two countries.

A major current issue that is top of mind within Ireland is the impacts likely to be felt from Brexit – the watershed economic event necessitated by the 2016 referendum result in Britain to exit from the European Union.

Here are some likely impacts and issues arising from Brexit:
  • A large chunk of indigenous small business in Ireland (especially in the food industry) is over-reliant on the British market. As tariffs and duties are re-introduced these companies will be negatively affected. Part of the discussion on this should be to ask why (after 50 years of being warned about it) these companies did not diversify into other (bigger) Continental European markets?
  • Many American companies have already started downsizing plans for their British operations before Brexit actually happens. They are moving some or part of their facilities to other EU countries. Ireland is already benefitting from this trend – and likely could turn out to be the big winner here;
  • Ireland is the only place where Britain shares a land border with another EU country. A major worry is that the British will attempt to resurrect land border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. This would be major error and would surely endanger and risk the cherished peace that has been so welcome since the Good Friday Agreement;
  • A majority of the citizens of Northern Ireland voted clearly to remain within the European Union. This has longer-term implications for Northern Ireland’s future role within the European Union – although the shape of any distinction between different parts of the U.K. in relation to the E.U. has not come into any coherent focus as yet.

March 2017 Business Summit on Ireland-U.S. Economic Relations

This past March 2017, the Ireland-U.S. Council undertook a major policy initiative in staging a Business Summit on Ireland-U.S. Economic Relations. A more-detailed report on the event is included elsewhere in our 2017 Annual Report. In my report to you here, I want to say that staging this event was very important to the members and directors of the Council. Planning for this initiative, as we reported last year, commenced a long time ago.

The purpose of the Summit was to provide a unique and valuable forum for discussion of the state of Ireland-U.S. economic relations. The Business Summit was hosted by the Council in partnership with Ibec, Ireland’s premier business/employer representation organization. Clearly, the staging of this event was also viewed by us as being an important contributor to the core mission of the Council.

The colloquium gathered together business leaders, public figures and others engaged in influencing public policy on business and the economy. The Summit kicked off in style with a top-tier Guest Speaker - Mick Mulvaney, the then recently-appointed Director of the Office of Management & Budget in the President Trump’s new Cabinet and an important and visible figure in the current Administration.

54th Annual Dinner of the Council in 2016

The 54th Annual Dinner of the Council saw another full house in attendance for this important event in the Council’s annual calendar which was a great success, staged in the Metropolitan Club in New York City on Thursday, November 10, 2016. The Ireland-U.S. Council’s Award for Outstanding Achievement was presented to Willie Walsh, Chief Executive of the International Airlines Group (IAG).

2016 Member-Guest Reception in Dublin

The InterContinental Hotel, in Ballsbridge, Dublin (formerly The Four Seasons) was the venue for the Council’s popular Annual December Member-Guest Reception held on Thursday, December 15, 2016.

We had two special Guest Speakers at the event. In his final address to the Council prior to returning to the United States after his term of office as U.S. Ambassador in Ireland, Ambassador Kevin F. O’Malley delivered heartfelt remarks which were warmly received by Council members and their guests.

The gathering also heard interesting and thought-provoking remarks by Danny McCoy Director General of Ibec. Videos of both speeches can be viewed at (click on the YouTube icon on our Home Page).

2017 Winter Meeting: Florida

The 26th annual edition of the Council’s Winter Meeting series was held in Palm Beach, Florida from February 10 thru 12, 2016 and was sponsored by CIE Tours International. The Winter Meeting kicked off in style with a splendid opening-night dinner party on Wednesday, February 15 hosted by Council Board Member Bill Finneran at his splendid oceanfront home in Palm Beach.

On Friday February 17th, the Council hosted a luncheon meeting at The Beach Club at which the Guest Speaker was Brian P. Burns, a nationally-regarded business executive, attorney and philanthropist.

2017 St. Patrick’s Luncheon in New York

The 2017 edition of the Ireland-U.S. Council’s St. Patrick’s lunch in the Big Apple this year formed a bookend to the Council’s successful Business Summit on Ireland-U.S. Economic Relations.

Ireland’s Consul General in New York Barbara Jones delivered remarks that were appropriate and fitting for the occasion. It was also her last visit with Council members and friends before departing to take up her appointment as Ireland’s Ambassador to Mexico.

2017 Council Spring Corporate Lunch in Dublin

Brexit is the hot topic in Ireland these days and our Guest Speaker was a former Minister for European Affairs in Ireland’s Government. Lucinda Creighton is an expert on European Union matters and spoke at the Council’s Spring Corporate Lunch held in Dublin’s InterContinental Hotel (formerly The Four Seasons Hotel) in April of this year.

In her interesting and well-received remarks she described likely scenarios of how Britain’s exit from the European Union could be likely to unfold. She also detailed how attitudes toward the British referendum decision have hardened within Europe’s political establishment – setting up a likely controversial and perhaps confrontational outcome to this uncertain process.

2017 Scholarships Program Lunch in New York

The Council’s annual program of Student Work Experience Scholarships for 2017 was celebrated this year at an awards luncheon held at The Metropolitan Club in New York City on Thursday, June 8, 2017.

Council President Brian W. Stack, welcomed the 2016 Council Scholars to New York. He also noted that “this year’s scholarship awards represent the 33rd year in which the Council has operated this successful and admired Scholarship Awards program. We are proud of this program as it exemplifies in a practical way the Council’s interest in building closer links between the United States and Ireland.”

2017 MidSummer Gala Dinner in Dublin

Dublin Castle was the venue the Ireland- U.S. Council’s MidSummer Gala Dinner which was held on Friday, June 30, 2017.

The Council’s 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Joe Murray, Chairman of Murray Consultants. He is a founder member of the Council’s Ireland Chapter and was instrumental in the early days of the organization’s efforts to build a presence, profile and activity roster in Ireland. The award also celebrated his notable business achievements and his contributions to building business bonds between America and the Emerald Isle.

Also at the event, the Council presented its 2017 edition of its Annual Award for Outstanding Portraiture which went to Blaise Smith – a portraitist who is a member of the Royal Hibernian Academy.

2017 Council Golf Days in Ireland and in the U.S.

In 2017, many members and their guests in both countries enjoyed the opportunity to participate in Council-organized Golf Days. The Annual Golf Day in the United States saw another successful event staged under sunny skies at Rye Golf Club in Rye, New York – on its usual spot on the calendar - the last Monday in July.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the weather conditions were much-improved from a year earlier as a strong turnout of Council members and their guests participated on September 8 at the splendid Dún Laoghaire Golf Club in County Wicklow near Dublin.

Council Membership

The Council is a membership organization and welcomes new members for its mission and activities on both sides of the Atlantic. Council Membership Chairman Peter Hooper is keen to hear of potential new member candidates.

A Word of Thanks

There are clearly improved business conditions in both Ireland’s economy and in the United States. Our goal and our mission is to make whatever contributions we can to ensure that the business bonds and commercial connections between the United States and Ireland continue to flourish.

Here I want to thank all our members, supporters, sponsors and friends in the United States and in Ireland for their participation and support of our programs and activities this past year. In the year ahead, it is our hope that you will sustain that tradition of support, loyalty and commitment.

Brian W. Stack - Council President

Brian W. Stack
Council President
Thursday November 9, 2017
New York City

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