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Thursday, December 12, 2019
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The Ireland-U.S. Council 2019 President's Report

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

In reviewing the principal issues we discussed in my President’s Report to you in our Ireland -U.S. Council Annual Report one year ago, it is remarkable that the same things can be mentioned again this year.

This past year, we have again seen continuing growth trends in the blooming economic relationships between the United States and Ireland. And, on the political front in Ireland Brexit continues to cause unease, if not unrest. Also, on the political front it is worth noting that 2020 will see General Elections in both the United States and in Ireland, while in Northern Ireland and in the United Kingdom, more elections are guaranteed but no one knows for sure when these might occur.

The political uncertainty appears not to have adversely affected Ireland’s continuing robust economic performance – as the economy there is making up the lost ground caused by the catastrophic bank collapse in 2008, and the resulting dip in economic output that it caused.

In America, fears of an economic recession this year or early next year, appear unfounded as unemployment swoons to historic lows and overall employment in the economy continues to entice people back to work and hit new high marks.

There is no doubt now that the rapid expansion of America’s economy has been spurred by the Trump Administration’s pro-business policies – principally the tax cuts enacted in December of 2017 and which came into effect earlier last year. When combined with the significant easing of the regulatory environment and the elimination of reels of red tape for enterprises, it is no surprise that business confidence has soared to very high levels.

It was once part of Ireland’s economic story that when Britain’s economy gets a cold, Ireland gets pneumonia and vice versa. Well, these days, Britain is less important to Ireland and it is clear that the Emerald Isle feels the beneficial effects of a booming U.S. economy increasingly more than ever and more quickly.

There are over 700 American companies operating in Ireland, employing about about 7% of the Ireland’s total workforce. The role they play in the economy in Ireland is important and significant. When the economic outlook improves for these companies, it is reflected in more investment and more employment creation in both countries.

While Ireland is not over-dependent on American industrial investment, it is clearly a very important part of the overall structure of the Irish national economy both from the point of view of employment, national output and, export earnings. The Ireland-U.S. Council enjoys a unique overview of the economic relationship between America and Ireland. In this report you, I can confirm that this relationship which has been developing for over 75 years, is built on a very solid foundation. Ireland has maintained its attractions for American companies as a base from which to serve the largest consumer market on earth – the European Union. There is still a very positive attitude to business in Ireland from all sectors of society; U.S. companies admire Ireland’s low corporate tax environment; tariff-free access to Europe’s markets continues to be crucial; and Ireland’s educated workforce ensures that the added value crated by these businesses is substantial.

The other side of the coin – Ireland’s continuing investment in America – is still a highlight of the two-way relationship. There are many leading-edge companies based in Ireland across many industrial sectors that have built a strong investment presence in the United States across many States with substantial employment and output.

The substantial reduction in America’s corporate tax rate in 2017, has brought into sharper relief for American investment decision-makers the tax package Ireland offers all business. Ireland’s Government has never been complacent about this, is constantly reviewing and updating the detail in its tax treatment of business. Compared with competing destinations outside the U.S., it is our view that Ireland has maintained its winning hand.

The vast majority of American companies do not decide to invest overseas purely for tax reasons. Most such decisions are driven by the marketplace necessity to produce the goods and services they sell as efficiently and effectively and as close to their customers as is possible.

Brexit

If people in America are hearing more about Brexit in the past year, you can be sure that people in Ireland are sick and tired of hearing about it by now. It is a serious problem for Ireland on two different fronts. There is the economic dimension, where Ireland’s companies selling into Britain will face tariffs, quotas or red-tape complications that will increase the prices for their goods.

Of course, the price effects are worsened by the falling exchange rate for British sterling. Since the referendum vote on 23 June, 2016, when the British people voted to leave the EU ending Britain’s 43- year membership, the pound sterling has fallen by 19% against the euro.

The second serious issue is the land border on the island of Ireland. There is agreement among the commentariat that the violence we saw during The Troubles will recur if a “hard” border is installed again in Ireland. If Brexit happens, then we may be hearing more about the two words that most politicians in Ireland, north and south, dare not utter – “United Ireland”. The price that the United Kingdom pays for Brexit may be to lose Northern Ireland from its Union. We shall wait and see.

A Post-Brexit Trade Deal between America and the U.K.

One fascinating component of the entire Brexit conundrum is the trade relationship between the U.S andBritain that might emerge post-Brexit. The Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee in Washington DC is Congressman Richie Neal of Massachusetts – who has been a Guest Speaker at the Ireland-U.S. Council in the past.

Congressman Neal made it very clear on a recent visit to the United Kingdom that that there will be no trade deal between the U.S. and the UK, if Brexit leads to the return of a hard border on the island of Ireland. The House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee handles trade matters for the United States Congress.

Speaking at an event in the Embassy of Ireland in Washington DC as part of the Henry Grattan lecture series organized by Trinity College Dublin, Congressman Neal said he would not be backing away from the emphasis he has placed on the fact that America is a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement. “There’s no talk of going back to the bad old days. Without that border, commerce has flourished and cultural exchanges have taken place,” he said.

Congressman Neal also referenced the fact that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has also warned that there will be no trade deal with the UK if Brexit undermines the agreement. The Massachusetts congressman added that he and his colleagues would be happy to do a bilateral trade agreement with the UK but only if the border is kept open and left alone. He added that he had told the U.S. Trade Representative Robert Emmet Lighthizer that the idea of a free trade agreement between America and UK was a “non-starter” if the Belfast agreement is undermined.

“America is a guarantor of the Good Friday Agreement,” he said. “We feel a certain pride in ending the longest standing political dispute in the history of the western world. We are going to push hard against anything that might compromise our success.”

Ireland’s Political Climate

While a change in the political parties forming the next Government in Dublin will pose no issues at all for the continuity of broad economic policies, we do know that the next General Election must happen in Ireland before April 12, 2020. The timing of the election is not exclusively a matter for the current Government – a coalition led by Fine Gael (led by An Taoiseach, Prime Minister Leo Varadkar TD) and other smaller independent parties. Its survival in the Dáil as a government depends on support from the large Opposition Fianna Fáil party (led by Micheál Martin TD).

It is probable that Fianna Fáil will wait until the New Year, rather than force an election sooner. The results of this next General Election in Ireland will be important especially to see if there is a softening in support for the more radical, left-leaning parties and candidates that were boosted by the economic turmoil, increased unemployment and economic disruptions caused by the bank collapse in the country ten years ago.

56th Annual Dinner of the Council in 2018

Ireland’s unique position in world commerce was celebrated at the Ireland- U.S. Council’s 56th Annual Dinner when the Council’s 2018 Award for Outstanding Achievement was presented to Brenton L. Saunders, Chairman, President & CEO, Allergan plc, the Dublin-headquartered global pharmaceutical company with annual sales of $16 billion. The event was held at the usual venue of the Metropolitan Club in New York City on Thursday, November 8, 2018.

The Council’s 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Dr. John L. Lahey to mark his highly- successful and distinguished career in American education. The Council also presented its Cúchulainn Award in 2018 to Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, Founder and Chief Executive of Randox Laboratories, a global market leader in the in-vitro diagnostics industry. This award is designed to mark significant achievement in building relations between Northern Ireland and America.

2018 Member-Guest Reception in Dublin

The InterContinental Hotel, in Ballsbridge, Dublin (formerly The Four Seasons Hotel) was the venue for the Council’s popular Annual December Member-Guest Reception held on Wednesday, December 12, 2018.

Keynote remarks were delivered by Barry O’Callaghan, Chairman & CEO of Rise Global. His interesting remarks dealt with Ireland’s educational system and the challenges and changes it faces in the future to deal with the needs of an ever-changing world. Also speaking at the event was Fianna Fáil’s Dara Calleary who delivered brief remarks on the political situation in Ireland ahead of the nearing of the end of the current Government’s period in office.

2019 Winter Meeting: Florida

The 28th annual edition of the Council’s Winter Meeting series was held in Palm Beach, Florida from February 13-15, 2019. The Winter Meeting kicked off with an opening-night dinner party at the impressive oceanfront Palm Beach home of Council Board Member Bill Finneran. The 2019 Winter Meeting also included a luncheon meeting at The Beach Club at which Ireland’s Ambassador to the United States Dan Mulhall spoke on the current state of Ireland-U.S. relations. Other speakers were Norman Houston, who is Northern Ireland’s top diplomat in Washington DC and Arabella Bishop, who runs Sotheby’s in Ireland and Charlie Minter from Sotheby’s London. They discussed the highlights of the successful sale of the Eileen and Brian Burns’ Irish Art Collection, the largest privately-held sale of Irish art in the world, which had been carried out at Sotheby’s in London two months previously.

2019 St. Patrick’s Lunch in New York

The 2019 rendition of our always-popular, annual St. Patrick’s Lunch event in New York City, was held on Friday, March 15. Guest Speaker was Ireland’s Minister for Justice & Equality Charlie Flanagan TD. Remarks were also delivered by Brian O’Dwyer, the Grand Marshal of the 258th St. Patrick’s Day Parade in the City of New York in 2019.

2019 Council Spring Corporate Lunch in Belfast

For this year’s Spring Corporate Lunch we headed North of the Border to Belfast in Northern Ireland. The well-attended event at the magnificent home of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners was staged Friday, April 12 and Council members from throughout Ireland traveled to the Northern capital to hear an engaging and blockbuster double-bill of guest speakers: Jason Riley of the American Enterprise Institute and Wall Street Journal Editorial Board Member who delivered engaging remarks on the current state of political affairs in the United States. Also delivering remarks was Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, Founder & CEO, Randox Laboratories, who was the recipient of the Ireland-U.S. Council’s 2018 Cuculainn Award.

The Ireland-U.S. Council is grateful to Joe O’Neill, Chief Executive and to Dr. David Dobbin CBE Chairman of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners for their generous support in hosting of this event.

2019 Scholarships Lunch in New York

The Council’s annual program of Student Work Experience Scholarships for 2019 was celebrated this year at an awards luncheon held at The Metropolitan Club in New York City on Thursday, June 13, 2019.

Council President Brian W. Stack, welcomed the 2018 Council Scholars to New York saying “This is the 35th year in which the Ireland-U.S. Council has operated this successful and much-admired Student Work Experience Scholarship Awards program. We continue to have pride in the role that this program has played over the years as part of the Council’s broader mission to build closer business and economic links between the United States and Ireland – north & south.”

2019 MidSummer Gala Dinner in Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle was again the magnificent venue for the Ireland-U.S. Council’s MidSummer Gala Dinner which was held on Friday, June 28, 2019. The Guest of Honor was the President of Ireland, Uachtarán Michael D. Higgins who presented the Council’s Lifetime Achievement Award to the veteran and beloved broadcaster in Ireland Gay Byrne which was accepted on his behalf by his wife Kathleen Watkins.

The Council’s TransAtlantic Business Award was another highlight of the evening and was presented to Conor Murphy of Abbott Laboratories. The significant investments that have been made by the company in Ireland over several decades have represented a major contribution to building the business bonds and commercial connections between America and the Emerald Isle.

To cap off the evening, the Award for Outstanding Portraiture, sponsored by the Ireland-U.S. Council, in conjunction with The Irish Arts Review and the Royal Hibernian Academy was presented to Belfast artist Gareth Reid. This Award is an important part of the Council’s program to support the arts and arts education in Ireland.

2019 Council Golf Days in Ireland and in the U.S.

In 2019, many members and their guests in both countries enjoyed the opportunity to participate in Councilorganized 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 Monday, July 22.

In Ireland, the weather conditions were relatively benign as a strong turnout of Council members and their guests participated on September 6, 2019 at the excellent 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.


Our Thanks

The business conditions in both Ireland’s economy and in the United States and between our two countries have clearly improved in the past year and the outlook remains promising. Our mission is to enhance the business bonds and commercial connections between the United States and Ireland and our efforts are aimed at ensuring that they continue to flourish.

We extend our thanks to 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. As we head into 2020 and beyond, it is our hope that you will sustain your commitment to that tradition of support and loyalty.

Brian W. Stack - Council President

Brian W. Stack
Council President
The Ireland-U.S. Council
Thursday, November 13, 2019
New York City



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