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President's Report Archive
2006 President's Report

President's Report 2007

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

Our Council’s mission is to build business bonds and commercial connections between America and Ireland. Each year, most especially during the past three decades, the Council has reported that the economic relationships between the Emerald Isle and the United States have been strong and growing. However, in 2007 we must take out the highliter pen and mark this as a truly banner year.

Changes in Ireland have laid the foundation for more- rapid expansion of our transatlantic business partnership. The successful establishment of the Northern Ireland Executive has paved the way for further developing the trilateral economic exchanges between America and Ireland, North and South.


An Initiative on Tax Policy in Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland Tax Policy

Economic growth in Northern Ireland has not yet clicked into top gear. However, all the signs point to a rate of economic renewal in the province that will match the historic rapid pace of expansion in the rest of the island. All the 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.

The Council has supported this tax-cutting initiative in representations to the British Government in London. We believe that the Council’s efforts in this matter reflect the broader Council commitment to bedrock principles of economic freedom, individual liberty and private enterprise.

In a letter this year to the British Treasury, I expressed the view on behalf of all Council members that we support the efforts of all the leaders in Northern Ireland “to seek a change in the law to harmonize the corporate profits tax rate in Northern Ireland downwards to the Republic of Ireland’s rate.”

In the submission, I noted that “it is very clear that the tax breaks available to corporations have played a crucial role in spurring the economic success in the Republic. This Council, which represents businesses throughout the United States and in both parts of Ireland, has consistently championed the idea that incentives to encourage enterprise work far better than Government spending plans to spur economic growth and prosperity.”

In concluding our letter, I noted “We strongly support the concept that cutting the corporate profits tax rate in Northern Ireland will allow the people of Northern Ireland the opportunity to compete economically on a level playing field with their fellow islanders in Ireland. Further, we believe that if the British Government agrees to this change it will spur expanded economic prosperity that will result in greatly-increased Government tax revenues across the board in Northern Ireland.”



Seeking a New Work-Visa Program

Work-Visa Program

Earlier this year, the Council asked the Irish Government in Dublin to consider crafting a program of work visas for American students, and those in America already working in their career fields, to experience the workplace in Ireland, for a certain limited period of, say, 18 months to two years. Currently, no such visa program exists. In our submission, the Council noted that the U.S. Government has a generous internship visa program in place for Irish citizens to travel to America and work there legally for up to 18 months.

We, in the Council, believe that if this concept is implemented, it will make a positive contribution to building stronger economic, cultural and diplomatic relationships between America and Ireland. It will also be seen, we believe, as a demonstrable gesture on the part of the Irish government in acknowledging the centuries-old generosity of successive American governments in immigration matters.

The Council believes that a strong need exists for this internship work visa program. We believe that important economic and social benefits would flow from such a measure. Further, such an action by the Irish Government would be well-received in the bilateral Ireland-U.S. Government relationship.

We also know that businesses in the United States with commercial connections to Ireland would welcome such a decision. We have urged immediate action in Dublin to introduce the necessary legislative measures to implement the plan. Council members will be kept informed of developments on this important issue.

Read more on the Council's position on U.S. work visas in Ireland



Open Skies

OpenSkies

The Council has been a consistent proponent of liberalization of the rules governing air travel between Ireland and America. It was, therefore, with great satisfaction that we noted the agreement between the European Union and the U.S. in this matter announced earlier this year.

The imminent implementation of an Open Skies agreement across the Atlantic is good news for travel consumers – whether corporate, vacation leisure or visiting friends and relatives. This promised loosening of the regulations on airlines offering services between the United States and Ireland will be important in strengthening the vital air bridge between the island of Ireland and the United States. We look forward to its implementation.



2007 COUNCIL PROGRAMS

In this 2007 Annual Report, I am pleased as President of the Council, to report on our progress to our members and friends on both sides of the Atlantic and to offer some details of the activities sponsored by the organization during the past year. The Council has undertaken an active and successful calendar of events targeted at fulfilling the organization’s mission to build durable and enduring business bonds between America and Ireland.


Winter Meeting: Florida 2007

As usual, our year of events got started with our Winter Meeting in Florida which has become a most popular date on the Council Calendar for our members – it is traditionally staged in the second week of February. This year, the Annual Winter Meeting got off (for some) to a flying start on Wednesday, February 14 with a reception at The Everglades Club in Palm Beach, Florida. Unfortunately, that day coincided with the worst winter snow storm in some years in the Northeast U.S., with the result that several attendees and guest speakers were stranded in New York and could not reach the destination.

Nonetheless, an impressive quorum of members did attend the events during the three days, which included a Council luncheon at the Beach Club at which the Guest Speaker was Kingsley Aikins of the Ireland Funds Worldwide. He delivered an update on the Fund’s activities in the United States.

The Meeting schedule also included some golf and a boat cruise to a dinner at the Sailfish Club on Friday, February 16 at which the Guest Speaker was Len O’Hagan, Chairman of the Belfast Harbour Commissioners who provided an interesting update on economic developments in Belfast and Northern Ireland.

Click here for a full report and photos from the Council's 2007 Winter Meeting



Movie Preview Screening & Reception in New York

Earlier this year, the Council hosted a Movie Preview Screening & Reception in New York to celebrate the American launch of a new Irish movie The Wind That Shakes The Barley. The movie won the Best Film award at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. Following the complimentary special preview screening in New York City, the Council hosted a reception at Sláinte, an Irish pub/restaurant in the East Village.

Click here for photos from the Movie Preview



2007 St. Patrick’s Luncheon in New York

On Friday, March 16 this year, the Council hosted its annual St. Patrick’s Week luncheon in New York. The Guest of Honor was Mary Coughlan, Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture & Food. Entertainment during the luncheon meeting featured excerpts from The Pirate Queen, a Broadway Show that played for several months on the Great White Way.

During the luncheon meeting, the Council made a special farewell presentation to Ambassador Consul General, Tim O’Connor who was making his last appearance in that capacity at a Council event prior to his return to Dublin and his appointment as Secretary General of the Department of the President in Ireland. The date for next year’s St. Patrick’s Council Luncheon has been set for Friday, March 14, 2008.

Click here for more on the 2007 St. Patrick's Luncheon in New York



Council Hosts American Tax Day Lunch in Dublin

April 15 is the deadline for Americans to file their tax returns. Each year, on a date as close as practicable, the Council hosts an American Tax Day Luncheon in Ireland. This year’s event was held in Dublin and the Principal Speaker was Ambassador Tom Foley, the current American envoy in Dublin.

Ambassador Foley spoke eloquently on the state of the relationships between the United States and Ireland. The event was chaired by Brian Goggin, Chief Executive of the Bank of Ireland Group who is also President of the Council’s Chapter in Ireland.

Click here for a full report from the Tax Day Luncheon



A Singer’s Showcase

The Council is always ready to support and encourage artists from Ireland eager to build a reputation in America. One such emerging talent is Carmel Conway, a young soprano from Limerick. The Council jointly hosted, with Dublin- based Karma Productions, a reception and showcase event in May this year at The Harvard Club in New York City.

At this performance, Carmel performed a mixture of carefully-chosen contemporary and lighter classical material. The event included a pre-showcase reception followed by a wonderful performance that lasted about 40 minutes.

Click here for photos from the Carmel Conway reception



Tourism Ireland Chairman Addresses Council in New York

In April of this year, the Council in New York hosted Guest Speaker Andrew Coppel, the Chairman of Tourism Ireland – the all-island tourism promotion agency.

His topics included much of the recent news affecting Ireland’s tourism business: the heartening political developments in Northern Ireland; the imminent implementation of an Open Skies agreement between America and Europe promising liberalization of air travel between the United States and Ireland. Indeed, his own agency - Tourism Ireland, is itself a model for cooperation between both parts of Ireland and has been a huge joint venture success.

Click here for more on the New York Council Luncheon with Tourism Ireland



Council Golf Day in New York

The Summer weather this year in Ireland has not been the best. However, it was our Council’s now- annual golf day in New York that got rain-dated because of a Summer storm that washed out the proceedings. So, we got a “do-over” rain date on September 24 at Rye Golf Club, on the banks of Long Island Sound.

Second time around, the occasion was marked by a day of wonderful weather, strong support from members and friends of the Council and lots of prizes for the participants. Our thanks to a committee of Council members and directors, headed by Niall Millar, President of AtlanticGolf in Stamford, CT who helped generate strong support for this successful event. A principal sponsor of the occasion was Tourism Ireland.

Click for more on the 2007 Council Golf Day In New York



American Night in Dublin, June 2007

As Council President it was an honor for me to welcome Council members and guests to a very special evening in Dublin this past June. And, what an evening it was! Our Annual American Night in Dublin featured a concert performance of an Irish opera - Julius Benedict’s magnificent telling of the story of The Lily of Killarney.

Our friends in the Royal Dublin Society masterminded this presentation as the second part of a trilogy celebrating the Society’s founding 275 years ago. Our thanks go to the President of the Society – Dr. Austin Mescal and to the Chief Executive of the RDS, Michael Duffy, for their co-operation and support.

As I noted in my remarks on the evening, the occasion served “as a wonderful platform to celebrate and renew the bonds of friendship between America and Ireland. Indeed, the opera itself shares many American connections. In March, 1860 an Irish playwright living in New York, Dion Boucicault, was delighted with the success of his new play “The Colleen Bawn”, which told a harrowing tale of love gone bad and murder most foul.”

American Night in Dublin, June 2007

The opera was first performed in America, shortly after its London debut, at Miss Laura Keene’s Theater in Manhattan. The work enjoyed such immense popularity that it attracted the attention of composer Julius Benedict who used the story as the basis for this compelling lyric opera, “The Lily of Killarney”.

There is much dramatic attractiveness about the music in the work, with an abundance of tender melody, refined harmony, effective instrumental scoring and a delicious vein of plaintive melancholy throughout. The score is quite elaborate and is interspersed with Irish melodies accounting for its distinctive character.

Dion Boucicault
Dion Boucicault
Dublin-born Boucicault, wrote the excellent libretto for the opera. He is buried in Hastings-on-Hudson in Westchester County, New York. Boucicault, the adopted son of French Huguenots who fled to Ireland, played an important role in securing legal protections in America for intellectual property rights in the performing arts business.

The performance was followed by a Gala Dinner at the next-door Four Seasons Hotel during which the Council presented its Award for Outstanding Portraiture. The Award program to support arts and arts education in Ireland, is undertaken in conjunction with the Irish Arts Review, and the Royal Hibernian Academy in Ireland, with important financial support from Council member Bob Golden of Prudential Financial. This year’s winner was Gary Coyle, a Dublin artist, who was presented with his award and check at the Dinner.

More on the American Night in Dublin



Council Golf Day in Ireland

No problems with the weather in Dublin’s Portmarnock Links Hotel & Golf Resort on Friday, August 31 this year. Led by Ireland Chapter President Brian Goggin, a full-field gathering of Council supporters took on the challenging layout of this great seaside linksland course.

The day was made special early on when members of the United States Walker Cup amateur golf team, who had arrived that morning on the Continental Airlines flight from Newark, visited with us at the course before tee-off.

Click here for more on the Council's Golf Day in Dublin



A Council Lunch in Belfast

A corporate luncheon meeting of Council members and guests was held October 18 in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as part of the continuing program to build activity and support there for the Council’s mission. The event, hosted by the Belfast Harbor Commissioners, 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 Speakers were Peter Robinson, Northern Ireland’s Minister for Finance and Council Vice President, Dennis Swanson, President of Fox Television Stations.

Click here for a full report on the Council's Belfast Lunch



Scholarship Program

The Council’s Scholarships Program was a feature of a New York Lunch on June 8 of this year when several of the 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.

Click here for more on the Scholarship Lunch



Internships Program

Internships Program 2007

The Council’s U.S. Internships Program in Ireland, operated this year in conjunction with Fordham University, involved intern scholarships offered to post-graduate college candidates in the United States. The placements under this program are designed as project-oriented assignments in corporations in Ireland.

At the Council’s June Dinner in Dublin this year, Fordham University’s Professor Regina Plunkett-Dowling made presentations to two of the four winners of this year’s Council internships – Brittany Kwait and Anna Kruyer (pictured). The other two awards went to Mr. Paul Ryan and Mr. K. Graham Farrell.



Conclusion

As we prepare to close the books on our 45th year in existence, the Council sees potential for big growth in the quality and substance of the transatlantic relationship between America and Ireland. We foresee substantial growth, even by past standards of expansion, in trade, investment, tourism, technology transfer, educational partnerships and cultural exchanges.

The commercial connections that tie the United States and Ireland have flourished as never before. The Council is pleased that these economic relationships, which spread wealth and generate prosperity among the peoples on both sides of the ocean, continue to grow.


Michael J. Gibbons
Michael J. Gibbons - Council President
Council President
November, 2007


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