I am delighted to have this opportunity to tell you about an important initiative of the government of Ireland to further enhance Ireland’s relationship with Irish America and the global Irish family.
Earlier this year, following a submission I presented to the government, it decided to host a Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin on 18-20 September.
The forum will bring together, for the first time, the most influential members of the Irish community worldwide with a record of high achievement in business and culture, as well as individuals with a strong business connection to Ireland.
The government has a long record of engagement with our global community and has worked very successfully with them in the past, particularly in relation to the peace process. Over the past six years alone the Emigrant Support Program, run by my department, has provided some €60 million in funding to Irish Diaspora organizations and projects.
Invitations to the forum were issued in April by way of a personal letter from the taoiseach (prime minister) to individuals identified by our network of embassies around the world.
The response to the taoiseach’s letter has been hugely encouraging, with over 180 people indicating their intention to participate. It is important to keep in mind that they will be traveling here at their own expense and giving freely of their time and expertise.
At this stage, it is expected that the attendance will include representatives from the U.S., Britain, Australia, New Zealand, China, Argentina, Europe and the Middle East.
There will be a very strong U.S.-based contingent, including the American Ireland Fund’s Loretta Brennan Glucksman, Bloomberg TV’s Margaret Brennan, Kip Condron (president and CEO of AXA Financial Inc.), Irial Finan (executive vice president of Coca-Cola), Tara McCabe (vice president of Morgan Stanley), Brendan McDonagh (CEO of HSBC North America) Tom Moran (president, chairman and CEO of Mutual of America), Denis Swanson (president of FOX Television Stations Inc.) and Craig Barrett (retired CEO and chairman of Intel).
They will be joined at Farmleigh by the taoiseach and members of the Cabinet. The leaders of the opposition have also been invited, as have a number of leading Irish-based business figures.
A website for the event has also now been launched -- www.globalirishforum.ie. This site will include detailed information for those participating at Farmleigh and about the event itself.
It’s worth checking the website regularly as it will also carry links to streamed coverage of the keynote speech by the taoiseach and a debate on links with the diaspora, as well as reactions and interviews with participants.
The forum is first and foremost a national effort of outreach to and engagement with our diaspora. Its primary purpose will be to explore how the Irish, at home and abroad, and those with a strong interest in Ireland, can work together and contribute to our overall efforts at economic recovery.
It also provides a unique opportunity for Ireland to establish a new global Irish network made up of those present, and others, to take forward some of the initiatives that may emerge from the forum.
Never before has Ireland brought together, in one place, such a truly global network of business talents. A group of 70 million people spread throughout the world is by its nature diverse and complex. The enormous range in culture, outlook and experience between and among our communities abroad is amply illustrated by the group that is coming together in Dublin.
In spite of this great dispersion, certain common threads are clearly evident. Something undeniable in the Irish identity pushes us closer and creates a need to connect and come together.
A deep appreciation of the emigrant experience and an affinity with a sense of Irishness -- however that is interpreted -- are defining characteristics of the global Irish family. This gathering is testament to this fact.
The Department of Foreign Affairs will prepare the official report of the forum which will incorporate the ideas that emerge over the course of the two days. The report will be presented to the government for consideration and appropriate action.
Reaching out to the diaspora and seeking support for Ireland’s economic development is an ongoing process. The government already has a very strong record of delivery in this area.
Government and state agencies have sought to build on Irish connections in attracting investment here; readers will know that the Emigrant Support Program has provided over €60million over the past six years to projects and groups around the world, building on the extraordinary work of our community.
Enterprise Ireland, with the assistance of our Embassies, currently supports over 60 Irish business networks worldwide, comprising some 30,000 members.
I am deeply heartened by the reservoir of goodwill that exists among our global community, particularly here in the United States.
The presence of these leading figures in Ireland will be a vibrant demonstration of the enduring spirit of the global Irish diaspora; of our strong need to remain connected to each other; and of a remarkable willingness of those abroad to remain engaged with this country.