09/18/2009 08:45 PM

One man stood out on day one of the Global Irish Forum in Dublin today. That was Craig Barrett, the man who brought Intel and 4,000 jobs to Ireland and is now retired chairman.

The discussion on what the Irish economy needed was off the record, but suffice to say Barrett called it as he saw it — and he certainly has the knowledge, experience and juice to make the comments he did. No one else came close.

The first plenary session featured 180 businessmen and women from all over the world, all brought together because of their respect and love for Ireland debating what Ireland needed to do in the near-to-medium future to rescue their economy.

The Irish government turned out in full display. Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Brian Cowen stayed most of the day, Deputy Leader Mary Coughlan spoke as did the man in the spotlight Finance Minister Brian Lenihan, who is currently trying to stave off the worst banking crisis in history.

Little wonder so many Irish pols showed up — this forum is rare good news in desperate times in Ireland and the government has pulled a master stroke by convening it.

What was fascinating was the diversity of views and the diversity of backgrounds.

I learned that Asian visitors to Ireland have major visa problems which is preventing many more tourists from there coming here. I learned that the Irish community in Paris numbers a few hundred active highly skilled members and they are particularly good at networking job opportunities for each other.

I learned from the Capetown, South Africa, delegates that an Irish firm is now supplying some of the electricity to Capetown which had been hit with bad blackouts.

I learned from the Argentine Irish delegate that the recession does not seem to have hit as hard in South America as it has elsewhere.

I learned from the Australian delegate that the Irish-born population down under has been shooting upwards as the economic malaise hits home in the old country.The Canadian delegate says the same thing is happening in his country.

In the evening, we went to to Aras an Uachtarain, literally the President's house, to meet Mary McAleese and her husband Martin. As always it was a rare pleasure to meet and greet with one of Europe's great political leaders.

She gave a marvelous speech saying how proud she was to stand with the Irish from all over the globe who had come back home to add some optimism to the mix of pessimism and cynicism now prevalent here. By evening's end, anything seemed possible for Ireland Inc.

But this day belonged to Craig Barret.

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