Election-ready Taoiseach vows more emigrants will return than leave next year
The number of Irish emigrants returning next year will, for the first time out- number those leaving, Taoiseach Enda Kenny has insisted.
With just a couple of months to go before a General Election in Ireland Mr. Kenny made the claim as he opened the fourth Global Irish Economic Forum at Dublin Castle.
The Forum was established in the teeth of the crisis in 2009 as the Irish economy teetered on the brink of destruction following the bank bail-outs.
High profile economists had advised the government to exploit the country’s growing diaspora as an economic and cultural resource.
Mr. Kenny said the emigration generated by the crash and the austerity years that followed had had a significant impact on Ireland but many of those who left would be key to the country’s recovery.
“We lost talent and energy,” he told 300 delegates from 29 countries.
“As Ireland recovers we need these people to come back home to their families, with their families, to share their expe riences, bring those experiences back in the taking up of good jobs and to be con fident of a bright future here in Ireland.
“I believe that after seven years of emigration, 2016 will be the year when the number of people coming home will be greater than the numbers who leave. In planning for that future we must, and will, keep our public finances under control.”
Mr. Kenny said that as economic recovery takes hold the Ireland of today is a very different one to that of 2009 when the Global Economic Forum first met.
Ireland’s credit rating had been put back to investment grade by all the main credit ratings agencies, he said.
“Ireland remains an attractive location in which to locate and do business,” he said.
He praised “the resilience and the patience of the Irish people” and the “advice, insight and support” of the Irish diaspora.
More than a thousand jobs are being created every week, he said, and Ireland will have balanced its budget by 2018.
But the recovery was “still fragile and must be nurtured…and (the diaspora) still has a critical role to play as we work to keep the recovery going,” he said.
Mr. Kenny said among the many ideas that arose out of the Forum was The Gathering, the year-long tourism initiative that generated a 14 per cent growth in US visitors in 2013, and this year’s Year of Irish Design’s international events showcasing Irish design talent.
“It has been with your collaboration, your advice, your support that some of the best initiatives have come to fruition since the first Global Irish Economic Forum. The Gathering started right here,” he said.
“That Gathering was proof positive of the valuable contribution, the idea that came from the Global Irish Economic Forum,” said Mr. Kenny.
Mr. Kenny said he was especially keen to hear the views of Irish emigrants on the possible UK exit from the EU, which poses a “major strategic risk” for Ireland.
He also said he envisaged emigrants – or the diaspora – playing a vital role in next year’s commemorations of the 1916 Centenary of the Easter Rising.
“2016 will belong to everyone on this island and to you, our friends and families overseas. It will be- long to you regardless of political or family history simply because of who you are – you are part of our story,” said Mr. Kenny.
Dara Ó Briain, who lives in London, suggested that Ireland might ask itself not just what the diaspora might do for it but what it can do for the diaspora.
“Not all economic indicators are on the up” he said as he referred to Ireland’s increasing homelessness problem.
Economist David McWilliams said Ireland should protect itself against the cyclical nature of economic boom and bust by becoming a shareholder in the multinational companies currently located in Ireland to remove the ever present threat of them leaving Ireland.
“We could create a sovereign wealth fund for our citizens. Norway has a sovereign wealth fund based on oil, but we could have one based on brains,” he said.