President, on a 24-day State Visit to Australia and New Zealand, recalled how many Irish sought new opportunities there after the 2008 Crash and how exports brought Ireland back from brink
President Michael D Higgins, on a State visit to Australia, said Ireland owes its own economic miracle to its success as a global exporter.
Guest of honour at a lunch hosted by Enterprise Ireland at the Melbourne Cricket Ground for Irish and Australian business leaders, Mr Higgins highlighted the importance of building on that growth by expanding and deepening Ireland’s international trading relationships.
Mr Higgins’ State visit to Australia is aimed at strengthening the economic, tourism, cultural and political links between both nations, and in his role as flag waver for the Irish economy and Irish companies pointed to growth in “eleven of the fourteen sectors of the economy”.
Britain’s decision to leave the EU has heightened the need for Ireland to expand its trade links beyond the UK, in order to try and protect Irish companies from business lost to Brexit, and he paid tribute to the creativity and outward looking nature of Irish businesses.
The lunch was attended by 55 Irish companies, including 22 companies in Australia for the first time. There are 300 Irish companies in Australia and Mr Higgins thanked those who have facilitated and assisted them to grow.
Mr Higgins painted a very healthy picture of Ireland’s growing economy, with employment increasing by 3.5% in the last full year, giving 68,000 new jobs, with unemployment at 6.4%, down from 8.1%.
The president quipped that “not only are the fundamentals sound, but the patient is doing well at the moment”, and that those figures owed “nearly everything” to the Irish export performance.
Mr Higgins went on to point out that during Ireland’s banking crisis of 2007 through to 2012/13, Irish exports increased by 40%.
Mr Higgins added that the Irish government was “very well prepared” for Brexit and for changes in relation to the international trading environment that might come from the Unites States, in the form of the stance on trade of President Trump’s administration.
“We would be doing this anyway, but obviously now it takes on an element of importance because all of the international trading environment is entirely changed,” said Mr Higgins, who hailed the “trust” and “credibility” of Irish People, companies and state agencies in business around the world.
“The international trading environment is entirely changed. There will be many new pathways,” he added.
He went on to compare the youthful population of both countries and that Ireland’s energy and determination mirrors Australia’s in many ways.
He said both countries’ strengths align and are mutually reinforcing. During his visit to Western Australia (WA), Mr Higgins also thanked the Irish communities of WA for “extending the hand of friendship” to the new waves of emigrants who left Ireland for the area during the economic crisis, during a conferral ceremony at the University of Western Australia where he was awarded an honorary degree.
Many Irish people who lost their jobs in the building industry as a result of the property crash in Ireland emigrated to Western Australia because of the recent boom in its mining and construction industries.
“As our economy contracted, feeling the impact of a property bubble and a bankinduced crisis, which demanded great cost to the Irish public and as the economy faced contraction, it was to Western Australia again that very many young people… sought jobs and new opportunities,” said Mr Higgins.
Mr Higgins is on 24-day visit to Australia and New Zealand. He is the first Irish head of state to officially visit Australia since Mary McAleese in 1998, and will visit Perth, Melbourne, Hobart in Tasmania, Canberra, Sydney and Brisbane before flying on to New Zealand on 24 October.