Thursday, 2 June 2011
Dáil Éireann Debate
1. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to have a second Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh later this year; if he will provide an up to date report on the first forum; the value and importance of the global Irish network established as a result of the first forum; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13969/11]
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Eamon Gilmore): The Government will host the second Global Irish Economic Forum at Dublin Castle on 7 and 8 October, 2011. The forum will provide an opportunity for the Government to meet directly many of the most influential members of our diaspora and discuss our priorities for economic renewal, job creation and the restoration of Ireland’s reputation abroad.
Formal invitations will issue shortly to members of the Global Irish Network and other invitees. Whereas the precise details of the programme and topics to be considered are currently being finalised, I can confirm that the forum will meet in several different formats, including plenary sessions, panel discussions and breakout working groups. The topics to be discussed will cover specific economic areas identified as priorities in the programme for Government. The importance of engaging the current and future generations of the global Irish and the role of Irish culture in promoting Ireland abroad will also feature as important themes.
The 2009 forum, in which I participated, led to the implementation of a series of significant initiatives across a range of areas, including business network development, innovation, tourism, the promotion of Irish culture and diaspora engagement. The report of the first forum and its two subsequent progress reports are available on my Department’s website. In addition, in the context of preparing for the 2011 forum, a comprehensive review of all the recommendations was undertaken by my Department, in consultation with all other relevant Departments. A copy of this review will be circulated and made available on my Department’s website.
The Global Irish Network consists of more than 300 people from 37 countries. The members include some of the most influential Irish and Irish-connected individuals abroad and they provide Ireland with an invaluable resource of international expertise from which we can draw as we work towards economic recovery. Since its establishment in February 2010, three broad functions have characterised the work of the network: an advisory and facilitation function; a mechanism for disseminating information about the Irish economy and other significant developments; and its use as a means of delivering or assisting with the delivery of specific initiatives. The members have also been an invaluable resource to our ambassadors and consuls general in their work of promoting Ireland abroad.
Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl: I thank the Tánaiste for his reply and I take it that he accepts that the establishment of this forum in the first instance and the subsequent establishment of the network was a very positive initiative by his predecessor. I compliment the Tánaiste for recently bringing the Irish ambassadors home for a detailed discussion over two days, which was a very positive initiative.
Will the Tánaiste outline the level of engagement on his part since his appointment with members of the network? In particular, when he was in the United States recently did he have the opportunity to engage with network members there? With regard to the impending forum scheduled for 7 and 8 October, what will be the significant difference between that and the previous forum? I note that the Taoiseach indicated there would be a larger number of interests involved in the upcoming event, suggesting there would be more of a follow-through on the ideas and proposals that emerged in the first forum. What steps has the Tánaiste taken to follow through on the proposals in the initial report?
Deputy Eamon Gilmore: I have previously acknowledged that convening the Farmleigh event and setting up the Global Irish Network was very positive and constructive. It was done by my predecessor as part of the previous Government. The Deputy knows I criticised the previous Government on many issues but this is not one of them. This was a very good initiative which was very successful. As a result of the potential generated, we have decided to convene a second event.
The upcoming event will not be in Farmleigh because the number of members of the Global Irish Network has grown since the first event, with the current number at more than 300. It is intended to hold the upcoming event at Dublin Castle. I envisage that the emphasis will be less on what we should do and more about action. There will be a more specific agenda built on what has happened since the last forum convened. As I indicated regarding actions that have been undertaken since the last forum, I will set out in tabular form each of the specific objectives and initiatives proposed by the participants at the Farmleigh forum and the action taken with each of them. I do not propose to go through it here as it would take too long.
With regard to my engagement with forum members, when I was in the United States around St. Patrick’s Day there was no formal forum event but members attended various events where I was present. In recent visits to London and Paris we took the opportunity to convene members of the forum in two respects; there was a large trade gathering and we also convened groups of ten or 12 members to speak with me and representatives of State agencies about initiatives we must undertake, particularly in how to grow Irish trade abroad.
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