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Politican discusses Ireland’s global economy

Dan Brombach | Friday, November 16, 2012

Those who picture Ireland in terms of sheep and rolling green landscapes may be shocked to learn the nation is far more than just a leader in agricultural exports: it is a business hub drawing major financial, technology and pharmaceutical corporations from around the globe.
In her lecture Thursday titled, “An Irish Perspective: Doing Business in a Global Economy,” Irish politician and legislator Mary Hanafin detailed Ireland’s successful integration into today’s highly interconnected global economy.

Hanafin attributed Ireland’s increased global economic integration in large part to the recent decline in sectarian violence and conflict between the Northern and Southern regions of the country.
She said Ireland’s transformation into a “nation at peace,” a nation emphasizing friendship and cooperation rather than strife, has helped redefine negative perceptions of the country, improving not only the lives of citizens but the health of the economy.

“During those early 70s years, when you said to people, particularly people who didn’t speak English, that you were from Ireland, they would say ‘boom boom,’ and they didn’t mean an economic boom,” Hanafin said. “They meant fighting and bombs and killing.”

Hanafin said taking a stroll through Dublin, the capital city, will reveal to any visitor the nation’s leading role in international business. She said Dublin has become a major center for the communications industry, attracting corporate giants such as Microsoft, Amazon and Google.

Hanafin said Ireland’s educational system has played a large part in attracting foreign business and investment by fostering a highly creative, technically skilled young worker population.

“It is the quality and the availability of skilled people that make Ireland attractive and special,” Hanafin said.

Ireland’s membership in the European Union, as well its low corporate tax rate of 12.5 percent, also boosts its appeal among corporations seeking high rates of return on their investments, Hanafin said. She said evidence of this can been seen in the large sums of money invested in Ireland internationally.

“The USA invests more dollars in Ireland than it does in Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa combined, and we’re only a little country of 4.5 million people,” Hanafin said. “But we’re also a country that takes our business, and our business with the world, very seriously.”

Hanafin said Irish companies continue to think globally, providing everything from airport biometric screening in Japan to a communications system that currently directs roughly 50 percent of mobile phone traffic in the United States.

Hanafin was most struck by the extent of this global economic integration upon visiting a children’s school in the United Arab Emirates. She said watching students use Irish software to learn the Quran was “globalization at its best.”

Looking forward, Hanafin said Ireland will continue to foster cooperative economic ties with nations around the world, sharing its distinct culture and heritage while learning to appreciate
the cultures of other peoples.

“It is about respecting not only own our culture, but the culture of the countries with who we do business,” Hanafin said. “It’s about appreciating the importance of dialogue, and friendship, and peace as a small, neutral nation in a very troubled world.”

Contact Dan Brombach at
dbrombac@nd.edu