Remarks by Minister Deenihan at IIBN Conference reception
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Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am delighted to be here with you this evening in the beautiful surroundings of the Irish Embassy and I would like to thank Dan for being a very gracious host, as always.
It hardly seems like a little over a year since I was with you all in New York at last year’s conference. Since then I have learned a lot about the work you do and the strength you give to the Irish business community here in Britain, in the US, and indeed, at home in Ireland.
The IIBN is an enormously valuable resource to Irish business people. Through its mentorship programmes, its networking and the vast array of authoritative and interesting speakers, the IIBN operates at an exceptionally high standard.
I am delighted that the Government is in a position to financially support the work of IIBN through the Emigrant Support Programme. Under this Programme funding is provided to two mentoring programmes; the Future Leaders Programme in the UK and the Irish Executive Mentoring Programme which is a global initiative open to any person with a connection to Ireland looking for an Irish connected mentor via an online platform.
I am particularly delighted to note that IIBN just added London Irish player Tom McCourt and the fastest Paralympian in the world; Jason Smyth as two of its new future leaders.
The IIBN is also a fantastic platform promoting start-ups looking to build their connectivity, reputation and presence in Ireland, UK and USA. This is very clear from the number of exhibition spaces and pitches being accommodated at this year’s conference, for start-ups to showcase their wares or make that all important ‘ask’ for investment or support.
Year on year, this has proven to be a successful route to market for pitchers including WheyHey, WhakPack and Channelsight. I’m delighted that Damian Kennedy of Whey Hey will share his story, and that of the IIBN, at the Global Irish Economic Forum in Dublin next week as part of a panel showcasing Irish entrepreneurs which will be led by one of your newest board members; Conall O Morain.
Indeed the Global Irish Economic Forum will see many IIBN faces next week, as more and more of its members become part of this event. This is hardly surprising as the spirit of the diaspora, helping each other and supporting Irish businesses, on which the Forum is built, is mirrored here at the IIBN where the “pay it forward” concept ensures that knowledge, experience and expertise are willingly passed on to the next generation of Irish business leaders.
The topics that you will consider during this annual conference, such as a possible British exit from the European Union, are relevant to us all and I hope that the views expressed here this week can be fed into discussions in Dublin next week.
The synergies between what is happening here this week and the Global Irish Economic Forum are many. The title of this year’s conference here is “Partners by Design” building on the themes of Irish Design 2015, one of the most successful outcomes from previous Forums.
I would like to thank you for including me in so many of your events and initiatives since I took up office as Minister for Diaspora Affairs over a year ago. Supporting the IIBN as a conduit to help Irish companies develop and grow has been a hugely rewarding part of my work, affording me the opportunity to engage with the vibrancy of the start-up scene and to see first-hand the selflessness of Irish mentors who give up their valuable time to give back.
Another network we are working to build is one of connections between the Irish business and voluntary sectors in Britain. The Embassy is in the early stages of facilitating an event bringing those interested in volunteering together with organisations who need volunteers to deliver their vital services to the community. Building on the Meitheal spirit in the community here in this way can only enhance our connections with Ireland and with each other. I encourage anyone who is interested in supporting that to reach out to my colleagues today.
No matter where I go in the world, and I’ve been around this last year! I am struck by the willingness of the Irish diaspora to come together, to help each other and are always ready to give a hand up. I suppose it’s part of our DNA and comes back to “Meitheal”. Long may it last.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh go leir.