I propose to take Questions Nos. 5 to 16, inclusive, together.
I travelled to the United States on Wednesday, 30 November, for a three-day programme of engagement with key business leaders in Silicon Valley and New York. The primary focus of the visit was to emphasise and promote Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for investment and trade and to communicate Ireland’s priorities in the context of Brexit and other recent significant international developments.
In Palo Alto, I spoke at a reception attended by approximately 250 Enterprise Ireland clients and representatives from the west coast business community. I used that opportunity to promote Ireland as a source for world leading information technology products and services, referencing the success of many Irish companies both in the Silicon Valley region and across the United States. I emphasised Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for US firms and delivered key messages about Ireland’s economic progress and the importance of immigration reform. I also met representatives of a number of Enterprise Ireland clients who were exhibiting their products at the event.
I also met that afternoon with George and Jackie Donohoe, whose daughter, Ashley, and niece, Olivia, lost their lives in the Berkeley tragedy in June 2015. Also present was Celine Kennelly, executive director of the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center. In advance of my first visit to the region since the tragedy occurred, I also met the Irish-based families of those who were killed and injured in the tragedy, including some of the injured themselves, in Government Buildings on 24 November. In renewing my condolences, I expressed my admiration for the work the family had done in driving Senate Bill 465. I assured them that the Government would continue to do what it could to support improvements in US building regulations in order to prevent such a tragedy ever occurring again. I paid particular tribute to consul general Philip Grant for the way he conducted his business on behalf of our country arising from that tragedy in Berkeley.
On Thursday, 1 December, I visited Apple Headquarters where I met Tim Cook, the chief executive officer, along with a number of other senior Apple executives. We discussed the company’s substantial investment in Ireland. Mr. Cook highlighted Apple's ongoing commitment to Ireland, including the company's current expansion plans, noting that it is on target to create 1,000 additional jobs here. We had a brief discussion regarding the European Commission’s decision on the Apple state aid investigation. I noted that Ireland had already submitted a very strong appeal to the General Court of the European Union. Mr. Cook noted the company’s intention to lodge its own appeal in due course. The remainder of our discussion focused on global political developments and policy challenges, including Brexit.
Following this, I addressed the San Francisco Bay Area Economic Council, an influential group of leading Bay Area companies, which was hosted by Facebook at its headquarters. I used this opportunity to underline the strength of both Ireland-US relations and Ireland-California relations. I updated the council on Ireland’s economic progress, reiterated Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for investment, highlighted our highly skilled workforce and our focus on innovation and our strong commitment to EU membership. While at Facebook I also took the opportunity to meet some of Facebook’s many Irish staff working there.
I travelled to New York where on Friday, 2 December I had a series of business engagements, including individual meetings with existing and potential investors in Ireland. Once again, I used these opportunities to promote Ireland’s attractiveness as a location for foreign direct investment and emphasised our firm commitment to EU membership.
I had a series of engagements at Bloomberg, including a meeting with Bloomberg chairman, Peter Grauer, and a number of their client companies, a live broadcast interview and a meeting with the chief executive officer, Mike Bloomberg. Discussions covered a wide range of topics, including Brexit, the future of the EU, the implications of the US election, international taxation, globalisation, the rise of populism and Northern Ireland.
I also attended a Partnership for New York City event where I met and spoke to a group of approximately 30 leading New York business people on broadly similar topics to those covered at the Bloomberg events earlier, including Brexit, the US election, the future of the EU, corporation tax, the investment climate and foreign direct investment opportunities in Ireland.
Later that day, I was also glad to participate in the announcement of a strategic partnership between Enterprise Ireland and Northwell Healthcare, one of the leading health care providers on the east coast of America.
This partnership is expected to result in significant opportunities for Irish companies in the US health care sector.
That evening I attended a reception attended by approximately 300 Irish-American political, business and community leaders, including immigration reform bodies, hosted by the Consul General, Barbara Jones, at the Irish Consulate in New York. In my address, I spoke about Ireland’s economic progress, Ireland-US relations, the challenges and opportunities arising from Brexit, the Government’s ongoing commitment to the Northern Ireland peace process and immigration reform. I also spoke about Ireland’s successful programme of 1916 commemorations. I emphasised the Government’s commitment to culture and heritage and was pleased to announce an additional €1 million in funding from the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs for the Irish Arts Center and $265,000 from the immigrant support programme for the Irish Repertory Theatre. I was also pleased to be able to announce the granting by the US Department of Transportation of a permit to Norwegian Air, which will facilitate new direct flights between Ireland and the USA.
As the focus of my trip was engagement with business leaders, I did not have detailed political discussions on immigration reform or the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, TTIP, during this visit. However, as I previously indicated, I raised immigration reform and our economic and trading interests with both President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Pence during my phone calls with them following the US elections.
I believe my visit was successful in further developing the strong links between Ireland and the United States as well as promoting Ireland’s priorities in the context of Brexit and other global developments.