Speech by Fianna Fáil Leader Micheál Martin to Clonmel Chamber of Commerce Conference, Clonmel Park Hotel 

Check Against Delivery

 

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen. Thank you very much for your kind invitation to address you at your conference.

I would like to commend you for your choice of speakers who will provide very constructive debate as they bring with them vast experience from across our business sector both nationally and European wide.

Your conference is an example of how sponsorship from local companies can work to the advantage of Clonmel and the wider South Tipperary area, Abbott Vascular, Southern Tipperary Skillnet and Social Media Skillnet are to be congratulated.

 

In general I know that these are very difficult times for business, and the last three years have been truly challenging. It is during these times that leadership, innovation and positivity are needed.    

 

Positive and constructive leadership in the circumstances that the country is currently experiencing is crucial. The Chamber’s emphasis on fostering a sense of responsibility, commitment and excellence embodies the very qualities of leadership.

Since 1925 the Clonmel Chamber of Commerce has been an excellent organisation. I was interested to read that John F. Magner (Bulmers’ founder) was one of your founders in 1925 so it is heartening to see 86 years later that you must be doing something right!

 

Your role in linking people from across the business sector to build a shared dedication to high performance is an integral part of maintaining Clonmel’s competitive edge. Your free Wi-Fi initiative for the town will be a very popular product. 

I am aware that your Chamber had the innovative initiative of providing services and business supports rather than cash to your recent National Enterprise Competition winner .The recipient Michael Keating MD of Metron Nanotech will no doubt outline today how this initiative benefitted his ability to do business. 

 

As a former Minister of Enterprise, Trade and Employment I know first-hand the level of innovation and optimism that runs deep in our business community.

 

Irish businesses continue to cast an ambitious eye across the globe for areas of future growth and expansion. Our 12.5% Corporation Tax rate remains as a major encouragement for international companies to establish here and create new spill over opportunities for indigenous firms.

 

The recommendations of the Small Business Forum to explore the barriers that small companies faced should continue to be implemented. The SME sector holds huge opportunities for our country’s future. The SME sector should be supported in every way possible. Setting up a small business should be simple not complex. Think about how many jobs could be created if every small business in the country was able to employ just one more person? Our export activity from Enterprise Ireland companies was worth €9.6 billion and rose to €13.9 billion in 2010.

 

Exports grew by 6.7% to €161 billion in 2010. They are expected to rise by another 7% this year. The fact that our balance of payments is actually in surplus is thanks to the hard work and innate optimism of our business community.

 

Amidst profound national difficulties, a festering Eurozone crisis, flagging recovering in the US and grave volatility in the stock markets our exports continue to thrive and flourish.

 

In my role as leader of the opposition I have pledged myself to providing that positive leadership. This involves responsibility in acknowledging mistakes of the past and the honesty to genuinely reflect upon what lessons need to be learnt from the recession.

Fianna Fáil takes this responsibility very seriously. We have set out a comprehensive program of measures that can transform our political system and make it fit for purpose in a modern democracy.

Randolph Churchill once said that the “duty of an opposition is to oppose”. I simply don’t believe this and as part of the New Politics I have vowed to provide constructive opposition to the government.

The responsibility of leadership through difficult times demands that we do not engage in cheap attacks and cynical language. 

I was heartened when the present government decided to hold a second Global Irish Network Conference in October.

 When I was Minister for Foreign Affairs I believed that the government should do more to integrate with the Irish business people who live across the globe and who wanted to give something back to Ireland .That is why I held the inaugural conference in 2009 when 208 leading experts in business tourism, culture academia and the arts attended .There is now a very large network of leaders (over 300) who by being part of the “GIN” increase opportunities for Irish people at home and abroad.

I will be attending the conference in October and I am looking forward to taking part in a constructive and active debate about Ireland and its future.

 

Those of us privileged to be in the service of this Republic need to take responsibility for our words and their impact.

Government decisions that benefit the country will be welcomed; worthwhile legislative proposals will be contributed to and where possible enhanced and improved. We will endeavour to put forward  meaningful proposals that will make a difference to business and job creation.

I hope the Government earnestly meets this constructive engagement as part of a cross party effort in establishing responsible leadership.

 

And there is much to be positive about. The most recent ERSI forecasts show that we are on track to emerge from the burden of debt .The IMF has applauded the strides taken to curtail expenditure and put the public finances on a sustainable footing.

The difficult measures taken over the past few years are beginning to yield dividends. Unlike the other parties who opposed all the decisions we made to enable this progress, we are committed to recognise any positive steps the government will take to build on the progress made to date.

 

My optimism has inspired my politics and remains at the core of what drives me on.

We need to shake off the shackles of pessimism.

At home we are fighting well to renew our country from a serious crisis.

This faltering in the EU over the past few months on how to deal with the Greek crisis has made markets very nervous. Strengthening of the European Financial Stability Mechanism needs to be completed so the EU can get on doing business and creating jobs by increasing growth.

 

Leadership in difficult times is built upon commitment, vision and optimism. These are qualities that I see in the businesses you run; they are the qualities that I hope you see in yourselves.

It is this leadership that will see Clonmel and Ireland emerge from our current difficulties stronger than ever, ready to meet the future with a sense of optimism and pride.

Thank you.