16 March 2021

Thank you, Myron, for the kind introduction and invitation to join you today. Ireland has enjoyed an excellent relationship with the US Chamber of Commerce over many years.

Earlier this morning I had the opportunity to convey my congratulations to your new Chief Executive Officer, Suzanne Clark. Let me take this opportunity to commend you and your team for the great work in organising this year’s St Patrick’s Day virtual gathering.

It would be remiss of me not to acknowledge Suzanne’s predecessor Tom Donohue, who has been a true friend of Ireland over the course of his leadership of the Chamber. I wish him all the very best for the future and look forward to continuing our connection through Suzanne and with the Chamber’s members, many of whom are key players in the vibrant Ireland-US two-way trade and investment relationship.

This year’s St Patrick’s Day celebration is of course virtual, as has become commonplace for most of our engagement over the past 12 months.

While this is very welcome, I am of course very much looking forward to being able to travel to the United States and meeting with you all again in person in the not too distant future.

St Patrick’s Day offers us an opportunity to celebrate the extraordinarily deep and important bond between Ireland and the United States; a connection that spans family, cultural, political, and economic ties that go back centuries and which are primed to continue for years to come.

Many of us also remember how such ties were instrumental in helping us achieve peace on the island of Ireland. Indeed, the support from members of Congress and President Biden himself was significant in ensuring that, in the final analysis, the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement protects the Good Friday Agreement, and that there was no return to a hard border on the island of Ireland as a result of Brexit.

But I would like to focus this morning on the economic ties that bind our two countries, and that have grown ever stronger in recent years. At the heart of this relationship are the Irish and American businesses that export, invest, and innovate across our two nations.

The American Chamber of Commerce published its Ireland-US business report for 2021 just last week. The report celebrates 60 years of our rich relationship and reflects on the journey that Ireland has taken during that time.

From an inward-looking economy to the open, technologically advanced society that we are today; the vision of Seán Lemass and TK Whitaker over 60 years ago and the Programme for Economic Expansion began a process that led to our joining what is now the European Union in the 1970s.

Today, our economy is strong and, with the critical boost of foreign direct investment, we are at the forefront of cutting-edge research, development, and innovation. The United States is our largest single trading partner and biggest source of investment.  As our trade and investment relationship has matured, it has become incredibly strong, and increasingly two-way.   It is quite remarkable that Ireland is one seventieth the size of the United States in population terms, but we are your ninth biggest source of foreign direct investment.

There are over 800 American companies present in Ireland, employing 180,000 people. In the other direction, there are over 650 Irish companies in America, employing 110,000 people. That is extraordinary.

From a trade perspective, Ireland exports over €45 billion worth of goods to America each year, while America exports over €50 billion worth of services to Ireland. This reflects the highly integrated and mutually beneficial relationship between our two economies.

One example – that has been seriously stress-tested over the past 12 months of the pandemic- is the strength of the life sciences sector within Ireland.

Within this sector, Ireland and the US have highly integrated supply chains, with Ireland acting as a secure and resilient transatlantic bridge for the export of goods into the wider EU internal market and further afield, as well as supplying the US market with intermediary products. Indeed, the trade balance between our two countries reflects this, in the flow of services from the US into Ireland, and goods and profits moving from Ireland back into the US.

 

Clearly, the US-Europe transatlantic relationship, as a pillar of the global economy, has enormous potential to help our societies and economies, on both sides of the Atlantic ‘to build back better, to borrow President Biden’s phrase.

The extraordinary supports put in place on both sides of the Atlantic have helped protect incomes and livelihoods and will ensure that our economies return to growth. At the EU level, €1.8 trillion from the multi-financial framework and recovery and resilience fund has been put in place to bolster the very significant money being invested by Member State Governments. In Ireland, significant fiscal supports, which our Finance Ministry estimates may reach as much as €38 billion over the course of the pandemic, are being invested to protect jobs, incomes, and public health.

Ireland entered the pandemic in a position of strength, with a fast-growing economy, a labour market nearing full employment, and a stable fiscal position.   While we continue to battle with the pandemic, our economic performance has remained strong.  Knowledge-intensive sectors proved resilient, and as a result of the strength of exports, particularly in the pharma and ICT sectors, GDP actually grew in 2020.

While our economy performed remarkably well, despite the double impacts of Covid and Brexit, some sectors have been badly affected. Our tourism, hospitality and entertainment, and aviation sectors have been hit.

Before Covid, Ireland attracted over 2 million visitors from North America and was the 6th most popular destination for US students seeking to study abroad. These people-to-people connections are at the heart of our bilateral relationship, so we are very much looking forward to opening our doors again to all our American friends when it is safe to do so.

Despite the adversity, Irish companies, researchers, and innovators have been at the center of efforts to fight the pandemic.

  • For example, ICON who are participating in this conference and who employ approximately 5,000 people across the United States, oversaw a number of Covid-19 trials for vaccines and antiviral treatments;
  • Software development firm NearForm worked with my Government’s Health Service Executive to develop Ireland’s national Covid Tracker App, and its technology is now being used in states here in America, in New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Philadelphia and further afield;
  • And VeriFLY, a mobile health passport, was developed by Irish biometric identity assurance specialist Daon, and will help enable international travel to adapt to the health challenges posed by the pandemic.

Irish scientists have also been at the heart of the global response to Covid – Dr. Mike Ryan in the WHO, Emer Cooke in the European Medicines Agency; Dr. Gordon Joyce who leads a team of virologists who worked on vaccine treatments at Walter Reed Army Institute in Maryland; and Professors Adrian Hill and Teresa Lambe, who led the team of scientists at Oxford University that helped develop the AstraZeneca vaccine.

We are aware, however, that many countries across the world are in the midst of reviewing their international supply chains, and I note the Executive Order that President Biden recently made here in the United States.  Friends and partners must work together to ensure that supply chains are resilient, especially for essential goods and services that are needed to defeat this pandemic and to help keep our economies buoyant.

Ireland has played an important role in keeping Covid-related goods moving. We were ranked as the 5th top global exporter of Covid-related goods by the OECD last year.

This was achieved through a time of national lockdown, and in the face of greatly diminished air transport routes.

In this regard, Ireland has proven to be a trusted partner to the United States.

We now need to ensure that full attention is brought to defeating this pandemic and delivering a resilient recovery.

Ireland is well-positioned to remain a competitive market for international business to access the wider EU internal market. We have consolidated our reputation as a stable, business-friendly, globally competitive country with a multicultural, highly educated, and talented workforce.

Furthermore, my Government is delivering policies that will equip Ireland to remain competitive as the future of work evolves:

  • Ireland’s Industry 4.0 Strategy 2020-2025 seeks to position Ireland as a competitive, innovation-driven manufacturing hub at the frontier of the fourth industrial revolution, and at the forefront of Industry 4.0 development and adoption.
  • Our National Remote Work Strategy, published in January 2021, will ensure that remote work is a permanent feature of the Irish workplace in a way that maximises economic, social, and environmental benefits, and retains talent.
  • Through our national economic recovery plan and Future Jobs Ireland, the Government is committed to creating the right environment for new jobs through increased competitiveness, skills development, and a powerful enterprise mix of indigenous Irish enterprises and the Foreign Direct Investment sector.

In recent decades we have seen the rise of emerging economic powers, but it is important to recognise that the transatlantic partnership is still an essential and powerful pillar of the global economy. The combined output of the EU and US accounts for a third of world GDP and is responsible for half of all global personal consumption. Trade-flows, into and out of the transatlantic economy, represent nearly a third of global exports and imports and are responsible for roughly 60% of all inward and outward investment.

We are working to resolve trade disputes that have stifled economic growth in recent years. I was heartened by the recent decision by both the US and EU to agree to suspend tariffs as we work together to resolve the Airbus Boeing WTO dispute.

This is an encouraging signal of intent and I look forward to working together to ensure: free and fair trade, reform of the WTO, and setting the global rules and standards for emerging technologies, future networks, and advanced manufacturing.  All of these factors will provide substantial impetus to drive global economic growth.

An important part of achieving this agenda will be establishing the EU-US Trade and Technology Council, and I very much hope this will lead to us working together on the coalescing strands of trade, technology, and security.

Both EU Commission President Von der Leyen, US President Biden, and their respective teams, have delivered clear statements of intent to work closely together on shared priorities.

Priorities such as: ensuring global health and countering future pandemics; working together on economic recovery through green and digital transitions, and; tackling malign influences through strengthened international and multilateral institutions.

Ireland will contribute to furthering these global goals and we will play to the full a distinctive and positive role in advancing transatlantic relations.

Having spoken today of the important contribution made by Irish scientists and businesses in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic, I am delighted on behalf of the Government of Ireland and Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), to celebrate and recognise the careers of two distinguished individuals who have made outstanding contributions within the field of science in Ireland and America.

Professor William C Campbell and Vincent T Roche, are the esteemed recipients of the 2021 Science Foundation Ireland St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal.

The Medal celebrates US-Ireland scientific relations and the longstanding history our countries have of collaborating across a diverse range of sectors.

And I can proudly say today that in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths (STEM), our collaborations with the United States are at their strongest – with over 450 academic collaborations and 250 industry collaborations.

In addition, the US-Ireland R&D programme – which is a unique initiative, involving funding agencies across three jurisdictions: USA, Ireland, and Northern Ireland – has supported over 60 successful research partnerships to date.

Both Professor Campbell and Mr. Roche embody the significant achievements and contributions of the Irish diaspora. Today we proudly recognise their tenacity and innovation, which is symbolic of the enduring strength and durability of our great bilateral relationship. The outstanding leadership both have demonstrated in their respective fields is far-reaching and visionary

Derry-born and Donegal-raised Prof William C. Campbell, who is this year’s recipient of the SFI St. Patrick’s Day Medal for Academia, is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin.

A Fulbright Travel Grant brought him to the University of Wisconsin, Madison, USA, where he undertook a Ph.D. on liver fluke. Professor Campbell went on to work for the pharmaceutical company Merck, at its Institute for Therapeutic Research until 1990. Professor Campbell is a Research Fellow Emeritus with Drew University, Madison, New Jersey in the USA.

Professor Campbell’s work in the development of Ivermectin – medications used to treat parasite infestations – helped lower the incidence of river blindness and lymphatic filariasis and led to his joint Nobel Prize award, shared with Japanese scientists Professor Satoshi Ōmura.

Professor Campbell spearheaded the decision by Merck to distribute that cure free to millions of people in what became one of the first and foremost examples of a public/private partnership in international health. Ivermectin is currently being investigated as a treatment for Covid-19.

Professor Campbell, for your contribution to combatting global diseases and your ground-breaking research, I am delighted to virtually present you with the Science Foundation Ireland St Patrick’s Day Medal for academia, with my sincere congratulations.

Recipient of the SFI St. Patrick’s Day Science Medal for Industry, Mr. Vincent T Roche is the President and Chief Executive Officer of Analog Devices Inc. and a leader in the field of semiconductors.

Originally from Wexford, Mr. Roche graduated from then NIHE Limerick, now the University of Limerick, before going on to join Analog Devices in the early 1990s. In 2013, he became the third CEO to lead the company. In 2017, Mr. Roche received an Honorary Doctorate in Engineering from the University of Limerick. Throughout his career, Mr. Roche has been inspired and driven by an awareness of the profound impact semiconductor technology has across so many dimensions of our lives.

Analog devises Inc. is a world leader in signal processing circuits for the industrial, automotive, communications, healthcare, and consumer markets. Under Mr. Roche, ADI has deepened and broadened its technology portfolio and approach to innovation. His vision and leadership have helped make Analog Devices a critical strategic partner to thousands of leading companies around the world, earning Mr. Roche a place among the Forbes 100 Innovators in 2019.

Analog has long-established links with the Irish research community, in particular with UCC and the Tyndall National Institute based in Cork, and with the University of Limerick, with Analog both investing directly in research projects in the Irish research ecosystem, and also being a key partner in national strategic research programmes such as the SFI Research Centres.

Vincent Roche’s contributions to the Irish economy and RD&I ecosystem, and his leadership at Analog Devices, make him a deserved recipient of the Science Foundation Ireland St Patrick’s Day Medal for Industry.  I offer you my sincere congratulations on this occasion.