Economy is on the rise, says chamber chief

Ireland’s economy is entering a phoenix stage and the president of Cork Chamber, John Mullins, wants everyone to “be confident and be part of it”.

In his address to the Cork Chamber annual dinner Mr Mullins declared: “There is no reason why Ireland’s economy cannot be called the phoenix economy of the mid to late decade. Out of the ashes of the Celtic tiger comes a resilient nation that is driven by a true national spirit. A spirit that was very evident this week following the death of a true public servant, Detective Garda Adrian Donohue, while he was protecting the business of our land.”

Mr Mullins said Ireland’s economy is starting to propel forward.

“The successful bond raising of the last five months by Government, utilities and banks at much improved rates and tenors is testament to increasing international confidence in this resilient nation. Our export growth is the admiration of many. We boast the second highest economic growth rate in Europe in 2012 and expectations are positive from all commentators on this phoenix that is starting to awake,” he said.

Mr Mullins said that you cannot but be impressed by the export growth emanating from our excellent indigenous and foreign direct employers – many of whom were present.

“This chamber congratulates the work of the IDA and Enterprise Ireland for assisting the phoenix get back on its feet,” he added.

Mr Mullins also issued a warning to Government:

“In the aftermath of the kite flying around sick pay contributions from employers last year, and the successful counter lobby by business groups such as this chamber, I would say to Government — in a time of the phoenix recovering do not fly the kite of business uncertainty,” he stressed.

During the course of a wide-ranging address Mr Mullins said that in recent engagements with Government the chamber have grown increasingly confused about the definition of an economic region.

“This chamber believes in a new Atlantic Way Region where the west, mid west and south counterbalance Dublin by providing different economic options and clusters. The tri-cities of Cork, Limerick and Galway must in the future be joined by Tier 1 broadband that does not leave through Dublin to the US and Europe. The tri-cities and Shannon need to be joined by a seamless motorway from Cork to Galway without the economic traffic jams that are Buttevant and Charleville,” he said.

Mr Mullins said that at a time when these regions will seek ports for enhanced agri-food exports to Bric countries and elsewhere it is stunning that Government would say that an M20 would be uneconomic. “We call on the Government to prioritise an M20 build and a Tier 1 highway direct to the international markets. As Liam Casey of PCH stated recently at our annual conference in the context of the Global Economy — geography is history,” he added.

Mr Mullins said there are shortages of skills in the Cork region market and all other markets, but initiatives such as MakeITinCork are illustrative of a new regional economic way of thinking.

“We look forward to the introduction of a new visa waiver system (similar to that announced in the US) for the skills gap so that we can meet the expanding requirements of our export oriented companies.
On negotiations on Croke Park 2 Mr Mullins said we have entered a period of the Siege of Ennis, when public service unions and Government will step in and step out again.

“We do accept as a business lobby that there have been changes in the public service, but more can be offered and achieved. It is unacceptable that increments are paid in a time when private sector employees have lost their jobs and have taken significant pay cuts, and when they live in a world without the guarantee of absolute employment and pensions. There should be a three-year freezing of such arrangements until we get back on our feet,” he said.

Mr Mullins disclosed the chamber has lobbied for better speed on our railways. “A two-hour [Dublin] rail journey must be a priority,” he said.

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