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Speech by the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD - Enterprise Ireland Entrepreneurship Event with Prime Minister Trudeau

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Speech by the Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD

Enterprise Ireland Entrepreneurship Event with Prime Minister Trudeau

Royal College of Physicians

4th July, 2017

Prime Minister Trudeau, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I extend a warm welcome to you Prime Minister and to you all here today

Ireland has a lot of connections with Canada.

Personal connections.

Family connections.

Business connections.

And many of our young people who emigrated over the last decade chose to seek opportunities in Canada. Over the weekend I saw many of them sharing their celebrations for Canada Day on social media. Indeed, Prime Minister, many also seem to be supporters of yours, if my Twitter feed is accurate.

This strong legacy of connection, combined with recent developments such as the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement between Canada and the EU, make Canada a vitally important partner for Ireland. We’re partners with a lot in common.

In almost every country in Europe and beyond, more men than women are actively planning and starting a new business. Yet, in Canada, there is no significant difference between men and women’s perception of business start-up opportunities. That’s something we are very interested in hearing more about. We need to see more female entrepreneurs and female-led start-ups right across the world. 

The creativity and business acumen of women is abundantly displayed every day across the wide variety of community and voluntary groups operating across Ireland, and in many of our family-run businesses and SMEs. What then can we do to build on this success, and the recent success of Enterprise Ireland, to reach a point where women are leading enterprises and establishing their own businesses at the same rate as men?

In business, and in politics, we know that women can make great leaders. But what we are figuring out is how to further support women to become leaders.

Barriers to women excelling in business, political or voluntary roles are often practical ones. I received a major boost in my early career when I was the voluntary Chairperson of the National Women’s Council in the early 1990s.

The Mater Hospital, where I was a social worker, agreed to give me the first ever job sharing position.

That helped me overcome the difficulty of combining my work, my advocacy and my family life.

So the collective task for Government, business and the community is to continue to break down those barriers.

Gains for women do not equate to lost opportunities for men, but to increased opportunities for greater economic prosperity and social cohesion.

The traits of leadership have been defined by men. So we have to redefine those traits – to account for family life, to embody the support structures we need and to accept that equality benefits everyone.

We need more ‘high potential’ female entrepreneurs as it will result in more innovation, more export potential, and better quality jobs being created.

The good news is that we have seen a major leap in female-led early-stage companies since Enterprise Ireland introduced a series of initiatives in 2012 – from 7 per cent of high potential start-up companies in 2012 to 20 per cent in 2016. 

There were 63 new female led start-ups in 2016 – this success brings Ireland in line with best international practice and is testimony to the effectiveness of our entrepreneurship eco-system.

Ireland, as a small open economy, has benefitted greatly from engagement with Canada. In 2016, Enterprise Ireland client company exports to Canada grew by 7.3% to 282 million Euros, or in excess of 425 million Canadian dollars. 

This builds on the momentum of growth of 7% in 2015. Canada is an increasingly important market for Irish companies. 

It is important for us to put the success of Irish companies exporting to Canada in context – it is in value terms, a top 10 export market. In fact, outside of Europe, the US and China – Canada is our largest indigenous export market. 

CETA offers a new basis for our countries to gain preferential access to each other’s markets. 

I know that this trade agreement is also important to Canada, giving access to the European market. 

CETA will help to open new markets, break down barriers and provide new opportunities for business in both directions.

Let us work to make today an important step towards a greater closeness between Canada and Ireland.

Thank you.


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