Speech at the Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown Chamber County Business Awards Thursday 28 September

Cathaoirleach, Pat Neill, fellow TDs, Senators and Councillors, ladies and gentlemen: good evening! I am so thrilled to be here at the inaugural County Business Awards in Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown.

It’s recognition of the huge contribution business makes to the vibrancy of the county and the well-being of those who live in it. The categories of award cover almost every conceivable type of business: from start up to green business. From international trade to small retailer.  And of course a top award to the Business Leader of the year.

The eclectic mix is eye catching. It reflects the wide range of business in the County.  Whether it is global multinationals in the Sandyford Business District, restaurants and pubs in Monkstown and Dalkey, or retailing in Dundrum and Dun Laoghaire the blend is alluring and attractive.

You all make a valuable contribution:

– fulfilling consumers’ expectations,

– creating worthwhile jobs and wealth,

– paying taxes,

– being good corporate citizens.

You are building a better Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown.

 

At Government level we are working to build a better Ireland in which the businesses, families and citizens of this County can flourish and prosper.

Look at jobs. There are now 2,063,000 people at work in Ireland. The unemployment rate has fallen to 6.1 per cent; the lowest it has been since 2008. All those people at work in our County are supporting local businesses, large and small.

Most of you here are in business. As you know, my colleague Paschal Donohoe will announce Budget 2018 in twelve days. His first principle is to balance our books to keep Ireland secure in a risky world. That means paying our way and cutting borrowing, so that we can be better prepared for the uncertain future we face.

Brexit is the greatest economic challenge ahead and brings huge levels of risk and uncertainty. The challenge for the Government is to respond to uncertainty by bringing as much certainty as we can. Paschal is fond of quoting the Scottish philosopher Thomas Carlyle who said “Doubt, of whatever kind, can be ended by action alone”. And so we need to take action. Action to prepare for the likely and unlikely outcomes of Brexit negotiations.

We need to continue to invest in and support the work of Enterprise Ireland, the IDA and our Local Enterprise Offices. We need to protect our 12.5% corporate tax rate from the renewed pressure at European level.  (That’s a red line issue for anyone who is serious about Ireland’s future on the international stage.)And we need to invest to ensure that our transport links to mainland Europe are fit for purpose for a post Brexit landscape.

On the supply side, we have to agree on how to use our recovery to invest in the change and the supports we need for better opportunities for all. That means investing taxpayers’ money carefully and with continued reform to deliver the best capital projects, services and targeted income supports. Budget 2018 will be fair and prudent. Never again will be gamble on the nation’s future.

Our challenge is to deliver more for vital infrastructure: housing, roads, energy and water. In Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown, an example is upgrading the nearly 150 year old reservoir in Stillorgan which serves 200,000 people.

Or to deliver better health services, faster broadband and a more efficient public transport system. Locally, an example is more orbital bus routes around Dun Laoghaire, and more DART trains running. 

And to deliver on our promise of more housing, both social and private. That’s more affordable housing for people who want to settle down. People who want to raise families, work or return to Ireland. This week a major planning application was lodged for the new town soon to emerge at Cherrywood with 8,000 homes for 30,000 people.

As Minister for Higher Education, I am particularly focused on capital investment. Budget 2018 will allocate an additional €4.1 billion for capital investment over the next four years. The Government will be publishing a ten year capital plan for Ireland soon after the Budget. That has implications for Dun Laoghaire-Rathdown and the entire country.

Locally, I am confident that the Chamber, its members and the Council will play their part in delivering a better life for all.

In particular, I want to finish by once more saluting our winners here this evening. You will play a special role in realising locally what our long-term national vision will aspire to. I congratulate you and wish you continued success.

Thank you.

Returners: Our Workforce Needs You

Minister of State, Mary Mitchell O’Connor hosted a “Returners” event in the LexIcon Library, in Dun Laoghaire on Monday 25th of September.

Speakers were invited to give advice to over 100 attendees on how to make the job market work for them.

The panel included Margot Slattery, Margot is Country President of the Irish operations of food and facilities management company Sodexo. Globally Sodexo employs 430,000 people and has a work force of 3,800 in Ireland of which 59% are female. Margot is an industry leader in diversity, inclusion and flexible work practices.

Emer Kirk from Harvest Financials covered the subject of women and their pensions and how to prepare for retirement having taken time out of the work force to rear children, care for elderly relatives or due to illness.

Alan McGrath from the Higher Education Authority spoke on the courses and opportunities available to everyone to up-skill and re-skill and cited Springboard+ as being an invaluable resource to help you re-enter the work place fully skilled and equipped to face all the modern day challenges.

Alan was followed by Elaine Russell who has recently set up the Irish division of a UK franchise called Women Returners.ie. A website packed full of invaluable information on companies and industry who are keen to recruit females who want to return to work.

Paula King psychologist and coach, and CEO of Kingstown College challenged the audience to overcome confidence issues and how not to allow personal barriers stop you from challenging yourself to embark on a new career or return to a previous one.

Finally the last speaker was Ailish McGlew who returned to work after taking some time out to rear her three small children. Ailish spoke from the heart on how to make returning to the work force work for you and your family.

On the night the Minister said “As we reach full employment at a faster pace than envisioned in the programme of Government and Enterprise we have to ensure there is sufficient labour force with the right skills”

The Minister challenged her guest speakers to illuminate the route back to work for many of the attendees who had a desire to return to the work place after various extended breaks in their CVs.

Most of the local colleges and Institutes had sent representatives and a number of recruitment companies attended hoping to meet potential candidates.

At the end of the event the Minister thanked her guest speakers and the audience who took part in a lively and entertaining Q&A and said “I think we also need to encourage and facilitate employers to view ‘returners’ in a positive light. They have the ability to strengthen their skills base and have the ability to address their talent constraints”

Speech on the Launch of QQI cycle of reviews

Good afternoon.

 Francis Bacon wrote in the Advancement of Learning, Book 1,

 …if we begin with certainties, we shall end in doubts; but if we begin with doubts, and are patient in them, we shall end in certainties”

With that in mind I am delighted to be here today to launch this first review cycle for higher education institutions, the CINNTE review cycle.

 QQI have a crucial role to play in our national higher education infrastructure. They are the national regulator for quality and quality assurance. The organisation has now been in existence for 5 years. During that time it has evolved from an organisation that inherited policies and procedures from its 4 predecessor bodies into a forward looking organisation with its own way of doing things based on its own ethos.  That has been no mean feat and I would like to take the opportunity of thanking everyone in QQI for their efforts in this regard.

 This is a challenging time for the higher education sector. We have seen funding decline since 2008 at a time when student numbers have risen considerably. These demographic trends are set to continue well into the future. This has led to concerns about the impact of quality in higher education. QQI itself recently suggested that quality was at a tipping point and that investment in the sector was urgently required. This was the same conclusion that was reached by the expert group on future funding which reported in 2016.

As Minister for Higher Education I am pleased that the Government signaled its intent in this regard in the last budget. The Department secured an additional €36.5m in Budget 2017 for higher education. That was the first increase in higher education expenditure in almost a decade. I would like to invest further in higher education through Budget 2018. Those discussions are ongoing.

The review cycle that is being launched today has a crucial role to play in contributing to quality in higher education. It is our window into what happens inside our higher education institutions. It allows us to see in a very transparent way the manner in which quality assurance is supported and enhanced in the sector.

 I am particularly interested in enhancement. We need to support and maintain quality. But it is equally if not more important to strive to improve quality.That is the challenge that QQI are setting for our higher education institutions. Institutions have an opportunity, through the review process, to showcase their examples of quality enhancement. These examples can then be shared as best practice through the publication and dissemination of the review reports. The review process is underpinned by some very important principles that are at the heart of QQI’s approach to quality assurance. I would like to highlight five in particular:

Firstly:

  • Institutional autonomy:

 Quality is the responsibility of each higher education institution in the first instance. This is an important principle and it means that everyone in an institution has a responsibility to make quality their business.

 The second one I want to highlight is

  • Transparency:

The fact that the review reports are published is an important means of promoting transparency. It also allows my Department, students, and the wider public to have confidence in the public investment that is being made in our institutions.

 Thirdly: 

  • Student involvement:

 QQI have been very active in ensuring that the student voice is recognized and reflected in their work. The involvement of student representatives in the review process is a very welcome development. Students should be at the centre of everything we are trying to achieve in higher education.

 Fourthly:

  • International context:

 The fact that the review teams will be appointed to conduct reviews will comprise international experts is very important. We can learn a lot from our international peers as well as sharing our best practice with them. This international dimension also provides added assurances about the independence of the review process.

And finally:

Administrative impact: I know that QQI are very conscious about the potential administrative impact of their work on institutions.

The potential for ‘review fatigue’ was a clear message that emerged from the ‘review of reviews’ that was conducted by QQI in 2014. QQI are working closely with the HEA in particular to ensure that their regulatory activities are planned to complement one another so that the impact on institutions is minimized as much as possible.

I think that ensuring that these principles are at the heart of the new review process      will contribute in a significant way to its future success.

I would just like to finish by acknowledging that my Department is working closely     with QQI in drafting the new Qualifications and Quality Assurance Bill. This new Bill will provide QQI with new regulatory powers and will facilitate the introduction of the International Education Mark.

These future legislative developments will complement the work that QQI is       currently doing in relation to its new cycle of reviews and in other important areas.

 I would like to thank QQI and Dr Pádraig Walsh for the opportunity to be here today to launch CINNTE and I wish you every success for the future.

Returners: Our Workforce Needs You

 

If you are currently out of work, at home or on an extended career break – and you are feeling intimidated at the prospect of returning to work or your career, then this event is for you.

I invite you to meet some of our country’s brightest and inspiring experts: You will garner important information on how to prepare yourself for this, sometimes daunting, step.

Speakers include:

Margot Slattery, Country President, Sodexo Ireland – Describing herself as a ‘worker’, Margot has quietly championed inclusion and equality in the workplace and made Sodexo an industry leader in, their term, ‘quality of life services’ – Leading the way in new and flexible work practices.

Emer Kirk, Head of Development and Marketing, Harvest Financial – Emer specialises in the area of advice on pensions and retirement planning. She is an associate of the Institute of Taxation and co-founder of Connect Women in Pensions, a network that supoprts the importance of retirement planning for women.

Elaine Russell, Head of Women Returners in Ireland. Having spent over 20 years leading commercial teams in large multinationals. Elaine specialises in career coaching and supports women to rebuild their professional confidence, play to their strengths and successfully integrate work into their lives.

Our panel also includes industry experts in higher education, retraining, upskilling as well as actual returners, who have successfully navigated their way back to work.

Tickets for the event are free but limited, so please take a moment to book your place asap. Tickets can be booked here

Please share the event with any friends and family you think might benefit from attending.

Best,

Mary Mitchell O’Connor TD
Minister of State for Higher Education

 

Opening Address: Trinity College Dublin – THE NEW ACADEMIC TRACK FOR INTERNSHIPS

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor being greeted by the Provost Dr. Prendergast, Prof Hennessy and Prof Gill at the launch of the National Academic Track for Internship, TCD, Dublin. Photo: David Coleman

Distinguished Academics and HSE representatives. And to the new head of the Trinity School of Medicine, Prof Michael Gill.

I am truly delighted to be invited here this morning, to meet with you all as you embark on one of the most exciting developments in Irish medicine and innovation. And especially on the morning that this esteemed campus is named as one of the most beautiful on the planet! Congratulations!

As a mother, having lived, first hand, through the blood, sweat, tears and commitment that a trainee doctor needs to apply to their medical qualification I commend you all on your huge achievement – Being selected as the inaugural group of 24 junior doctors to undertake the first of its kind in Ireland, The Academic Track for Internship.

I know you started your programme in July and I hope you have settled in and are relishing the challenge that lies in front of you. This is the first step on your career path from academic intern to a consultant clinician scientist. Exciting.

On reading some of your testimonials where you recount your areas of research, I was inspired and heartened that the future of our healthcare system will benefit from your innovations and the discoveries your research will bring.

As the first class of the The Academic Track for Internship, it was inspiring to read that approximately a third of you expressed an interest in undertaking the innovative pathway. You will lead the charge in enabling Ireland to remain one of the top innovation nations in the world.

It is a great opportunity for all of you to gain valuable experience in either clinical research, further medical education or in leadership and healthcare management.

You, as the chosen 24 interns, will make valuable connections with clinical researchers, academic and healthcare leaders that might not have otherwise happened until much later in your career.

I am sure many of you would have sought our similar programmes in the UK or further afield, so I am delighted as the Minister for State with responsibility for Higher Education to be able to facilitate your academic career in Ireland. Retaining medical talent in Ireland helps us address the skills shortage in academic medicine. 

As you are aware, Health Research is critical in providing essential information to government and policymakers. Health research is an investment in our future and it ensures a better health system and a better health outcomes.

Health research provides us with the evidence to address key societal challenges – such as an ageing population and the increases in chronic diseases. Research activity attracts and retains high-quality health professionals in the system. With global shortages in all areas of medicine and patient care, we need a vibrant research-active system to attract and retain skilled personnel.

The HSE is investing €250,000 in this programme. NDTP hopes that the availability of the academic track internships in Ireland will contribute to the retention of medical graduates of Irish medical schools who have academic as well as clinical ambitions. Furthermore, this initiative provides an early and dedicated focus on research skills among doctors.

I sincerely hope that many of you will go on to undertake further and more sizeable academic research during your careers and work as academic clinicians and that we all will be reading about you and your medical advancements in the years to come.

Brexit is set to have a significant impact on higher education in Ireland and the long term effects of it on the research landscape both in Europe and Ireland are not yet clear. Every year a considerable number of Irish medical students leave the country on graduation.

I see this development within the School of Medicine in Trinity College Dublin as an advancement to mitigate against any negative effects of Brexit and undoubtedly will strengthen the opportunities for Medicine undergraduates and postgraduates.

It is imperative that the Government does everything within its power to ensure opportunities exist for our future academic clinicians that keeps Ireland at the forefront of medical innovations.

I believe the future of clinical research in the country will be in safe hands, your hands. Programmes such as this are the perfect way to harness your exceptional abilities to benefit all our inhabitants. I have no doubt that patients both here in Ireland, and globally will thank you for your dedication in years to come.

I want to reiterate Prof Martina Hennessey’s remark, you are the stars. Go forth and shine in the field of medicine. I wish you every success during your internship and look forward to hearing and reading about you in the future.

Thank you.

Speech at the opening of the 2017 Summer School in Celtic Studies

  A dhaoine uaisle. Tá an-áthas orm a bheith anseo inniu le Scoil Shamhraidh na hInsitiúide Ard Léinn a oscailt go foirmeálta. Cuireann sé gliondar orm daoine as gach cearn den domhan a fheiceáil cruinnithe anseo i lárionad domhanda an Léinn Cheiltigh lena gcuid eolais ar an ábhar seo a leathnú agus le blaiseadh de shaol agus de chultúr na hÉireann. Continue reading

Minister Mitchell O’Connor welcomes strong improvement in Ireland’s competitiveness performance

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor T.D., today (Thursday June 1st) welcomed the findings of the IMD’s 2017 Global Competitiveness Yearbook which shows that Ireland’s competitiveness ranking has improved by one place this year and Ireland is now the 6th most competitive economy as benchmarked by the IMD. Within the EU and Euro area Ireland is the second most competitive economy. This is Ireland’s best competitiveness ranking as benchmarked by the IMD, since 2000. Continue reading

Knowledge Development Box (Certification of Inventions) Act 2017 comes into force and now extends to SMEs

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor has announced the commencement of an Act for a certification scheme aimed at inventions developed by SMEs. The scheme comes within the Knowledge Development Box initiative announced in the Finance Act, 2015.

Announcing the scheme the Minister said “this is a good day for innovative SMEs involved in research and development that results in valuable Intellectual Property (IP) assets”.

Under the scheme, SMEs can apply to the Controller of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks for a certificate where they believe that their IP generated as a result of R&D is novel, non-obvious and useful. If granted, the certificate will allow the SME to apply the lower rate of corporation tax of 6.25% to profits arising from the intellectual property assets.

Evidence shows that investment in R&D increases economic productivity and fosters competitiveness and that firms with a persistent R&D strategy outperform those with an irregular or no R&D investment program.

Welcoming the scheme the Minister said “R&D can be very expensive and time consuming and not all R&D is successful. SMEs that invest in R&D will now be able to benefit from the lower rate of corporation tax if their IP meets the criteria of being novel, non-obvious and useful. I expect that the extension of the KDB to Irish SMEs will incentivise greater levels of R&D within the indigenous sector and that with greater levels of R&D, increased job creation will follow which is a key priority of mine.”

Welcoming the scheme, the Minister for Employment and Small Business, Mr Pat Breen TD, said “it places SMEs on a par with larger companies by making them for eligible for a lower rate of corporation tax on profits from their IP assets. I welcome this additional support and anticipate that it will encourage our indigenous SMEs to be more creative.

The Minister for Training, Skills and Innovation, John Halligan TD, said “Promoting innovation is a key focus for me in my role as Minister for Innovation and I believe this Act offers SMEs valuable opportunities to invest in greater levels of R&D”.

Pitney Bowes Invests in Dublin Creating 100 Jobs

Pitney Bowes Inc., a global technology company, has today announced plans to open a new Operations Centre in Dublin that will house a three-year multi-million euro R&D project focused on developing a next generation e-commerce and payments platform for global brands.

The new Operations Centre will comprise a Client Support Centre and Research & Design Centre, creating approximately 100 new jobs for technical support, customer support and e-commerce R&D professionals in the region over the next few years.

As global commerce continues to grow, the platform being developed at the Research & Design Centre in Dublin will create opportunities for merchants to reach consumers around the world and expand into new markets at speed.

The Client Support Centre is part of Pitney Bowes’ global strategy to deliver its clients the best support as more organisations, including 90 per cent of the Fortune 500, rely on its solutions and services to power global commerce. The technical support and customer support professionals will serve clients located in the UK, Ireland and Nordic regions.

Pitney Bowes’ investment in Dublin is supported by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation through IDA Ireland. Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mary Mitchell O’Connor said, “I’m delighted that Pitney Bowes are opening a new Operations Centre which will create 100 new jobs and are investing in a high value strategic R&D project. We in Government are working to make Ireland an attractive destination for global technology companies such as Pitney Bowes. Our economy is an open and business friendly one with a minimum of administrative hurdles. We strive to ensure that we have the requisite skills available to meet the needs of industry and this is paying off. I wish Pitney Bowes every success with their Client Support Centre and their R&D project.”

“Dublin’s rich mix of client services talent and language skills, combined with the excellent support that we’ve received from IDA Ireland make it a great place for us to locate our client support operation as well as our innovation team,” said Audrey Lynch, Director of Client Operations for Europe at Pitney Bowes Inc. “Our clients turn to us around the clock to power billions of transactions globally, and ensuring they receive the best account and technical support is a strategic priority for us. This new facility will help us deliver on our promise to clients in the UK, Ireland and Nordics.”

Martin Shanahan, CEO of IDA Ireland said: “Ireland’s diverse multilingual talent pool and pro-business infrastructure make Ireland the ideal destination for companies like Pitney Bowes. I am delighted that they have chosen to establish both a customer support centre and a high value R&D project in Ireland. I wish the company every success and offer the continued support of IDA Ireland in the future.”

Pitney Bowes currently operates in Dublin a Global Ecommerce centre, supporting cross-border retail for many of the world’s most iconic retailers and brands. The new Pitney Bowes Client Support Centre team will be located alongside their Global Ecommerce colleagues in Fitzwilliam Square West, Dublin and builds on the company’s continued investment in the region.

In 2016 Ireland’s economy grew by 5.2 per cent, outstripping all other Eurozone countries and nearly all official forecasts. A growing number of multinational companies are continuing to choose the region as a base for locating either their European hubs or regional customer support facilities.

Minister Mary Mitchell O’Connor welcomes continuing strong growth in employment

Almost 70,000 more people at work since this time last year

More than 3 out of every 4 new jobs created were outside Dublin

Unemployment falling in all regions

23rd May 2017

The Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Mary Mitchell O’Connor today (Tuesday) welcomed the latest Quarterly National Household Survey figures from the Central Statistics Office, showing that employment continues to increase strongly with 69,600 more people employed at the end of Q1 2017.

Importantly, there has been strong growth in the number of people full time employed while part time employment continues to fall.

The figures also show that there are now 2,063,900 people at work in Ireland.
This is the 19th quarter in succession where unemployment has declined.

The figures from the CSO today also show that unemployment continues to fall in all regions.

Employment grew in 11 out of 14 economic sectors – the largest annual increases were recorded in the industry sector (increase of 15,300 jobs), construction (increase of 10,900 jobs), and accommodation and food services (increase of 9,900 jobs)

Speaking today, Minister Mary Mitchell O’ Connor said: These figures are very positive and show that we are heading in the right direction towards full employment. The figures show that businesses right across the country are employing and that Government policies are working. It is very important for me to see the growth in employment is broad based, both sectorally and regionally. This is a key priority for me as every job that is created is transforming people’s lives.