Chamber News

Brendan Foster Speech from Annual Dinner 2017

Oct 04, 2017

Ambassadors, Lord Mayor Micheál Mac Donnchadh, members of the Chamber, and our invited guests, you are all very welcome to this evening’s Dublin Chamber Annual Dinner. 

I would like to extend a particular Irish welcome – a céad míle fáilte – to our honoured guest, Nicola Sturgeon, the First Minister of Scotland. And I very much look forward to hearing from you later on this evening.

I would also like to extend a warm welcome on the return of our special guests, Sam Maguire and Brendan Martin – and to Jim Gavin and Mick Bohan, the managers of the ladies and gentlemen’s senior football teams. Congratulations on your amazing achievements.

Earlier this year, when I became the 129th President of Dublin Chamber, I had occasion to visit the resting place of Arthur Guinness in a small country churchyard in County Kildare. Arthur Guinness was one of our former Presidents. When I was there, I reflected on some of the great family names and some of the great businesses associated with the Chamber over our proud 234-year history. 

Great names such as the Jamesons, the Easons, the Shackletons, the Beltons and the Dockrells. And in more recent times Presidents such as Mary Finan, the first female President, and the great Eugene McCague, who presided over this event on many occasions in the past. I wish Eugene well in his retirement from Arthur Cox. And more recently, Patrick Coveney of Greencore, an Irish company that is one of the biggest players in the UK market.

All these names made me reflect on our deep-rooted relationship with Britain; not just the economic and trading ties that we have enjoyed over the past 234 years, but also the deep family and cultural ties that we have.

As we move forward in a post-Brexit world, and redefine and recast our relationship with Britain and its regions, we cannot lose sight of the economic ties that we have, notwithstanding the UK Government’s choice to leave the European Union.

One year on from last year’s Annual Dinner, we are facing many uncertainties around the world which may impact on the Irish economy and on Dublin in particular.

After years of certainty about US investment in Ireland, the result of the US Presidential Election has cast a doubt about the future of that flow of investment into Ireland. 

As Brexit negotiations advance, the invisible border which we have come to expect to across this island, now seems less certain than in the past.

And what of the turmoil across Europe – with elections in France, Germany, and other places; with a vote for separation in Catalonia; and with the rise of extremist parties? What will be the impact of these changes on these countries, on their involvement in the European Union, and on the European Union itself?

In an uncertain world, we must face the hard truth that Ireland is demographically insignificant on the global stage. And we are geographically on the periphery of the European Union.

Ireland has shown great resilience in the past, and will continue to be resilient. But we cannot afford to be complacent. As we face these uncertain waters, we must chart our own course. We must steer clear of the icebergs, and remember that Dublin is the engine room of the economy. To quote the Shackleton family motto: ‘By endurance we conquer.’ And we will endure.

But we have to think about what needs to be done for Dublin in a volatile world economy dominated by cities. How will Dublin stay relevant and competitive?

Dublin needs to be a city of scale.

Dublin needs to be a city that works.

Dublin needs to be a city that welcomes.


If Dublin is to be a city of scale, we must embrace urbanisation as a fact of life.

Urbanisation is a global trend. We have spent too long in this country fighting against this trend as opposed to working with it. We should face the reality of what needs to happen, and focus on getting it right.

After all, it is now global cities that compete for talent and investment; and no longer just countries themselves. So to remain competitive, Ireland needs to have a city that really matters on the world stage. And let’s be honest. In this country there is only one candidate for that role. 

Dublin is critical to Irish prosperity and quality of life for all of our citizens. And in this context, it is vital that the new National Planning Framework supports the growth of the Dublin region, and supports other city regions. Dublin has to be at the centre of that plan.

But if we are looking for a city of scale, frankly, we need to bite the bullet on height and density, while engaging sensibly to address the needs of this city and county.

We all know the scale of the housing challenge. It is with us every day. Dublin Chamber is very active, and will continue to be active, in playing its part to promote real solutions. Not just talking about the problems, but facing up to the things needed to solve those problems.

We need joined-up thinking, not just in housing. We need joined-up thinking between housing and the infrastructure needed to support future development.

Last year, in 2016, we started the Vision 2050 project. We started a mass-conversation about the future of Dublin. And during the summer this year, we launched The Great Dublin Survey, where we engaged with some 20,000 people, asking them about their wants, their needs, and their hopes for the coming generations.

The Survey was fascinating. As you would expect when you ask Dublin people their opinions, we got many colourful responses, and many wacky responses, and some that are unrepeatable. 

But the underlying sentiment, the underlying trend that came through in the survey is that what people really want above all, are the simple things in life. They want decent housing, at a reasonable location from where they work. They want good public transport and clean urban spaces. After all, life is short. People want to spend more time with their family and at leisure, in a city that works, and spend less time in traffic.

Today, however, we are far off meeting these goals. And we have a long, long way to go.


To keep Ireland on the map, we don’t just need a city of scale. We need a city that works, with world-class infrastructure at the same high standard that we can expect in other great European cities. So it is time we get serious about capital investment in our capital city.

Let’s be honest. Let’s acknowledge the fact that Dublin does not receive its fair share of capital expenditure in this country. It receives back less than it contributes, less than it needs, and less than it deserves. It is time to change this now.

We need a new approach to infrastructure spending in this country, based on long-term planning, joined-up thinking, and clear cost-benefit analysis. The new National Investment Plan will be an important opportunity to get it right this time.

Government should share national resources in a way that respects and reflects where Irish people live and where the greatest needs are. That is in the Dublin region and in the other city regions of the country.

We need to talk about the infrastructure projects that the city badly needs. We can no longer put up with constant deferment and delay on these projects.

We need to get on with securing our capital city’s water supply, and make sure that the Eastern & Midlands Water Supply Project gets up and running quickly.

And where are the two great transport infrastructure projects that we have been talking about for decades?

Where is Metro North? Where is DART Underground?  These are Dublin projects, but they will have a national impact. Metro North will connect the national capital with the national airport. DART Underground will unify Ireland’s national rail network. All of Ireland will benefit. 

These projects have been talked about for long enough. The time for action is now.


So Dublin needs to be a city of scale, and a city that works. But it also needs to be a city that welcomes.

Ireland’s 12.5% corporate tax rate is one of the fundamental cornerstones of our global brand. However, that competitive edge is under threat from other nations who are moving into our space. So the Government cannot afford to be complacent.

We need to enhance our business offering in other ways, to ensure that this city is a place that attracts entrepreneurs, investment, and talent from around the world. We also need to secure and retain indigenous talent in this country.

We in Dublin Chamber are always talking with Government. And our recent pre-Budget submission calls for an ambitious package of policies to support business, promote entrepreneurship, and reward key employees.

We are very hopeful that we will see results when Budget 2018 is announced next week.

Now, more than ever, we need to keep Dublin on the map as a welcoming city.


A City of Scale… A City that Works… A City that Welcomes… is a city that matters, a living city!

These are Ireland’s needs. And they are the principles inspiring Dublin Chamber’s vision of the future. What a future we could have!

And what a year we have had! We have a new brand, a new logo, and a new vision. I would like to compliment and thank our CEO Mary Rose Burke for the energy and enthusiasm she has brought to her first year in office, together with her team. The Chamber is a vibrant and dynamic organisation. It is an exciting place to be, as we forge ahead with our new vision. 

This week, the Chamber released its Vision 2050 document. It’s an exciting document that presents the findings of the Great Dublin Survey, and explores the issues that will face us in the years ahead, asking how people will experience daily life, leisure, work, and travel in the Dublin of 2050. 

The children of some of the Chamber staff joined us for the launch of The Great Dublin Survey. You will have seen their pictures in the press and this evening you will see them on the walls. And here they are: Sam McQueen, Hannah and Michael Lyons, Tommy and Liam Cullen. And the girl in the blue dress, showing off like her father, is my daughter Rose.

I ask myself: What will these children and their peers think of us when they look back as adults? 

Will they look back at us and say: ‘They made the right choices’? 

Will they look back at us and say: ‘They had a plan, and they followed through on that plan.’? ‘Did they make a real difference?’ 

That’s what Vision 2050 is all about. Before I conclude, I would like to take a moment to share a glimpse of Dublin in 2050: 




‘Take me there…’ 

I’m sure the young Dublin poet speaks for all of us with those words.

‘A bright future beckons for those who work for it… our destiny is in our own hands…’

The people who can make this vision a reality are in this room. It is us, the business community. It is the national and local politicians. It is the civic and public servants. It is the citizens of Dublin and Ireland.

Dublin Chamber will continue to stoke the engine of the ship as we chart the waters together.

As we say in the Chamber – Dublin is our business.

Thank you very much! And enjoy the rest of your evening.

- ENDS -

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