Good morning everyone.
It’s a pleasure to be with you today for the official opening of your new offices here on Molesworth St. and to help mark an important milestone for Barclays in Ireland.
I want to thank Helen for the introduction, and Kevin for inviting me to share this important occasion with you.
In 1977, the year before you came to Ireland, this became the location of the Irish passport office, and it was a familiar place for countless Irish citizens over the decades.
I think the symbolism is appropriate. For years this represented the first port of call for Irish people wanting to engage with the world. Today it represents how the world is engaging with Ireland. Though business, through culture, through our shared ambitions on the world stage.
This year marks the fortieth anniversary of your arrival in Ireland.
You were ahead of the game when you came here, a decade before the birth of the IFSC. And you are ahead of the game once again.
Ireland was a very different place in 1978. Only 1.1 million people were at work. Unemployment was at 14%.
Today total employment is more than twice that - almost 2.3 million - the highest in the history of our state. Unemployment is at 5.3%. Our budget is balanced – Our national debt is falling as is household debt and all analysts predict further economic and employment growth in 2019.
Back in 1978, when others didn’t, you spotted Ireland’s potential. And by coming here you helped us to realise it.
Barclays has always invested in the future. Otherwise you would not have lasted from the seventeenth century to the twenty-first. The world’s first cash machines were yours, back in 1967.
And, throughout your history you have been innovative, forward looking, and ambitious.
Your decision to headquarter your European operations in Dublin is the next chapter of that same story.
Barclays will now be one of the biggest banks in Ireland, working off a balance sheet in the region of ¼ of a trillion euro.
A greatly expanded team of up to 400 here in this office will enable your work to grow and thrive right here in the centre of Dublin and a stone’s throw from our national parliament and Government buildings.
Thank you for your continuing confidence in Ireland.
I assure you it is recognised and will be rewarded.
Today 17 of the top 20 global banks are based in Ireland.
There are many reasons for this.
We educate high quality graduates through our universities and colleges.
And, the availability of skilled and experienced staff has been critical to our success.
We are at the heart of the European Union, founder members of the euro and the single market with more than 85% of voters supporting EU members.
We have a pro-business and pro-enterprise tax policy with cross party support.
We are progressive when it comes to legal and lawful migration.
We have a strong independent Central Bank.
So, we are creating a good environment for financial services to grow.
Approximately 7,000 new jobs net have been added in the financial services sector since 2015.
We will help create another 3,000 jobs over the next two years.
We want Ireland to become a global location of choice for international financial services here in Dublin and also in our other towns like Killorglin and Letterkenny to name but two good examples.
Today’s announcement shows we are on the way to achieving that ambition.
In terms of Government policy looking forward, our approach to this is based on six principles:
The first is prudent management of the public finances balancing the books and running a surplus in 2018 and 2019 and beyond, reducing our national debt, and establishing a Rainy Day Fund.
Second, we want to continue to raise living standards in a sustainable way for all our citizens.
Through Budget 2019, we have continued to reduce the tax burden on income thus rewarding work and we will do more in the year ahead.
The third principle is achieving full employment with good jobs, improving employment rights and ensuring access to a pension plan for everyone.
The fourth principle is reforming and modernising our public services. Better value for money for the tax-payer, for patients, for students, for families.
The fifth principle relates to our role internationally.
We see ourselves as an island at the centre of a connected and globalised world, committed to EU membership, the UN, free trade and free enterprise, peacekeeping and international development.
The sixth, and final principle is an ambitious programme for investment in infrastructure.
To build a better future, we have to plan for it and invest in it now.
Our Project Ireland 2040 Plan, now being implemented, provides for massive increases in investment in our public infrastructure – housing, transport, broadband, education and healthcare.
An investment of €116 billion over ten years to remove bottlenecks, modernise public services, reduce congestion, ensure economic development is brought to all parts of our country and provide capacity for future growth.
Capital spending on infrastructure budgeted to increase by 28% in 2019.
On Brexit, we are pleased that an agreement has been reached between the EU and UK negotiators on a Withdrawal Agreement and a Joint Political Declaration on the future relationship.
We profoundly regret that Brexit is taking place, but we respect the decision of the British people. Our commitment to our EU membership is stronger than ever.
Whatever happens, we will continue to offer multinational companies a unique gateway into the European Union and its single market – English speaking, pro-enterprise, politically stable.
Your investment is a good example.
To conclude, I would like to congratulate you all on your achievements to date.
I wish you well in your new premises and hope that your association with Ireland will continue to grow into the future.
Finally, it is an enormous privilege to declare the new offices of Barclay Bank Ireland officially open.