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Remarks by the Taoiseach Ireland France Business Awards

Thank you Richard for your introduction.  


Minister Ryan, Regional Presidents Hervé Morin and Loïg Chesnais-Girard, Ambassadors, distinguished guests, chers amis. 


I am delighted to join you in Paris this evening for the Ireland France Business Awards.  


Allow me to extend a special word of thanks to our hosts, Network Irlande, the France Ireland Chamber of Commerce and the main sponsor Kerry Group. 


You have brought together an impressive group of business leaders to recognise the outstanding contribution of the Irish and French business community to our shared prosperity.  


Seamus Heaney often spoke of the Irish ability to live in two places at one time, and in two times at one place.  


Many of you who live and work between Ireland and France experience this sense of both the near and far, and the exhilaration of moving between cultures and languages, which is part of the magic of the diversity of Europe.  


Tonight, we celebrate the deep personal and professional connections between our countries, and indeed the friendships that have been forged through work, business, and travel. 


It is a wonderful sign of the vibrancy of our trade relations that this is a sell-out event at Place Vendôme 


I understand that Richard is aiming for the Pyramid of the Louvre next time!  


France – Ireland relationship 

This time last year I also had the great pleasure of attending the corresponding event in Dublin.  


In my remarks then I noted that the ties between Ireland and France are going from strength to strength. 


I am delighted to say that this very much continues to be the case, that our connections are growing ever deeper, and they have never been stronger. 


As the names of the tables at this evening’s dinner illustrate, we have a long, illustrious, and sometimes daring and adventurous, history of relations with France.  


From missionaries to merchants, to revolutionaries and writers, Irish men and women have played their part in making History in many ways in France – History with a capital H, or in quieter ways, by leaving their mark on scholarship, the arts or sport.  


They have been trailblazers for generations of Irish people who have found themselves at home in France. It is a friendship that has endured and flourished over the centuries.  


Paradoxically, Brexit has brought us even closer together.  


We are connected by sea to the gateway regions of Brittany, Normandy and the Hauts-de-France whose representatives are with us this evening. 


As an exporting nation, ease of access to the rest of the Single Market and mainland Europe is an essential aspect of our economic model.  


The direct maritime links continue to prosper and we look forward to further expansion of tourism via these new connections.  


In September, we deepened our connections outside of Paris, putting down regional roots, through the opening of a Consulate General in Lyon to service the Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes and the wider South-East region of France.  


This opening represents an important investment by the Irish Government in our relations with France in this major industrial region.  


I would like to recognise the excellent work of our former Honorary Consul in Lyon, Mr Bruno Boccard who, for 14 years, represented Ireland with distinction, enthusiasm and loyalty. Bruno, I thank you for your service to Ireland.  


We have also expanded our regional focus through the opening of an Honorary Consulate in Brittany, situated in the port of Roscoff, with the appointment of Jean-Marc Roué who has long been a friend of Ireland through his role as President of Brittany Ferries.  


Indeed, this expansion in our relations is also reflected in the most recent trade figures. Irish companies are now more than ever looking to France as a mature market on their doorstep and French companies are sourcing new products in Ireland.  


In an uncertain world, this is a stable trade relationship that is growing at pace.  


In a snapshot:  

✓ Enterprise Ireland companies increased their exports to France by 17% last year. Irish companies now employ over 30,000 people across France.   

✓ Ireland is one of the top twenty investors globally in France, and France is the fourth largest source of foreign investment into Ireland.   

✓ Ireland is one of the ten most desirable tourist destinations for French visitors, and over 500,000 French and Irish tourists visit our countries each year.  

✓ France is Ireland’s largest export market globally for lamb and seafood, and its second largest export market globally for beef.  


Irish and French companies are global success stories in the agri-food sector, starting with Kerry Group, but of course others such as Pernod Ricard and Danone that are also here with us tonight.  


As the awards tonight will highlight, there are many world-class companies from both France and Ireland that are leading the way on innovation across the spectrum of economic activity.  


They are providing solutions to the many challenges we face today and help us to live and work more sustainably.  


None of this would be possible in the first instance without the hard work and drive of all of you in the business community that continue to push out the boundaries and create opportunity.  

Celtic Interconnector  

I was delighted to welcome President Macron to Dublin last year, where we both warmly welcomed publication of the Ireland-France Joint Plan of Action. 


In our meeting earlier today, we reviewed the wonderful progress achieved during the first year across a range of areas – research, culture, education and business.  


We discussed a major milestone in energy connectivity between our two countries: the signing of the contracts for the Celtic Interconnector here in Paris tomorrow.  


The Celtic Interconnector symbolises a new era of connectivity to Europe for Ireland.  


It will be our first electricity interconnector with mainland Europe, plugging Ireland directly into the European grid from my own home county of Cork to the Finistère in Brittany. 


The Celtic Interconnector will enhance our energy security and enable the export of renewable energy to the continent.  


It opens up new fields of strategic cooperation between our two countries as we both embark upon scaling-up our wind energy capacity off our Atlantic coastlines.  


At a time of such pressure on energy resources, this project is a practical example of cooperation that will have a real impact for our citizens.   


President Macron and I also discussed the energy crisis more broadly, and its impact on our economies, as well as the EU’s resolute response to Russia’s immoral war in Ukraine. 


I have no doubt that the war is having significant impacts on your businesses and on your employees, on your supply chains and on your customers.   


It is also giving rise to concerns about international competitiveness with our international trading partners. 


EU Leaders will continue to coordinate closely on our policy responses to the economic consequences of this terrible war. 


Protecting households and businesses is our priority, in particular the most vulnerable in our societies, while preserving the European Union’s global competitiveness and the integrity of our Single Market. 



As this audience will know well, the European Union traces its roots back to coal and steel cooperation in the aftermath of a brutal war. 


Ireland will celebrate 50 years of European Union membership in January.  


In my lifetime, European Union membership has been a catalyst of social and economic transformation in Ireland.  


Close reciprocal cooperation with our European partners has become a defining feature of Ireland’s emergence as a modern, open society and economy. 


EU Membership has also played a vital role in the journey towards peace and reconciliation on the island of Ireland. 


It is in times of crisis that we can see clearly that the European Union is one of the most sophisticated networks of global economic and political cooperation. 


Only by working together can we address the most significant challenges facing us, whether that be addressing the climate crisis or responding to the unprovoked war of aggression on Ukraine. 


Our attachment to the European project remains as strong as ever. 


New projects, such as the Celtic Interconnector, anchor us together in a brighter future in Europe.  


Thank you Ambassador Guérend for all your work to promote this relationship and la Francophonie in Ireland.  


I am grateful for the understanding and support that Ireland has received and continues to receive as the Commission works with the UK to implement the Northern Ireland Protocol.  


Finally, I’d like to commend our own Team Ireland in France – our Ambassador Niall Burgess and his colleagues at the Embassy and our state development agencies, Tourism Ireland, Bord Bia, Enterprise Ireland and IDA Ireland for their tireless work on behalf of Irish business in France.  


And of course, especially tonight, Network Irland President Richard, director Emer Shanley, and Board members for a very successful event.   


To conclude on a sporting note, I’d like to wish you all the best as we look forward to a successful, prosperous and competitive 2023! 


And may the best team win!  


Vive l’Irlande, vive la France, vive l’Europe 


Merci beaucoup.