Business group Dublin Chamber has called on the Government to expedite delivery of key transport projects to support the economic recovery of the capital city.
Speaking to a sold-out audience at the Chamber’s AGM Dinner this evening, Chamber President Vincent Harrison, who is Managing Director of Dublin Airport, told attendees that MetroLink and the DART+ Programme must be progressed without delay. These and other public transport projects are vital to support housing delivery and enable Dublin’s future growth. Vincent Harrison’s speech also touched on the need for energy security, the changing world of work, and the ongoing value of in-person relationships to business.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin later delivered his own address to the 450 business leaders attending Dublin Chamber’s first gala dinner in two years.
Vincent Harrison also condemned the Russian military invasion of the sovereign state of Ukraine. The Board of Dublin Chamber recently met with Her Excellency Ms. Larysa Gerasko, the Ambassador of Ukraine to Ireland, to discuss how Dublin Chamber could support her country.
Below is a copy of Vincent Harrison’s speech.
President’s AGM Speech 2022
Thank you, Mary Rose. This is the Chamber’s first gala dinner in over two years. It’s great to be back and to see you all again beyond the confines of the computer screen. There is nothing like real, in-person connection. As we gather once more with friends and family, it is equally important to reaffirm our connections with business, colleagues, and customers in Ireland and abroad.
It is my pleasure to address you this evening for the first time as the 133rd President of Dublin Chamber since its foundation in 1783.
New World of Work
Ireland is finally emerging from the pandemic.
Taoiseach, could I just acknowledge the job that Government has done in sustaining many businesses and employment through the last 2 years. You have had to respond to the many twists and turns Covid has taken us through, and we appreciate you taking on board our members’ concerns throughout the crisis.
In the last 2 years we’ve learned a lot. The workplace has changed. Hybrid and flexible working is now a norm for many businesses. There will be no one-size-fits-all. Each business has its own needs and will need to interact with staff and customers in different ways… and we need to respect that.
But, one thing is clear – the office is not dead. Instead, its role is changing. For the most part, the office will be about collaboration and interaction not just sitting, working at a desk. It’s about learning and innovating and finding the best way of putting heads together. Direct human connection is crucial to business, and our urban centres are as important to business life as they always were.
Rejuvenation of our Cities
The move towards cities continues. Cities are the engines of economic growth and recovery – and, for Ireland, Dublin in particular. Dublin is responsible for 900,000 jobs and 40% of GDP. Cities are hubs of culture, connectivity and sustainability. Government policy must support urban growth and invest in it ambitiously to improve the quality of life for its people.
Cities will also play a critical role in protecting the planet. Cities inherently offer opportunities for more sustainable ways of living, from the use of public transport to the ability to effectively and efficiently deliver public services. They provide opportunities for meaningful climate action, whether that be through green buildings, efficient supplies of clean water and renewable energy, or sustainable transport systems.
This is a major transition, and it is vital that Ireland gets it right. In recent years, the Chamber has led the way in facilitating a network of firms that are committed to carbon reduction, including through our Sustainability Academy, which is enabling smaller firms to make the change to a more sustainable future.
We all need to rethink urban recovery. We have a singular opportunity to reframe how cities will work in the future. Cities must be honed to truly serve the people who live, work, learn in and visit them.
A new plan is needed to reenergise the city centre in particular, which has lain dormant for the past two years. This year, Dubliners are to be given the chance to consider how best the city should be run. From Dublin Chamber’s perspective, it’s about delegating the right power and responsibility for the job, whether that rests with a directly elected mayor or with a member of cabinet. If we cannot provide these powers at the county level, then why not a Minister for Dublin? We already have a Minister for Rural Affairs.
Housing, remains the dominant challenge for the city. This afternoon, Council members met with the Minister for Housing, Darragh O’Brien, to discuss this issue. There are no quick fixes here, it’s a big issue and requires a holistic response – whether that’s mixed use, reutilisation of vacant properties including retail in city centre, urban densities or brownfield rejuvenation. Time and time again, the question of vacant properties arises. Dublin needs to avail of underutilised spaces in more effective and productive ways.
The planning process needs to be reconfigured as an enabler rather than a mechanism for delay. Its objectives should be about finding a way to ensure that we can meet the needs of our citizens, deliver economic growth and the sustainability of indigenous and foreign direct investment.
Our country needs the economic and financial support of a successful Dublin, and much hinges on the delivery of vital infrastructure, whether that’s MetroLink, the DART programme, or progress on the seemingly precarious nature of Dublin’s water supply and energy security. There are transformative public transport projects in the pipeline, but we all know how long major infrastructure projects can take in Ireland. The pace of delivery will be key.
These deliverables, together with the integration of our proposal for a 15 minute city into local authority development plans, will underpin the future development of the city for decades to come and will enable a much-needed increase in the supply of housing in the region.
Renewing the arts and cultural scene will be key to protecting Dublin’s character and its economic and social vitality in the long-term. We need ambitious plans to support the arts and cultural life of the city. It has been great to see the return of tourists to Dublin in recent months and, in an increasingly competitive environment, it is heartening to see that Dublin has been shortlisted for the title of European Capital of Smart Tourism.
The vitality of the Irish economy – whether in tourism, trade, or investment – necessitates that Ireland maintains its 2-way connection with the rest of the world. As an island, connections by air and sea are essential. Connectivity remains our watchword, and it is the intensification of that connectivity that has driven the growth in living standards and opportunity for all.
This year marks 50 years since Ireland voted to join the European Union. Dublin Chamber were at the heart of the negotiations with Brussels, as many of you will know.
Ireland’s success over the past half century has been driven by its integration into the European network and by the strength of its connections. In the global world, we talk about access to markets and client and customer relationships. Just as the new hybrid world of work will be both online and involve collaboration in person, so too, will our international relations. Whilst online meetings were essential during Covid, the value of in person relationships and international travel in our open economy cannot be overstated. At the heart of this is the necessity to maintain travel networks. For this reason, the extent and frequency of Ireland’s network of air travel remains of paramount importance.
Before I conclude, I want to acknowledge the horrific war that is currently unfolding within Europe. Dublin Chamber condemns Russia’s military invasion of the sovereign state of Ukraine, and acknowledges that passively bearing witness to these events is not an option, on an individual, organisational, or societal level. It is important that we act through the means available to us, no matter how great or small. I know that businesses in Ireland are keen to play as strong a role as they possibly can.
Dublin businesses have been through many turbulent times of which the pandemic is the most recent in our memory. Time and time again we’ve proven how adaptable our people and our businesses are. We can be confident that we, together, will re-establish the vibrancy of our city in a sustainable way. At the heart of this will be maintaining our connections. I’d like to thank you all for staying in touch with the Chamber over the last two years and to encourage you to redouble your efforts to renew and reinvigorate your connection with us and your fellow business colleagues at Chamber events.
In reviewing the past two years, I must acknowledge the superb work of our outgoing President Catherine Moroney, Head of Business Banking at AIB, who expertly steered the Chamber through the turbulent waters of the past two years, all the while leading our renewed focus on ESG. Thank you Catherine.
There’s a big agenda here, and Dublin Chamber has a finger on the pulse of businesses large and small in our community. Taoiseach, we’re here to help in any way we can. The Chamber is at your service.
Photo taken by Conor McCabe Photography.