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Minister Martin announces Global Irish Economic Forum initiatives in Asia

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Micheál Martin, T.D. has announced funding of €135,000 towards a new Farmleigh Fellowship Programme. The programme will provide twenty-five Irish participants with an opportunity to work in Asia for four months, and to participate in a joint MSc degree in Asian Business Management from UCC and Nanyang Business School in Singapore. The project has been developed by a number of Singapore-based businesspeople who were present at the Global Irish Economic Forum, as a response to the emphasis expressed at Farmleigh on the need for Irish businesses to increase their knowledge of, access to, and participation in, Asian markets It is expected to commence in October 2010. Work is also ongoing on a separate initiative aimed at establishing an Overseas Graduate Placement Programme.

Speaking at the first meeting of the Asian-based members of the Global Irish Network at Expo Shanghai, the Minister welcomed the initiative as a further demonstration of the positive practical impact of last year's Forum. Minister Martin said that the project "provided an innovative model through which the next generation of Irish businesspeople can take advantage of the enormous opportunities that exist in Asia. I am deeply grateful to the members of the Network based in Singapore for taking forward the work begun at Farmleigh, and demonstrating how Ireland and its Diaspora can work productively together".

The Minister emphasised that "the success of the Global Irish Economic Forum has had a transformative impact on Ireland’s relationship with leading members of the Irish Diaspora. Extensive efforts have been taken by the Government and the private sector to advance the various initiatives that emerged from its deliberations, and to further enhance the practical connections between the Irish at home and abroad. The detailed Progress Report published published in March contains specific updates in respect of a wide range of initiatives that have been taken since the Forum in areas as diverse as innovation; greentech; Diaspora engagement; culture, financial services; tourism, energy and food. As part of this follow up process, the Government has also provided funding of $3.4 million for a landmark Irish Arts Centre in New York, and over $250,000 for the Irish Technology Leadership Group in Silicon Valley. Significant progress has also been made in the private sector towards the establishment of the Farmleigh Overseas Graduate Programme.

Evidence of the significant impact made by the Forum is not confined to the Progress Report. The broad economic policies that were advocated by many participants were reflected significantly in Budget 2010. The Farmleigh follow-up process has also assisted other work underway across Government, including the implementation of the Building Ireland’s Smart Economy strategy and the recommendations of the Innovation Task Force.

The establishment of the new Global Irish Network in February provides an important mechanism for building on the work begun at Farmleigh. The Network includes some of the most influential Irish and Irish-connected individuals abroad and provides Ireland with an invaluable resource of international expertise from which we can draw as we work towards our economic recovery. I am convinced that this direct access to key private-sector decision makers across the globe has the potential to deliver real, tangible economic benefits for the Irish at home and abroad.

Today's meeting in Shanghai follows successful meetings earlier this year in Britain, France, Germany and the UAE. Participants at these meetings have all underlined the galvanising effect the Global Irish Economic Forum has had on the leading members of our Diaspora. They have also stressed that, taken together with the difficult but necessary corrective steps the Government has taken to address our financial situation, the Network and the Forum have helped instil a greater sense of belief and optimism abroad that Ireland can overcome the current economic challenges. Network members have also reiterated the importance of Irish culture in the promotion of Ireland throughout the world. More broadly, I believe that since the Forum, a new and more widespread acceptance has emerged throughout the public and private sectors of the potential that exists within the relationship between Ireland and its Diaspora"

During his visit to Shanghai, the Minister also announced funding under the Emigrant Support Programme for Ireland-Japan Chamber of Commerce (c. €12,000); the Irish Network China (c. €1,100) and Le Chéile, Shanghai (c. €5,597).

Note for editors:

Led by Fred Combe and Gerry Creaner, both Farmleigh participants based in Singapore, the Farmleigh Fellowship Project is their response to the emphasis expressed at Farmleigh on the need for Irish businesses to increase their knowledge of, access to and participation in, Asian markets. The project will create a critical mass of Irish professionals with support from the Irish Diaspora who will significantly grow and develop a deeper business, educational and cultural understanding of Asia.

The pilot ‘Farmleigh Fellowship’ project provides 25 Irish participants with an opportunity to work over a 4 month period in appropriately selected "Farmleigh Companies" in Asia (primarily located in Singapore), to prepare an actionable Asian business strategy for each of their sponsoring companies and to participate in an MSc degree in Asian Business Management from UCC and Nanyang Business School in Singapore. The application notes that the entire process will be guided by and supported from within the local Irish business community in Singapore which is comprised of over 70 Irish owned companies - the largest concentration of Irish owned businesses in Asia, and over 1000 Irish business executives in key positions across the large multinational presence in Singapore. It is intended to begin with a ‘pilot’ of 25 participants in October 2010, and to provide a report on the project to the Department in the context of developing the capacity of Irish business to access the rapidly growing Asian market.