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IBIS / BRITISH EMBASSY ROUNDTABLE DISCUSSION

North-South Business Relations: What Does and Doesn't Work

Royal Irish Academy
Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Speakers at North-South business roundtable were (l-r): Sean O'Driscoll, Denis Rooney, Tim O'Connor, Jennifer Todd, HE Julian King, Senator Feargal Quinn, Lord Maginnis and Stephen Kingon

Speakers at North-South business roundtable were (l-r): Sean O'Driscoll, Denis Rooney, Tim O'Connor, Jennifer Todd, HE Julian King, Senator Feargal Quinn, Lord Maginnis and Stephen Kingon

On Wednesday, 10 February 2010, IBIS, in association with the British Embassy Dublin, hosted a roundtable discussion on 'North-South business relations: what does and doesn't work' at the Royal Irish Academy.

Cross-border co-operation has tended to be the preserve of the Belfast-Dublin corridor.  ‘If it is to be meaningful, we need to hear Ballymena accents in Clare and Cork accents in Coleraine’. This was the message that Tim O’Connor, Secretary General at the Office of the President, delivered while chairing a seminar in the Royal Irish Academy on 10 February. The seminar was co-sponsored by the Institute for British-Irish Studies (IBIS), UCD and the British Embassy Dublin, and featured a roundtable discussion with leaders and CEOs from the state and state agency sectors, as well as, leading figures from the political and academic fields.

Speakers included: John Coakley (UCD); Stephen Kingon (Invest Northern Ireland); Lord Maginnis of Drumglass (Ulster Unionist Party); Sean O’Driscoll (Glen Dimplex Group); Senator Feargal Quinn; Denis Rooney(International Fund for Ireland) and the evening closed with a speech by HE Julian King, British Ambassador.


To listen to a podcast of the event, click on the audio links below.

Opening Speeches

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Roundtable Discussion

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Q&A and Closing Comments

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To download a transcript of the roundtable, click here

Speaking from 37 years in the public service, dealing primarily with Northern Ireland and North South issues, Tim O'Connor introduced the evening with the idea that there is a need to drive forward cross border business cooperation not just between Dublin and Belfast but between all parts of the country. Despite the efforts of trailblazers such as Sir George Quigley and exceptions such as Glen Dimplex who 'swam against the tide', more people with different accents need to be encouraged into the North-South space.

Stephen Kingon spoke at length about innovation and the need to promote the indigenous SME sector to international competitiveness. The agenda of cross border cooperation needs to be widened and it is his view that cross border cooperation is a ‘2+2 =5’ proposition.  

Denis Rooney again focused on competitiveness and mentioned the need for ‘parity in legislation’, particularly in employment legislation to help combat the ‘costly irritants’ of running a north-south business.  As a successful businessman and member of Seanad Eireann, Senator Fergal Quinn, added his own perspective: every time we pass a piece of legislation that is different from that in the North we are creating barriers, making it less easy to work together. He also noted the need for greater inclusiveness: buying ‘Irish’ means goods from the whole island.

Other themes that were discussed throughout the night were: Education and the need for educational authorities to recognise cross border qualifications when setting admission standards at Third Level; Tourism, tourist leaders need to ‘tackle the month of July’ and make participation festive and tourist friendly. The Ulster-Scots dimension needs to be marketed and sold abroad. Culture was mentioned not just in this context but in the sense that the richness of Irish Culture has incredible currency and offers tremendous opportunities that should be capitalized on.

Lord Maginnis of Drumglass commented on the need to overcome the stratification between the cross-border cooperation promoted by business and in sport and the stalemate in the present executive.

During his closing address, Ambassador King stated that: ‘The British Embassy in Dublin has “an open door” to facilitate Irish firms and Northern Irish firms in cross-border, East West and international contacts’.

The seminar included much debate from the floor, a testament to the stimulating thoughts and ideas that the speakers offered.

Roundtable Programme  Speakers and Chair 
Pre-Registered Attendees Roundtable Transcript

Organised by the Institute for British-Irish Studies (IBIS) and the British Embassy Dublin.  In the context of the ‘Breaking Patterns of Conflict’ research project, funded by the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences (IRCHSS). With support from InterTradeIreland, Universities Ireland and the Dept of Foreign Affairs’ Reconciliation Fund.