Recently I was in Ireland to speak at the Dublin Chamber’s annual dinner. Driving from the airport into downtown Dublin, I spotted a sign affixed to the front of a pub called Doyle’s. In big letters, the sign proclaims “A good time is coming, be it ever so far away.” I think that sums up the Irish spirit pretty well: the old cliché is that pessimism is simply part of being Irish; and after the past five years, it’s understandable to wonder just how far away those good times may be.
Certainly the business leaders at the Chamber dinner realize that Ireland still faces significant challenges as it charts its post-bailout future. But in my remarks that night, I outlined the many reasons Ireland has for optimism.
Before joining Bloomberg L.P., I served as deputy mayor for economic development for the City of New York. I began that job just weeks after the city’s most pessimistic moment in history — the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001. The story of New York’s physical and emotional wounds is well known; but 9/11 left us economically battered as well. Businesses and residents began to flee, tourism dried up, and huge budget deficits threatened our quality of life. We had to develop a plan — quickly — that would not only rebuild the city, but in many ways reinvent it. In doing so, we developed three core insights:
- Always keep investing
- Radical self-awareness
- Never stop thinking big
When I reflect on the work we did to rebuild New York and the steps Ireland has taken in recent years, I can’t help but see a number of similarities.
In New York, our determination to keep investing through hard times allowed us to, among other things, bring the crime rate to an all-time low, implement the world’s leading environmental sustainability plan, and diversify our economy to be less dependent on the finance sector.
Ireland’s determination to keep investing in the things that really matter has allowed it to preserve its business-friendly advantage, maintain one of the world’s most educated and talented workforces, and nurture a growing domestic tech sector. Ireland is increasingly becoming a place not just as a place for global companies to locate — but also where Irish entrepreneurs are innovating, creating jobs and exporting ideas to the world.
In New York, when we took a hard look at our strengths and weaknesses, we realized that nostalgia for the glory days of manufacturing was holding us back from developing our waterfront for decades. So we focused on building to new strengths, including film and television production, life sciences and, most recently, technology.
Ireland has also shown remarkable self-awareness. A great example of this is the Global Economic Forum, in which senior business leaders of Irish descent from around the world are invited to present their views on what Ireland is doing right…and wrong.
And just like we did in New York, Ireland kept thinking big, not just about the next quarter or budget, but about the next decade and generation. Two of these decisions immediately come to mind: establishing NAMA, which fundamentally altered the trajectory of Ireland’s economy and helped get markets functioning again, and rescheduling tens of billions of bank debt in February, which confounded the skeptics and showed that Ireland is willing to do what it takes to move forward.
Obviously, these and other difficult decisions have been controversial, and we may not know the extent of their success for quite some time. That’s often true for big ideas. It’s difficult to look beyond the short-term numbers right in front of us and give decisions time to play out, but Ireland deserves enormous credit for having the courage to make them.
Even if the signs of recovery aren’t fully apparent yet to the Irish people in their daily lives, the world is beginning to take notice. Financial markets are pricing Irish debt at the lowest rates in years; companies like Bloomberg are continuing to locate in Dublin and hire more high-skilled Irish workers; people from all over the world are moving back to Ireland looking for opportunity; and investors are starting to inject capital into the country’s real estate market.
As a leading global provider of essential news and information for financial professionals, our company is constantly analyzing the health and investment opportunity of various sectors, asset classes and industries. Looking at Ireland through a similar lens, it’s hard to not see it as a great long-term investment.
That’s why I think this is a great time to start feeling good about Ireland again.
Contributed by Dan Doctoroff, Chief Executive Officer and President of Bloomberg L.P.