While the Irish diplomatic corps will “take another look” at establishing consulate in Atlanta, Ireland’s consul general in New York said he isn’t wasting any time in bolstering already strong ties between the Georgia capital and the republic.
Niall Burgess, who became top representative of the Irish government in New York last year, told members of the Ireland Chamber of Commerce United States, Atlanta Chapter that he hopes to make monthly visits to Georgia to maintain what has been shown by top government officials to be a high-priority relationship.
Irish President Mary McAleese’s visit to Atlanta last spring and Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue’s subsequent trade mission to Ireland underscored the importance of Ireland’s economic ties with Georgia and the Southeast, Mr. Burgess said to a luncheon audience at the World Trade Center Atlanta.
“My priority is to spend less time in New York and more time in Atlanta so that I can learn more about it,” Mr. Burgess said, responding to a question about what it will take to get an Atlanta consulate to supplement those in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington.
In their respective regions, Georgia and Ireland are among the fastest-growing economies, and both depend on knowledge and innovation for success, Mr. Burgess said.
“So we ought to be talking to each other,” Mr. Burgess told GlobalAtlanta, citing Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co.’s strong Ireland operation and the Georgia Institute of Technology’s research institute in Athlone County as evidence that the a healthy conversation is ongoing.
Among the many topics Mr. Burgess addressed in his remarks, he particularly emphasized promoting education and workforce training among young people as methods of ensuring that Ireland and Georgia retain their status as dynamic economies.
Ireland’s economy has traditionally suffered from emigration, with ambitious youths taking jobs or pursuing education abroad. Ireland has begun to reverse this “brain drain,” he said.
Now, about 13 percent of Ireland’s population is made up of immigrants, and the country’s economic ascension as the “Celtic Tiger” is partly the result of the pro-business bent that business-savvy youths have brought back to the homeland from America.
But there is yet much work to be done, which is why Georgia Tech’s research campus in Ireland is so important to both regions.
“The key issues for all of us is how you maintain the flow of young people at that crucial age,” he said, noting that the Ireland and Georgia economies face the similar challenge of staying competitive in an increasingly global economy.
As a diaspora, the Irish community around the world has the cultural know-how to gain a competitive advantage in the global economy, which is a reason Mr. Burgess is keen to match a diverse Irish community in Ireland with the one in Georgia.
Asked to what extent a potential American recession would hurt the Irish economy, he said that any downturn in the vast U.S. economy would have a far-reaching ripple effect across the globe.
The housing slump in the U.S. has been mirrored in Ireland, but he said that neither case was a sign of impending doom for the economy at large. Slight setbacks are sometimes necessary in market economies; the key is building long-term growth, something Mr. Burgess hopes Ireland’s relationship with Georgia will foster.