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Economist rallies our exiles in push for recovery

ECONOMIST David McWilliams has emerged as the inspiration for the forthcoming global gathering of leading business people from the Irish diaspora.

A copy of the 164-strong guest list for the Global Irish Economic Forum in Farmleigh House in Dublin shows that 150 business leaders with Irish roots have agreed to attend at their own expense from all over the world.

They include former Intel chief executive Dr Craig Barrett, Qantas airlines CEO Alan Joyce, HSBC North America banking chief executive Brendan McDonagh and Thomson Reuters media firm deputy chairman Niall Fitzgerald.

Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin last night confirmed that Irish Independent columnist David McWilliams had personally approached him last year about setting up a conference similar to the World Economic Forum in Davos.

"He was anxious that we would develop something similar in Ireland and he certainly deserves credit for that. We were happy to run with it," he said.

The aim of the three-day event, from September 18 to September 20, is to tap into the business expertise of the Irish diaspora and to generate ideas to stimulate the country's economic recovery.

Mr Martin said that while the conference would not solve the nation's problems overnight, it could make a valuable contribution to its economic recovery.

The Department of Foreign Affairs began a worldwide trawl to select some of the most influential and successful members of the Irish diaspora.

Letter

It asked all its ambassadors to come up with names and also took suggestions from the native Irish business community and multi-national companies. Taoiseach Brian Cowen sent a personal letter to all of the invited business people, urging them to remember their Irish roots and to turn up to show that Ireland was open for business.

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Mr Martin said there had been more than 150 business people confirmed, with another 20 expected to accept. He confirmed they were paying their own way, saying it showed the support Ireland continued to receive from its people abroad. But the business people will receive one significant reward -- a trip to see the All Ireland football final in Croke Park that weekend.


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