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Sunday 21 October 2018

Martin sparks turf war with Coughlan over economy forum

Sam Smyth

A turf war has broken out between Foreign Affairs Minister Micheal Martin and Tanaiste Mary Coughlan over who is in charge of the Global Irish Economic Forum that takes place in Dublin later this month.

Mr Martin is presiding over the ambitious project, the brainchild of economist David McWilliams, in which 180 leading business figures from the Irish diaspora have been invited here to give their views on how to revive our ailing economy.

But it hasn't endeared him to Ms Coughlan, or won him any friends in her job-creating Department of Enterprise.

The Tanaiste is said to be miffed with Mr Martin, who will get all the glory for the forum on September 19 and 20, while she and the Department of Enterprise have been doing the donkey work.

However, Mr Martin denies there is any tension and says his department is responsible for the Irish abroad.


"The Department of Foreign Affairs is responsible for the global Irish family," he said at a press conference in Government Buildings yesterday.

The brightest and most successful of the Irish diaspora were head-hunted and asked to attend the Global Irish Economic Forum at Farmleigh, the Government guest house in Phoenix Park.

The invitees are what President John F Kennedy called "the quality of the Irish" and their mission will be to kick-start the stalled Irish economy.

Former Intel chief executive Dr Craig Barrett is only one of the many international heavy- hitters who accepted the personal invitation from Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

Bob Geldof; Moya Doherty producer of Riverdance; Dennis Swanson, the president of Fox Television in the US; Alan Joyce CEO of Quantas; and Brendan McDonagh, CEO of HSBC North America, have all accepted invitations.

Etihad Airways chief executive James Hogan and Gerald Lawless, of the Jumeirah luxury hotel group, Loreto Brennan-Glucksman, chairwoman of the American-Ireland Fund, and the US Ambassador Dan Rooney have also agreed to attend.

At his press conference yesterday, the minister explained that the project does involve job creation, usually the responsibility of the Department of Enterprise where he served before moving to foreign affairs and the Tanaiste is now in charge.

"My department is working closely with other departments and the relevant state agencies," said Mr Martin.

"The programme has been designed to maximise the sharing of ideas and engagement between participants, while facilitating concrete outcomes."

Mr Martin spoke of how financial services were the jobs attracted 20 years ago and that now we need to attract "green" jobs to Ireland.

However Tanaiste Mary Coughlan will host a dinner in Dublin Castle and President Mary McAleese will invite those taking part in the forum to a special reception at Aras an Uachtrain.

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