Thursday 24 October 2019

Crises fail to dampen spirits as SIMI women say: 'When we're out, we're out'

Great event: (left to right) SIMI president Gabriel Keane, guest speaker Alison Comyn, Breege O’Donoghue, former Primark board member, and MC Mary Kennedy
Great event: (left to right) SIMI president Gabriel Keane, guest speaker Alison Comyn, Breege O’Donoghue, former Primark board member, and MC Mary Kennedy
Eddie Cunningham shares a joke with Mary Kennedy
The legendary Rosemary Smith
Eddie Cunningham

Eddie Cunningham

Every year, as you probably know, women who work in the motor industry gather to celebrate a special day out.

Women@SIMI is always a great event.

It's a 'day out' to catch up with the latest, renew old, and make new friends.

I was privileged to be invited to attend again this year - the sixth since the event began.

Eddie Cunningham shares a joke with Mary Kennedy
Eddie Cunningham shares a joke with Mary Kennedy

It's great meeting so many people from so many different areas of the industry.

This year set a new record, with more than 160 making the trip to the Clayton Hotel, Ballsbridge.

Above all, I always enjoy the motivational speeches from invited personalities.

Frankly, this year's conference, held on Friday, could have been a dull, tentative affair considering the fearsome challenges facing the industry.

That trepidation was reflected and acknowledged, of course.

But there was something about this convergence that generated a defiant "we're going to enjoy ourselves" tone for the afternoon, too.

The legendary Rosemary Smith
The legendary Rosemary Smith

Master of Ceremonies Mary Kennedy caught the mood early when she proclaimed: "When we're out, we're out."

Yes, there were conversations around Brexit and used imports and diesel and nearly anything else you care to mention.

But the guests were there to enjoy themselves, too.

It was an example of how good people can be in keeping life and business in perspective. That, in itself, was a lesson.

Breege O'Donoghue is well known for her work across a broad spectrum.

She was, among other things, a board member of Primark.

Her no-nonsense guest-speaker slot would lift your spirits if only to witness the energy and conviction of her beliefs.

I identified with her: growing up on a farm, milking cows by hand, going to boarding school. It all shaped her for a long and successful career in many arenas.

Her self-deprecating, no-nonsense manner was epitomised by her claim that her attire cost €20 while "what you can't see" cost €10.

Her advice on leadership - and after all, she was talking to many leaders or aspiring leaders - was simple but delivered with conviction.

Leaders need to be true to themselves and appreciate the need to recognise, respect and value differences, she told us.

She warned against falling into the trap of being "clouded in power and status".

Alison Comyn, Ifta-winning journalist and broadcaster, gave insight into the world of media over the past 25 years of extraordinary change - as we all know.

Despite the difficulties faced by journalism today, she insisted it is still a "worthwhile and necessary job".

'Fake news' is "possibly the worst phrase we will ever hear in our lifetime", she claimed. Alison's advice to the audience was that there is no such word as "can't".

She urged them to "always be as true to yourself as you possibly can; don't be afraid to take chances. If the opportunities are there, grab them with both hands and take them.

"If the opportunities aren't there, make them for yourself."

SIMI president Gabriel Keane said: "While there are many challenges currently facing our industry, we must not lose sight of the contribution made by the 47,300 people who work in it who 'continue to keep Ireland moving'."

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