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We've done it before - we can do it again

Martin Shanahan


The virus has been an impetus for change in Irish industry, writes Martin Shanahan

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'Just as our clients have had to alter their ways of working, so too did IDA. We adapted to our homes becoming our workplaces and became acquainted with a myriad of video-conferencing platforms. FDI companies and local enterprises were innovating overnight to do the seemingly impossible.' Photo: PA

'Just as our clients have had to alter their ways of working, so too did IDA. We adapted to our homes becoming our workplaces and became acquainted with a myriad of video-conferencing platforms. FDI companies and local enterprises were innovating overnight to do the seemingly impossible.' Photo: PA

'Just as our clients have had to alter their ways of working, so too did IDA. We adapted to our homes becoming our workplaces and became acquainted with a myriad of video-conferencing platforms. FDI companies and local enterprises were innovating overnight to do the seemingly impossible.' Photo: PA

"We have not witnessed a pandemic of this nature in living memory. This is uncharted territory." As then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar spoke to the nation from the steps of Blair House in Washington DC, I watched on my phone in Dulles Airport. IDA Ireland's St Patrick's Day investment mission, which offers considerably higher levels of exposure and access to potential investors, had been cut short due to the rate of acceleration of the virus in the US.

Consequently, this year marked my first time spending March 17 in Ireland since becoming CEO of IDA. My initial concerns following the Taoiseach's address were of the tragic human toll that this virus could visit upon us.

As the virus grew exponentially worldwide, so, too, did a wave that had been already heading towards business: digital transformation. Covid-19 became the impetus for change. Industries that would have taken years to move to a remote or "distributed" working model in normal circumstances, did so overnight. Most Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) companies were agile enough to operate remotely.