Taoiseach gives Brexit assurances
An Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's first official visit to north Louth last Friday was almost overshadowed by Brexit, with his keynote address at the Dundalk Chamber of Commerce lunch being delivered just 500 metres from the border.
Huge crowds gathered at the Carrickdale Hotel for the new Taoiseach's first appearance in Louth since he took office.
But invited guests from business and industry around the border area learned that the ongoing battle of Brexit would hold up proceedings.
Almost an hour after his expected arrival, Mr. Varadkar admitted that a very important phone call led to his delay.
'I know a lot of politicians are by nature unpunctual. I am not one of them,' he added, explaining that British Prime Minister Theresa May had made an urgent call to inform him in advance of what she intended to say in her major speech in Florence.
'I thought it was a phone call that I really needed to take, so my apologies for the delay in being here today!'
He said he 'really welcomed the opportunity to speak in Dundalk, as I believe we are at an inflection point in our country's history.'
He congratulated Dundalk Chamber of Commerce on celebrating their 125th year, saying that in that time they had achieved their key aim of really bringing the business community together.
He highlighted the benefits of working together, a local example of which was Mullaharlin Park, a business and science park, which he said was only brought about by the 'wonderful collaboration' of the IDA and Louth County council.
'Dundalk has had more FDI over the past 10 years than anywhere outside of Cork and Dublin, and built on this urban centre with a great tradition of industry.
I think this has always been town that is strong when it came to employment. That history of industry is one of the big reasons why so many international companies have wanted to invest here,' said Mr. Varadkar.
'You are a town who has big ambitions, and this government wants to be right behind you in realising those ambitions.'
He praised agencies like that Local Enterprise Office in Dundalk for their work in helping people to establish and grow businesses, saying that the government will continue to increase resources to the LEO agencies around the country.
He spoke of having been in Croke Park to see Dublin win three All Ireland's in a row last weekend, but added that he want to praise Dundalk for winning 'three in a row' long before Dublin achieved it.
'The country is very proud of you for that.'
The Taoiseach gave his assurances that the government were 'fully engaged with the business of Brexit, and in a very clear negotiating position which is shared by the European parliament, and by the other 26 member states.'
'We are co-ordinated across all government departments and agencies to prepare for all contingencies.
'We also recognise the very specific threats to the border counties, and we will work to ensure that there is no return to a trade border or a closed border on this island.'
Speaking about the future of Ireland's economy, he added that higher level education was a key factor in having a qualified and trained workforce.
'We all know the success of DkIT in recent years, and in many ways its the quality education that it provides that industries want, and will encourage industries and employers to come to this region.'
'As a town you have a reach of about three million people within a 90 minute drive from here, and we need to make sure that remains the case by continuing to upgrade our roads and railways.'