You spent some time back in Ireland over the holidays. What was your impression of the Irish economy?
Gerry: I was heartened to find that things did seem to be improving. In Dublin, restaurants appeared busier than before and in a number of cases it was impossible to get reservations. The same was noticeable with a lot of the shops, bars and cafes.
In the evenings, taxis were been kept busy which was another good sign.
The real estate market continues to move upwards. Although in Dublin it's clearly driven by a large gap between availability and demand. The building industry seems to be back on its feet again.
People seem a little more optimistic again. Although for many the opportunities and challenges posed by Brexit were on people’s minds.
Last year was a very successful year for the IJCC. What was your highlight?
Gerry: Last year was an exceptionally positive year for the Chamber and there were a number of highlights.
Firstly, we brought on three very capable new Board Members in Eamonn Murphy, John Fallon and Tamaki Hashimoto.
We also have a wonderful new Secretariat Ayumi Miyano who is helping us re-shape that function.
We invested significantly in renewing our branding and have a wonderful new logo and website that conveys the energy and color of the Chamber.
Finally, we had some wonderful events in 2016 that included the "I Love Ireland Festival (ILIF)" in March that drew approx 50,000 attendees making it the largest Irish Festival in Asia. We had two wonderful Golf Events including the Ambassadors Cup last October.
Our Ireland Japan Business Awards event continues to grow in size and stature each year. And it is now the central business awards dinner for the Japanese and Irish business communities.
We were also pleased to host business events with Minister for Financial Services Eoghan Murphy and well as Dennis McCarthy, CEO FexCo.
What are you looking forward to most in 2017 with regards to the Ireland Japan business community?
Gerry: There are a number of things really….firstly this year is the 60th Anniversary of Ireland Japan Diplomatic relations and that provides a wonderful context in which to celebrate, reflect and renew the Irish Japan business relationship. We are hoping to utilize this important event to further showcase Ireland, our culture, our people and the strong relationship that has existed between our two countries for many years now. This also provides a wonderful backdrop to focus on business relations and opportunities.
The I Love Ireland Festival which will be held on St Patrick's weekend will provide a great opportunity for Japanese people to come along and experience more of Ireland.
We also plan to expand our business community this year by growing both our membership and sponsorship base significantly.
Brexit was a key topic of discussion last year for Europeans. How do you see Brexit impacting Ireland-Japan business relations this year?
Gerry: Brexit will clearly bring with it both challenges and opportunities for Ireland. Many Irish businesses will have to reevaluate the markets they wish to compete in and for some it will mean looking much further from home than they would normally be comfortable with. I believe Japan will provide wonderful opportunities for some of them. The Chamber has an important role to play in helping support those activities through our various events and networking forums.
Similarly, Japan has a number of companies based in the UK that need to reevaluate whether it would be more advantageous for them to relocate elsewhere in Europe. For many, Ireland is a very attractive option that provides many benefits. We have already seen financial service companies declaring they will move to Ireland. And we believe more will follow.
If we are able to make those relationships successful, it may have a knock on effect in drawing more attention and business to Ireland from Japan.
What’s one wish you have for Ireland-Japan or the IJCC in 2017?
Gerry: Maybe I can find one wish that encompasses both!
I would wish that the celebration of the 60 Years of Ireland Japan Diplomatic relations as well as the compelling changes brought through Brexit provides the opportunity through which Ireland and Japan can further deepen and develop our business relations. And that the Irish Japan Chamber of Commerce will have a strong role to play in that.