FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 22, 2006
MAYOR BLOOMBERG SPEAKS AT BREAKFAST RECEPTION IN SLIGO, IRELAND
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg's Speech
"Thank you, Mayor MacSharry. Consul General O'Connor, members of the Sligo City Council, distinguished guests, good morning to you all. It's great to be here as part of a once-in-a-lifetime New York-Ireland cultural exchange: We get Michael Flatley and you get Michael Bloomberg. Just don't expect me to dance anything from 'Celtic Tiger!' (Although I wouldn't mind living in his castle in Cork.)
"I wanted to begin my remarks this morning with a quote from Yeats, but my friend from New York, Jimmy Neary - born in Sligo and here with me today - said don't do it. He said: 'Every politician who comes to Sligo does that - and most of them fall on their face.' (Of course, he didn't say 'face.') But I can't help it. Yeats wrote: 'There are no strangers here, only friends you haven't yet met.' And that's just the way I feel this morning - delighted to be here among friends - old and new.
"I have been looking forward to helping unveil the national monument to the Fighting 69th for a long time, and I was disappointed a few weeks ago to have to put off my visit. Thank you for your understanding.
"And I want to dispel any rumor that I only postponed the trip to build three more weeks of anticipation and excitement about the monument. (Although if that is the result, so be it!) Nor was the delay planned to allow me extra time to prepare my audition to become the new fifth member of West Life! (Although if they are looking for a new fifth member…)
"You really have given me such a warm welcome, I feel right at home here. Of course, there's a reason for that: The leader of New York's City Council is Christine Quinn, my Police Commissioner is a fellow called Kelly, and his deputy is named - and I'm not making this up - Michael Collins. (In fact, I'm pleased to say that his wife - Maureen Collins - is a member of my security detail, and she is here with us this morning.) I also receive advice from a politico named Cunningham and a Deputy Mayor named Sheekey, who are both here with us today. (Sometimes I think they've both kissed the Blarney Stone one too many times.)
"The strong representation of Irish New Yorkers in public service is no surprise because throughout our city's history, the Irish have left their mark on City Hall, filled the ranks of our police and fire departments, and built our bridges, subways and skyscrapers. And not only have the Irish shaped the story of New York - they have told it, beautifully, in poetry and prose, and in our theaters and newspapers.
"But these days, there is a new story of Ireland and New York, and it can be read - not in the political columns or the arts section - but on the business pages. It's about Irish entrepreneurs and Irish businesses making their mark on Wall Street and in the boardrooms of the world's most successful enterprises.
"Today, there are at least 40 different Irish companies with offices in New York City, employing thousands of people: That includes software companies like Data care, hotel chains like the Fitzpatrick Group, and pharmaceuticals like Elan.
"Even before I was mayor, when I started a company to distribute financial information, my very first investor was Merrill Lynch, run at the time by an Irish New Yorker named Dan Tully. It's true - I owe it all to an Irishman!
"And, on a private note, if it wasn't for O'Flanagan's Pub on Manhattan's Upper East Side, I don't know where I would have spent my Friday nights as a young man.
"There are just as many New York companies doing business over here - including Bloomberg LP, which has a major office in Dublin, and Pfizer, which manufactures the Viagra pill in Cork. I was going to make a joke here, but then I thought… 'What would Father Ted have said?'
"Many companies have strengthened the economic relationship between Ireland and New York - and, at the same time, helped both of our economies flourish in recent years. The fact is, New York and Ireland are both in the midst of the greatest economic comebacks in our respective histories - which, no doubt, have come as a surprise to many of the experts.
"It wasn't long ago that the idea of the Celtic Tiger was as far-fetched as Ireland experiencing six or seven weeks of beautiful sunshine during the summer. (OK, maybe that's not such a good example…) But by capitalizing on the country's highly-educated workforce, and by adopting policies that promote foreign investment, Ireland has carved out a prime position on the global stage, and proved the experts wrong. Your country's business and economic success has not only been an inspiration to other European nations, but to nations everywhere.
"New York, too, is stronger today than ever. Yet in the days after the attacks of 9/11, the pundits predicted that businesses would flee and that we'd lose a grip on the tremendous crime-fighting gains we made during the 1990s.
"Well, once again, the "experts" got it wrong. By maintaining essential services by investing in our quality of life and by strategically deploying our police presence to reduce crime to a 40-year low, we've made sure New York has remained a city where people wanted to live, work, and visit. The moral of this story is when people feel that a place is secure, they will invest in their communities - and so, too, will businesses.
"We've seen the same thing happen in Ireland, particularly in the North, since the Good Friday agreement. I will leave the politics of Northern Ireland to others, but in terms of the economics - I think British Secretary Peter Hain has it exactly right when he says that Ireland's future is with an all-island economy.
"Sometimes, business leaders and entrepreneurs provide civic leadership by finding the common ground that all people share: a desire for good jobs and a secure future - and a willingness to work together to create them.
"I think it's a great sign of things to come that Enterprise Ireland and Invest Northern Ireland are working together and combining their resources to bring foreign investment and visitors to all 32 counties.
"I hope that this spirit of cross-border cooperation, and the sense of common interest that's on display here this morning, will help continue to build trust and good will in the North - as well as a functioning government.
"This is what the majority of the people clearly want, and what the Good Friday agreement requires.
"But no matter what happens between now and November, it seems to me that the future of Ireland - north and south - has a lot in common with the history of New York, which has been built on people putting religious and cultural differences aside to live and work together, and placing their civic faith in democracy.
"The histories of New York and Ireland have been so intertwined - I expect that as our economic relationships continue to grow, our futures will be even more so.
"For that to happen, however, we need to convince the United States Congress to adopt a federal immigration policy that makes sense. And that means significantly increasing the number of visas we give out to those who want to come to America, and making sure that those who are already in America have an opportunity to stay.
"I know that many Irish-born New Yorkers are caught in the trap of our federal immigration policies. If we are going to continue to attract the best and the brightest - and Ireland has more than its fair share - we need to inject some common sense into our immigration laws, and I'm doing my best to make that case in Washington.
"New York City and Ireland share much more than a common language and a common history.
"We share: A spirit of resilience and optimism, an abundance of creative energy, an enthusiasm for life - and work. And a great pride for the lands we love. No wonder this New Yorker feels so at home here, and I hope that we will have the chance to make all of you feel at home in New York in the near future. The City is safer, cleaner, and more exciting than it's been in decades. I also might add, the exchange rate couldn't be better - and Jimmy Neary has promised that he'll stand everyone here a pint! (Right, Jimmy?!)
"And if you have any questions about things to see and do in New York, just contact the tourism office we recently opened in Dublin. They'd be happy to tell you about our world-class museums, restaurants, and everything New York has to offer - from Central Park to Gaelic Park, where Irish football and hurling are played every Sunday.
"And from the bright lights of Broadway to the amusement park at Coney Island - which, according to The Sligo Champion is named after the Coney Island right here in County Sligo. (I told you - we really do owe it all the Irish.)
"Thank you very much for having me. Thank you for arranging this breakfast. And since no Irish meal would be complete without a toast…. let me close by reciting an ancient Irish verse - one that I just made up myself. May the road rise up to meet you, may the wind be always at your back, and may they both lead you right to New York City: where you'll always find great craic!
"Have a great day. And God Bless Ireland!"
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958