CULTURE IN FOCUS: A CONVERSATION WITH HIS EXCELLENCY DANIEL MULHALL, AMBASSADOR OF IRELAND TO THE U.S.

His Excellency Daniel Mulhall has served as the Ambassador of Ireland to the United States since August 2017. Prior to his arrival in Washington, DC he served as Ireland’s Ambassador in London for five years. During his tenure in Britain, he spoke regularly at Universities all over the country including Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Durham, King’s College London and the London School of Economics.

Ambassador Mulhall recently sat down with Andrew Gelfuso, VP of TCMA and Director of World Trade Center Washington, DC (WTCDC), for the latest episode of TradeTalk, an interview series featuring leaders sharing their perspectives on trade and commerce. During this interview, Ambassador Mulhall discusses his work as the top Irish diplomat in the U.S., how the upcoming Brexit vote will impact trade between the U.S. and Ireland and the shifts in Ireland's economy due to the vote.

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Q: What are some of the things that have been keeping you busy over the summer, and as we enter the fall, what is top of your mind in your work as the top diplomat for Ireland here in the U.S.?

Well, the job of any embassy is to promote Ireland, and that means I take a very broad view of what that means, and I think about promoting our government's views on various issues, on the current agenda, promoting Irish trade, promoting investment into Ireland, promoting Irish tourism, promoting Irish culture, and promoting our links with the Irish diaspora here in the United States, which is very numerous indeed, 35 million people or more so. But, in recent times, I guess there are two issues on our agenda here. The first is try to explain to Americans this very complex and vex subject called Brexit, which I know we will get onto during the course of our discussion. But secondly, our case for free trade, and to argue against this sort of drift in the direction of tariffs and trade tensions. We believe those trade tensions between the US and EU are very bad indeed for both economies, and people on both sides of the Atlantic, and I like to make that point whenever I can that in fact Europeans and Americans have a huge amount in common. We have very little that divides us, and we shouldn’t become preoccupied by short term tension. We should focus on the long term interest and values that unite our two peoples.

Q: Given the media focus on the upcoming Brexit vote, we are hearing a lot about what Brexit means for the EU, about what Brexit may or may not mean for the United States, but this is a land border for you and your country. What does Brexit mean to the Irish people and the government of Ireland?

Well first of all, just to make the point that Brexit ought to be of interest to Americans because the prosperity of Europe is vital interest to America given the amount of trade and investment and flows across the Atlantic. Brexit is definitely a blow to the economic prospects for European countries, UK and other European countries, particularly those countries that have strong economic links with the UK will suffer because of Brexit. Nobody I’ve ever come across believes that Brexit will be a positive thing economically. They may have other reasons for wanting Brexit, but there are very few arguments that suggest that it will boost the economy of any country, anywhere in the world, in the short term at least. For Ireland, it has a particular significance because economically, while we are no longer dependent on Britain to the degree we once were, we still have important trading links with Britain.

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Q: During this time of uncertainty around Brexit, are you seeing any shifts in business, economic trends or financial institutions moving from the UK to Ireland? Are businesses coming up with strategies to hedge… what are some examples of what you are saying?

Well I mean, there have been, I think the last figure I saw from our industrial development authority, was that 70 companies had established a presence in Ireland, because of Brexit. Now I’m not saying they have all left Britain, and established in Ireland, but that they have established a presence in Ireland, in order to be able to operate within the European single market from Ireland. We expect that trend to continue. In the financial services area, I saw a report during the week that Ireland has been the biggest beneficiary. Not in terms of maybe jobs, but in terms of the number of projects that have come to Ireland as a result of Brexit, is greater than the number who are going to Frankfurt, and Luxemburg, and a lot of place in Europe. So, we have benefited certainly from a flow of investment. But, that is an upside to combat and to counter the downsides, but it doesn’t mean that we are all cheerleading for Brexit. No, we would prefer not to have Brexit, or to have a soft Brexit, even if it meant that fewer companies felt obliged or felt inclined to move to Ireland. So, it is something that we welcome as one of the few upsides of Brexit, but it doesn’t counter the downsides that are very serious as far as we are concerned.

Q: Now you’ve been an Ambassador here for a decent amount of time. In during your time here in the United States, what have you enjoyed the most about your job?

I’ve enjoyed traveling around the United States, meeting Irish-Americans all over this great country, and experiencing different parts of this country through my connections with Irish-Americans. In Ireland we tend to have this stereotype view that all Irish-Americans are in New York, Boston, and Chicago, but in fact they’re everywhere. So I’ve really enjoyed going to place which wouldn’t be seen in Ireland as major centers of Irish-American population, but they really are. I remember being in Cleveland, and meeting hundreds of people there whose family connections go to Country Mayo on the west of Ireland. I remember being in Savannah, they have huge number of Irish organizations they are very proud of their Irish heritage. Most of their families came from Ireland in the 1840s, 50s and 60s. So they are very long established, but very proud of their Irish heritage. And that’s been a really uplifting experience for me, to find people who are genuinely connected with Ireland, although they may be 4 or 5 generations removed from our country.

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For the full interview and collection of TradeTalk interviews, click here.

TradeTalk is sponsored by TCMA (A Drew Company), the exclusive manager of the RRB/ITC.

Photography credit: https://www.dfa.ie/irish-embassy/usa/about-us/ambassador/