Ireland Today
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 16 Mar 1978, p. 333-346
Colley, The Honourable George, Speaker
Media Type
Item Type
Some similarities between the economies of Ireland and Canada. Differences between the two countries. A brief history of Ireland with emphasis on recent advances. Natural resources of Ireland. The spread of prosperity. Emigration from Ireland and its consequences. Ireland in 1977. The small economy of Ireland and its particular subjection to the developments and fortunes in the other countries with which it trades. What a small country such as Ireland can do to improve their economy, with examples. The growing economic bond between Canada and Ireland. The situation in Northern Ireland. Ireland and its relationship with Britain. The need for peace and reconciliation. The short-term objective of the government of Ireland: to see executive government restored to Northern Ireland. Ireland in the process of discovering its potential and the potential of its people.
Date of Original
16 Mar 1978
Language of Item
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Full Text
MARCH 16,1978
Ireland Today
CHAIRMAN The President, Peter Hermant


Ladies and gentlemen: Tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day-a time when everyone becomes Irish, if only for a moment. Green becomes the colour of the day (and I hope you will have noticed that we at the head table have jumped the gun a little bit) to the extent that many pubs and beer halls in Canada will be serving "green" beer over the weekend and, of course, that famous fast food chain that "does everything for you" is serving shamrock milk shakes.

Truly, all the world loves the Irish--on St. Patrick's Day, or any other day, and perhaps G. K. Chesterton said it best in verse, but not in dialect, when he wrote, "For the great Gaels of Ireland are the men that God made mad, for all their wars are merry, and all their songs are sad."

Our guest of honour today, the Honourable George Colley, is, of course, Irish. He was born, raised and educated in Dublin, graduated from University College, Dublin, and qualified as a solicitor in that city in 1948. He served as chairman of a number of joint labour committees under the labour court until the political bug bit him and he was elected to the Irish Parliament (or more properly, the Dail Eireann) in 1961, and he has been re-elected ever since.

During his career in government, Mr. Colley has served in an enormous number of portfolios including leader of the Irish parliamentary delegation to the Council of Europe,

parliamentary secretary to the Minister of Lands, Minister of Education, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Minister of Gaeltacht (the Irish-speaking areas), Minister of Finance and Chairman of the OECD Council of Ministers.

During a lull of four years when his party was not in power, Mr. Colley was opposition critic on finance, and following the successful election campaign of 1977, he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Minister of Public Service.

In addition, he has served as chairman of the board of governors of the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

Obviously, our speaker is a man of many and varying experiences. Those of you who were in this hotel on September 9th, 1969 are well aware of that fact, because it was on that date that George Colley last addressed The Empire Club of Canada as Minister of Industry and Commerce of his government and the full text is, of course, available in the yearbook of that period. This is, of course, the great strength of The Empire Club of Canada--that the history of our country and of other nations can be realized in the first person by people who have experienced the times--not electronically edited, but individually, live, in person.

Today, Mr. Colley joins the ranks of those who have addressed the club on more than one occasion. The list of multiple speakers is illustrious and it includes such prominent people as John A. MacDonald, Billy Bishop, Robert Borden, George Drew, and John Diefenbaker.

I suppose it's not really fair to go back and see if what was said in 1969 can be borne out today, nearly ten years later--but I'm going to anyway.

Certainly the economic part of Mr. Colley's message has been proceeding in an orderly fashion, much as he laid it out on that day. As a matter of fact, events have proved not only Mr. Colley to be correct but also vindicate the address given by John F. Kennedy to the Irish Parliament in 1963 when he said, "Ireland is moving in the mainstream of current world events. Your future is as promising as your past is proud and your destiny lies not as a peaceful island in a sea of trouble but as a maker and shaper of world peace."

But having discussed the economy of his country, Mr. Colley touched upon the problems which have beset his "Emerald Isle" (to use his words), and which continue to do so.

He said to us at that time, "We say to our people in the north--and they are all our people--that we, on our part, are ready to repair omissions. We invite them now to share with us a new adventure in economic, social and moral growth. This is an invitation to join us in building anew."

Needless to say, the invitation is still open.

But the sentiments expressed on that day by Mr. Colley regarding his own country are surely better understood in the Canada of today as compared to the Canada of 1969, as we are undergoing similar strains and designing similar invitations to all our people to try and achieve a similarity of unity.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's a pleasure for me to introduce to you the Deputy Prime Minister of Ireland, the Honourable George Colley, T.D., who will be bringing us up-to-date on events in Ireland since he last addressed us, under the title, "Ireland Today".

THE HONOURABLE GEORGE COLLEY: Ladies and gentlemen: Although at first sight, because of the difference in magnitude, the economies of Canada and Ireland would seem to have very little in common, there are some similarities and interests in common. The most striking similarity is that both countries have very close economic ties with a larger neighbour. The biggest interest in common is that both countries benefit from fast, untrammelled growth in world trade.

As fellow member countries of the OECD, Canada and Ireland are both committed to striving for the highest sustainable economic growth and employment and a rising standard of living in our countries. We are also committed to contribute to the expansion of world trade on a multilateral, non-discriminatory basis in accordance with international obligations. Because of the openness of both our economies, freer trade and easier access to world markets serves our common interest. Progress in that direction has at times been halting, and is indeed threatened by the aftermath of the recession which followed the oil crisis of the early seventies.

Just as Canada has the larger market of the United States on its doorstep, which exerts tremendous economic influence, so Ireland's trade was traditionally dominated by Britain. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, under government guidance, the trend was towards greater diversification of Irish export markets. This policy took on a new dimension in 1973 when (along with Britain and Denmark) we joined an enlarged European Economic Community. Although our dependence on the British market has declined, developments in Britain still exert considerable influence on us. As Canadians you will appreciate not only the economic constraints that can be imposed by proximity to an economically predominant neighbour, but also the wider effects on the culture and material aspirations of the people of the smaller country. Happily both of our societies are succeeding in retaining their individuality despite these pressures.

While there are some similarities between us there are, of course, enormous differences. These are rooted in our very different histories, and in the facts of geography. When the Irish State was founded almost sixty years ago it was, I think it fair to say, economically backward and poor by European standards of the time. Whatever one's view of British rule in Ireland, it is true that under it the economic interests of Ireland were systematically subordinated to

those of her larger neighbour. It is not too much of an oversimplification to say that Ireland exported people, cattle and money to Britain, and took in manufactured exports in return. The lack of any sizable manufacturing sector was one of the reasons why jobs in Ireland were chronically scarce, and why emigration was a chronic characteristic of Irish society. There was a very large gap between development levels in Ireland and most of Western Europe and North America. Essentially what we have been trying to do since gaining independence, with a fair degree of success, is to reduce, and ultimately close that gap.

Traditionally Ireland relied largely on agriculture as its economic base. Since the thirties we have been building up our industry. At first we concentrated on industry which would serve the home market. The rules of the game in international trade in the thirties were neither fair, nor conducive to the emergence of an exporting industrial state. By the late fifties it was obvious that we had got as much as we could from this policy of industrialization for the home market, and that if stagnation was to be kept at bay, we would have to build up a new, export-oriented industrial structure. This was not an easy decision to take, and even less easy to implement. But we have, by and large, overcome these growing pains, and we have now a vigorous exporting manufacturing sector.

The land of Ireland is still our most enduring natural resource. Government policy has consistently been to do as much as is within our capability to foster agricultural growth, and it has been successful. Our agriculture has made enormous advances. Ireland's membership in the European Economic Community has opened up new prospects for the development of agriculture. Our old dependence on one market for our agricultural products has come to an end. The Irish farmer is no longer trapped in a buyer's market where the customer is able to decide what he wants to pay. As a member of the European Community we now have a strong voice in determining the rules of the game.

Anyone who has seen, as I have, the striking spread of prosperity in the Irish countryside is aware of this. Everywhere one goes there are new houses, young thriving families, prosperous growing country towns, new cars, new schools. The image of the Irish countryside as stagnant and poor, picturesque perhaps but offering a limited life to its inhabitants is, quite simply, becoming out of date.

Emigration was for long not only an outlet for excess population, it was also an escape route from the inherent difficulties of our position as a small island on the periphery of Europe, with limited natural resources. The exodus of successive generations of our youth depleted our greatest natural resource--the vigour and enterprise of the young. Now that emigration has virtually ceased we are faced with a new and welcome challenge, the challenge of employing our people at home. The population is growing quickly. Much of it is very young.

Although 1977 was a good year for Ireland, the government are confident that the economic position of the country can be improved further this year. Of course, we must have regard to trends in the outside world. Ireland plays an active and positive role as a member of the European Economic Community. We realize that our future is indissolubly linked with that of Europe. But at the same time, we are very conscious of the need to preserve and strengthen our valued links with other trading partners throughout the world.

A small economy, such as ours, is particularly subject to the developments and fortunes in the other countries with which it trades. That is why Ireland is always anxious that the leading countries of the industrialized world should recognize the dangers inherent in the persistent underutilization of resources, both human and material, and that they should adopt policies to ensure more widespread economic activity. Towards this end, we would wish to see a greater measure of understanding and co-ordination being reached so that all may avail more fully of the opportunities presented by a prudent expansion of world demand.

The outlook for world economic activity this year is not as encouraging as we would have hoped but we nevertheless expect that the growth in Irish industrial exports will be much better than the world average. While there is some uncertainty about the world economic situation, the Irish government have decided that much can be done internally to put the economy on a firm growth path.

Smaller countries may sometimes be tempted to feel that there is nothing they can do but batten down the hatches and ride out the storm. I do not agree. The medium and smaller nations cannot afford to sit around waiting for the leading economies--the U.S., West Germany and Japanto pull the rest of us out of the doldrums. We have an obligation to do what we can to get moving ourselves. This was the approach advocated by my party in the Irish General Election last year and it commended itself to the great majority of the Irish electorate.

In addition, inflation, which has had such a damaging effect on the economy in general and on the individual's pocket, has already been reduced from almost 21 % in the year to November 1976 to under 9% this week and it is expected to fall as low as 7% in the current year. The outlook for the Irish economy, therefore, is hopeful.

In terms of production and export growth rates our industry is one of the world's leaders. Despite the tremendous improvements that had taken place during the sixties the fact is that a return to normal is not good enough in our case. We cannot accept comfortably a turn-round in the world economy and rest content to float along on a favourable current.

We decided last year that the anticipated improvement in world economic conditions would offer us an opportunity to launch the most ambitious and far-reaching program of development ever undertaken. That program involves a determined assault on our major social evil--unemployment. Even in good times we have tended to put up with a level of unemployment that would not be acceptable in any other modern progressive state. I want to tell you that it is no longer acceptable to us. In recent months we have launched a major job-creation drive in the public and private sectors. We have set ourselves a target of some 75,000 new jobs between now and 1981. What is more we are confident that we will achieve it.

This year's budget, which I introduced in the Dail last month, was designed to bring about the most favourable climate for expansion ever experienced in the Irish economy. It combined the biggest tax cuts ever given to Irish workers with substantial tax incentives to industry. These tax cuts coupled with moderate increases in income should generate an unprecedented spurt of business and industrial

activity. The encouragement of individual initiative has been given a high priority and private enterprise has been given the green light to press ahead at full speed.

Already there are clear signs that Irish business will respond vigorously to the challenges and opportunities offered in the budget. Last year our industrial exports increased in volume by over 17%--three times the figure for growth in world trade. We look forward to a 15 % increase in our industrial exports this year. We must maintain this cracking pace and indeed improve upon it. Over the next decade we need to create twice as many jobs annually as we have ever succeeded in doing before, if full employment is to be achieved some time in the mid-80s. This will require determined efforts by the entire community.

Existing industry in Ireland cannot expand rapidly enough to meet our national economic goals; we must supplement the effort by attracting manufacturers from overseas, particularly from North America, traditionally our most important source of outside investment. We expect about half of the new industrial jobs created over the next three years to come from new projects from overseas companies establishing in Ireland.

We fully accept that industries come to Ireland to make profits and we believe that a healthy return on investment is compatible with Ireland's economic interests. Accordingly, our investment incentives are aimed at maximizing return on investment; they include tax-free export profits, grants of up to 50% of fixed asset investment in new industries, generous grants for worker training, and ready-to-occupy factories.

These generous investment incentives and favourable production costs help to boost the return on investment of Irish based manufacturers. For example, the United States is the biggest source of overseas investment in Ireland, accounting for about half the total. Statistics published by the U.S. Department of Commerce in its Survey of Current Business series show that U.S. plants in Ireland are highly profitable operations. For the two years 1975 and 1976, U.S. manufacturing affiliates in Ireland registered an average annual return on investment of 29.5%. This rate of return was by far the highest for U.S. companies in the European Economic Community; it was almost two and a half times the Community average.

There has been a long established and happily growing economic bond between Ireland and Canada. In recent years there has been a strong Canadian presence in the Irish mining industry and latterly a substantial upsurge in the level of industrial investment by firms based in Canada wishing to sell products directly into the European common market. To date some fifteen Canadian companies have committed over $550 million to industrial projects in Ireland which puts Canada second only to the U.S. as a source of outside investment in Irish industry. By far the largest of these is the massive Alcan Alumina venture which accounts for the lion's share of this total investment commitment.

Northern Ireland is a subject of some complexity, about which misconceptions can be lethal. I should like, therefore, to make our position completely clear.

The policy of the Irish government on the area is a reflection of the aspiration of the overwhelming majority of the Irish people to unity, based on agreement and achieved through the reconciliation of the different sections of the community living in Ireland.

We believe, in particular, that the way forward lies in bringing together the two sections of the community in Northern Ireland. There is little point in dwelling too long on the past but it is important to the understanding of the problem to remember that the government of Northern Ireland was carried on for half a century without the participation, without the possibility of participation, by the minority community. In other words, more than one third of the population of Northern Ireland could never take part in the government by which their lives were ruled. This exclusion contributed and continues to contribute to the alienation, from government, of large sections of the community. And this alienation, in turn, contributes to the sort of situation we see there now.

In speaking of the minority community in the Northern Ireland area it is well to bear in mind that they are part of the majority in Ireland as a whole and they see themselves as such. Their exclusion from any significant influence in government in their own country over more than half a century was matched throughout this period by a systematic process of discrimination in economic and social matters. Industrial development tended to concentrate in Loyalist areas and members of the minority community are most often at the end of the queue when it comes to jobs or economic opportunities. The tragedy is that this approach is unworthy of the basic ethic and sturdy character of the Loyalists themselves. They too are the prisoners and victims of an attempted solution to the Irish problem which was foredoomed to failure.

Half a century of partition, political and psychological, during which the adherents of the two traditions have largely ignored each other beyond restating their mutually exclusive claims, have led us no nearer to a solution. In many ways we are further apart than ever.

Nearly 2,000 people have lost their lives in Northern Ireland and another 20,000 have been injured. This is a greater toll of destruction than occurred throughout the entire War of Independence and, on a proportionate Canadian scale, represents well over 300,000 casualties. It is a central aim of my government to do everything in its power to bring this terrible suffering to an end and to ensure that it will not recur in the future.

It is important to point out that the intransigent Loyalist leaders who have so far succeeded in blocking progress towards a power-sharing administration are defying the will of the overwhelming majority of the British as well as the Irish people. They seem to be unaware of the inconsistency of their position in this regard. The type of loyalty they profess does not apparently extend to heeding the wishes of the British people.

I have had to speak bluntly about the shortsightedness and intransigence of many of those who now lead the Loyalist community. Their present policies do a grave disservice to the people they purport to lead. On the question of power sharing, for instance, recent opinion polls suggest that the Loyalist leadership does not reflect the true feelings of their own community. Unfortunately in the harsh atmosphere of Northern politics the emotional pressures which are literally "drummed up" at election time tend to drown and overwhelm those on the Unionist side who dare to take a more progressive and conciliatory view.

Unity and reconciliation in Ireland poses no threat to the culture, tradition and character of the Northern majority. Indeed in terms of political "clout" they would wield much more power in an all-Ireland context than they could hope to do under the present arrangement. They would have a major share in the task of shaping the social and political institutions of a new Ireland which could accommodate and respect all the Irish traditions and the treasured cultural heritage of both communities.

In everything I have said I have stressed the need for peace and reconciliation. We totally repudiate the use of violence to achieve our aims. In fact, we have built up our police and army to the highest levels in peacetime and committed large numbers to the border in the campaign against violence. We have changed our laws to make the administration of justice more effective against terrorism. And we have done everything in our power to stop the flow of funds from outside the country to the men engaged in the murderous violence in Northern Ireland. In these policies we have been reasonably successful--but the violence there continues.

Our policy, in total, is based on the need for lasting peace and the belief that it can be achieved only when the basic realities in Ireland are recognized and acted on. In furtherance of this policy the Irish government has called upon the British government to encourage the unity of Ireland by agreement, in independence and in a harmonious relationship between the two islands and to this end to declare Britain's commitment to implement an ordered withdrawal from her involvement in the North. It would appear that our attitude on this matter has been misunderstood in some quarters. There should be no misunderstanding about what we mean by this. We are not calling upon Britain to leave the North precipitately or by any specified date. What we want Britain to do, quite simply, is to remove the negative guarantee that there can be no change in the constitutional status of Northern Ireland until the majority there agree that this can be the case.

Such a guarantee merely assures die-hard Unionists that intransigence will be rewarded and that there is no need for them to consider change in the long term or even, in the shorter term, to accept such changes as will allow the emergence of peace and normal politics in the North of Ireland. As you are aware, there is no devolved government in the North at present; instead the area is ruled directly by the British Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

The short-term objective of my government--and the British government has given us an assurance that this is also its short-term objective--is to see executive government restored to Northern Ireland. This would not be on the old basis of Unionist dominance, but on a principle of "power-sharing" which will permit the nationalist minority an effective say in government and at the same time allow them to work within constitutional channels for the eventual reunification of Ireland. An administration of this kind would contribute greatly to the reconciliation of the two parts of the community in the North.

I hope that from what I have said you will have learned more about Ireland. It is, in many ways, a very old country, with a history and traditions stretching back thousands of years. But it is also a very new country. It has had control

of its own destiny for what, by historical standards, is a mere moment. It has been able to make its own voice clearly heard on the world stage, and to contribute to international co-operation and friendship, for an even shorter time. It is still in the process of discovering its potential, the potential of its lands and seas, and the potential of its people.

In its antiquity, Ireland is part of the Old World. But in its vigorous continuing efforts towards greater fulfilment, it is very much in the spirit of the New.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by M. Gen. Bruce J. Legge, C.StT, E.D., C.D., Q.C., a Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Ireland Today

Some similarities between the economies of Ireland and Canada. Differences between the two countries. A brief history of Ireland with emphasis on recent advances. Natural resources of Ireland. The spread of prosperity. Emigration from Ireland and its consequences. Ireland in 1977. The small economy of Ireland and its particular subjection to the developments and fortunes in the other countries with which it trades. What a small country such as Ireland can do to improve their economy, with examples. The growing economic bond between Canada and Ireland. The situation in Northern Ireland. Ireland and its relationship with Britain. The need for peace and reconciliation. The short-term objective of the government of Ireland: to see executive government restored to Northern Ireland. Ireland in the process of discovering its potential and the potential of its people.