Colm Moloney, Chair, IBNS
Launching a new network is a huge undertaking. Blissfully unaware of what was involved, the proto-committee of the IBNS gathered in the Irish consulate in Edinburgh on a cold January evening to discuss setting up a network. No fear in this crew! We agreed immediately that we should launch the network in June in the Castle. Seemed the obvious place and, sure, June was ages away! But the great thing about a challenging situation is that you get to learn about your colleagues and without exception the entire committee rose to the occasion and I believe we delivered an event that will be remembered fondly by those lucky enough to attend.
The 8th of June was a spectacular evening. I arrived early and had the pleasure of strolling up through the battlements of the castle unescorted in beautiful sunshine. I may have taken a few diversions from the instructed route to get some amazing shots of Edinburgh and its environs on my way up to the Queen Anne Room.A lone piper flanked the entrance to the Queen Anne Room which was an incredible venue. Our 120 guests arrived on time and there was an immediate buzz around the room. Old acquaintances reconnected and potential new business links were established. The network was born without an official word being uttered!
However once words did come from the stage nobody was in any doubt as to the potential of the IBNS to be a major catalyst for trade in Scotland and Ireland. Our Consul General, Dr Mark Hanniffy, opened events and acted as MC for the evening. First up was Cabinet Secretary Fiona Hyslop, a great friend and supporter of Hiberno- Scottish cultural and business links. As Ms Hyslop said ‘In terms of our economic relationship and the foreign direct investment by Irish businesses in Scotland, there have been 90 enterprises across 200 sites employing some 6000 people and generating £2billion’. There was no doubt in Ms Hyslop’s mind that the IBNS was a great initiative! Consul General Hanniffy next introduced Ireland’s Minister Paschal Donohoe, saying that ‘having a senior member of the Irish cabinet is a great honour and shows the importance the Irish government places on the network and the relationship between Ireland and Scotland’. Minister Donohoe, fresh from a white knuckle drive from Edinburgh Airport, offered his support to the network and stated that ‘the best sort of business is that achieved through cooperation and I am delighted to be here and to say that Ireland wants to offer all the support it can to businesses and to this Network’. Our keynote speaker was the illustrious Gordon Dewar, CEO of Edinburgh Airport who highlighted the importance of connectivity between the two countries. Our sponsor, AIB, was represented by Billy MacLeod who expressed his support for the network and confirmed the banks commitment to support new businesses from Ireland entering the Scottish Market. Finally my moment arrived and I stood up in front of the ‘sizeable’ audience. What struck me immediately was the support and goodwill that was present in the room.
After the speeches networking continued with a renewed vigour. Nobody wanted the event to end but eventually the patience of the long suffering castle staff started to fail and we got the hint!
A large crew stopped off at the Bow bar on Victoria Street for ‘refreshments’ and, as we had Simon Keane, Manager of Malone’s Bar in our company, the committee decided on one final stop for the evening. There may have been singing – after all we are mostly from Ireland!