Atlantic Business Magazine editor Dawn Chafe interviews Loyola Hearn, Canada’s ambassador to Ireland
I’ve never been to Ireland. Can you give me some idea of what I make expect if I were to visit?
You’ve never been to Ireland, eh? This past two weeks, we have at least five groups from Newfoundland. Most of them will drop by the embassy and I’ll have a cup of coffee ready and a few cookies. Give us a chance to have a chat. If they’re on the way in, we can recommend a few things to them. If they’re on the way back, we can gather from them what they saw, what they got out of it and what they can take home, whatever the case might be.
But I have yet to run across anybody who didn’t have an exceptionally good time here. I don’t mean just partying, you can have a good time at that too because you’ve got great music and there’s a pub on every corner type of thing. But a great time in the sense of enjoyment of the area, the scenery is phenomenal. It’s so pastoral and peaceful once you get outside of Dublin. Dublin is so historic.
I was in Tralee on Friday on my way to Dingle and Valencia. Valencia is where they laid the Transatlantic cable. I said we’ll start working on that and do a bit of twinning with Heart’s Content and so on. I stopped in Tralee and said I’m going to go to the County Council office to say hello, I’m in the area. I said to the woman at the desk at the hotel where we stopped for lunch, where’s the county council office here because I’d like to drop by to say hello. My driver had said to her, the ambassador is interested in dropping by. She said, I know the deputy mayor, I’ll give him a ring. Before we had finished our sandwiches, the deputy mayor was sitting down with us, took me down to the council office, had the regional manager there available.
They had been meeting recently, trying to figure out … they had a report done, a glossy covered report, on the cable, not knowing how to make connections at the other end and wondering who they could get to bring it all together. They were wondering about the embassies and did ambassadors get involved in stuff like that and do they ever go out of town – and I walked into their office (laughs).
It was amazing. Two and a half hours later we had it all settled.
You’re from a part of Newfoundland known as the Irish Loop. Does going to Ireland make you feel like you’re coming home, in a way?
The similarities and we’ll say, our part of Newfoundland in particular, are just unbelievable. When you’re talking to them (the Irish people) everyday, you sort of lose a little bit of your own accent and fit in a little better.
What, exactly, are you doing here?
To put it in a nutshell, my job is to represent Canada in Ireland and to be a conduit the other way if there are Irish people looking for opportunities in Canada. We concentrate a tremendous amount on trade and on the business side, the economic side. However, we go beyond that because particularly here in Ireland/Canada, compared to, say, Libya/Canada or Spain/Canada, you have such strong cultural ties and links that we are finding we are just deluged with requests from universities and tourism groups and so on to try to beef up what they have.
We have a number of universities here with strong ties with Canadian universities. A number of others who are looking for ties. Some of them with eastern Canada, Newfoundland in particular. I’m thinking of the Waterford Institute of Technology and Galway Marine Institute, which is similar to our own. In fact, I’m going up there in a few weeks, I have a full day planned. Cork is doing a lot of work in relation to ocean research, want to do more, want to tie in, want to work with our navy, etc… A number of them are involved in the Smart Bay project in Placentia Bay.
Sounds as though your background as former Minister of Fisheries is coming in handy.
I find a lot of similarities with my past work. The fishery certainly. I was in Dingle on the weekend, one of the big fishing centres. I have meetings in Gillybegs tomorrow. We meet with the different fishing groups, talking about common research we can do, problems we might have.
One of the most interesting problems is the seal problem they’re having one the west, northwest coast here. The fishermen are now complaining, bitterly, in the media about seals tearing up their nets and eating the bait out of their lobster pots. Of course, I’m saying, woo-hoo. Now we can really chat and we haven’t got the worry about protests.
The 15th of March is seal protest day across the E.U. and this year the 15th of March, the staff were saying it might be a good day to be out of the office somewhere. I said, ‘yeah, are you kidding? Bring ’em on.’
Nobody showed up. We didn’t have a protestor in front of the place. I haven’t heard one word about the seal hunt, seals, since I came here except from the side that’s causing the problem. Certainly, I want to meet with them and talk about some of the things, problems we have.
Here, they have some great salmon rivers. If they start getting the seals into the mouth of the rivers, as we are now at my home in Renews where we have a salmon river, the harbour is filled with seals. That’s certainly not going to help the flow of salmon in and out. Same with the trout and so on where you have salt water trout areas. We’ll use anything like that to gain more support at the European level. We do have some solid support here in Ireland for issues like that; we’ll beef that up.
You mentioned that you work with organizations and companies in both countries, to help them take advantage of various opportunities. How does that work?
I’m dealing with the Canadian companies that are here, Irish companies that want to invest in Canada. That would be our main focus. Our trade division would be out there, opening doors, providing information, making contacts, providing advice, etc…
From the educational side, we’d be dealing with the various universities looking for common opportunities, stuff like ocean research. Why re-invent the wheel? Why are both of us doing it when we’re only a few hundred miles apart in the one ocean?
Tourism. Even though Canada does not promote itself very well here in Ireland, we’ll work on that. Tourism really is an economic generator. We’re seeing a tremendous amount of Canadians coming here now and we’re seeing a lot of Irish go to Canada.
Is there as much awareness of Canada and Newfoundland in Ireland as there is of Ireland here in Canada and Newfoundland?
Not really. Not of Newfoundland as we see Ireland. Yet. Give me a couple of years. (laughs) That’s something we are working on, and it is working – no doubt about it.
There is an Irish-Newfoundland partnerships. That’s active, but has a whole lot more potential. Both sides are seeing that now and we’re doing a few things now that, if we can pull them off, will bring a lot more attention to that and will open more doors for both sides.
We have the Festival of the Sea, of course, 50-odd Irish people over in the southern Avalon, visiting different communities, holding meetings. Doing some stuff in St. John’s this year, they’ve included St. John’s in their itinerary.
Next year, you have 5,200 people from the southern Avalon coming over to Ireland. They have this exchange every year. That’s drawing attention. And they’re starting to beef that up a bit so that it’s not just a social exchange.
We’re seeing different groups travelling. Musicians here and bands here, from the south, to the center, up north, even cross border activity, looking within the next year or so to visit Newfoundl
and and Canada. Some people already have. We had a group of musicians over from Newfoundland that we met with. We had a reception here for them to meet with some of the people involved with the music industry here in Ireland, brought in some of their friends who invited some of their friends, so we had about 80 people. At one time, we had about 20 of them playing instruments. We had quite an evening. But what it did was cement ties and tie them in with people from universities and so on who are doing research into traditional music. And people who are interested in the tourism side. The cultural side is opening up doors in the business side.
Some of these went over to Newfoundland for the Seamus Grey festival, and had a great time performing in St. John’s. They had a concert up in Renews actually, which I wasn’t involved in organizing but I happened to be home when they had it.
As much as Canada and Ireland have in common, they are obviously two different countries. Have you gotten homesick yet?
I get home about three times a year. We came in January and I was home for Easter. I was home again then, I took my holidays in July, did some salmon fishing back home, some gardening. I’ll get home again Christmas.
My wife, Maureen, is loving it over here. That was my concern. I knew I’d like it, but I wasn’t so sure if she would. She was here years ago when things weren’t good at all, and her memories weren’t that good about it. I got her back about three, four years ago and she enjoyed it. And last year, a bunch of us came over on holiday and she had a ball. We all did. When I got this opportunity, she said yeah, she’d think she’d like it. Now she’ll tell you she not only likes it, she loves it.
People here with argue with me that I’m from Waterford or Wexford. Absolutely. Go away, you’re fooling me. You’re from Waterford. We had that happen on the train with one of the guys from home who asked somebody how far it was from Waterford to Wexford, and the guy said ‘you’re pulling my leg, you’re from Wexford,’ He said, no I’m not. He said, yes you are, you’re definitely from Wexford. They just don’t believe that we aren’t from here or that we haven’t left recently.
We’re hearing from a lot of Canadian, and Newfoundland companies in particular, talking about a labour shortage. Ireland has a labour surplus at the moment. Seems to be a natural partnership there.
We are now seeing a lot of Irish people go to Canada with the economy down a little bit on this side, particularly in the construction side which leaves a lot of skilled tradespeople out of work. A tremendous amount of them are going to Canada for employment – and finding employment.
We have several programs for students. We have a number of university exchange programs, we have scholarship programs, the Craig Dobbin Scholarship program for instance. Each year, we see a half dozen or more Irish graduate students go to Canada for further research and another five or six come over to Ireland doing research in different areas.
We have a program, started some years ago, called the Working Holiday Visa. It provided a Visa for a year for young people between 18 and 35 to visit Canada to work, travel, whatever combination – you could go and do whatever you wanted to do. That became very popular and in recent years, most of them go looking for work. This year, we provided 5,000 visas and we closed the program a few weeks ago, all of them had been taken up. We will also now allow them to renew the visa for a second year as they gives them a better chance to get a handle, particularly now with the economy down and the opportunities are not here now for the younger crowd as they used to be and hopefully will be again. It also gives employers on the other side a better chance to assess young people. By that time, they will have a better idea if they want them to stay here and go look for a work visa. Do you want to look for permanent citizenship? Whatever the case might be. It’s working well for everybody right now.
One thing you’ll find about Ireland when you come here, the Irish are extremely well educated. All the people who are leaving and even the young people you meet on the street, you go anywhere – they’re clean cut, well dressed, very presentable, very well educated. They invest, and have invested heavily for years, in education. Everyone holds education in high esteem. So you have an exceptionally well educated and well trained people. People who are going abroad are not the grade sixes looking for pick and shovel jobs. You have your engineers, your doctors, your professional people, and they will make a major contribution, certainly, to Canada.
When I came here first, I came across a lot of people who would talk about this program … I have a son going, I have a daughter going, I have somebody over there, and I would always say, have you been to Canada? In most cases, the answer is yes, or we’re going the summer. Most of them, 8 out of 10 originally, were going to Vancouver. Everybody loves Vancouver. But lately it’s spread. You’re seeing a lot of people going to Toronto. Some people are now moving into the Prairies because of the opportunities in Alberta, Saskatchewan. And we are getting a lot of people who know the East Coast, and are looking at the East Coast, looking ahead for the next few years. A lot of them, and a lot of Irish companies, see a fair amount of opportunity in Atlantic Canada. Particularly in relation to developments in the offshore, the oil and gas, the Lower Churchill coming on stream.
As they look ahead to development of the North, which is going to be a Canadian priority over the next five, 10, 20 years, the infrastructure alone that’s going to be required to open up the North is unthinkable. Our big country, small population, low unemployment – we’re going to need a lot of workers. As somebody said to me lately, where better to get them from – here are our cousins, very well educated. We could fly people back and forth to Ireland easier than we could fly them from Newfoundland to Alberta.
Will there be an expansion of this program? Everybody is looking at it fairly heavily and I do know that they’re looking at it in Ottawa. I think if people are coming, if we have the skilled workers who have the skills to do whatever we need to do in Canada right now, there are ways of facilitating entry. You have to go through a certain scrutiny of course in any immigration. But if you have a chance to get a job in Canada, I’m hearing relatively short periods of getting your visas, whatever, approved to go to work there.
We’re seeing people coming over here, looking to hire. We’re also seeing Australia and New Zealand in particular, because of the damages they’ve had with fires, floods, etc…, they’re hiring heavily from Ireland. I think you’re going to see a bit of a rush in Canada.
We have a fear here. We had a booth recently providing information on the international experience Canada program, the 18 to 35 year old program, and we had a booth from the medical association of British Columbia, hiring nurses. I dropped down on a Saturday morning, they had been open a couple of hours, and they told me they had hired 60 nurses that morning.
It works both ways. Right now, they have a skills surplus, we have a skills shortage. It’s fitting in very well. No cultural problems. No language problems.
How would you define your role as an ambassador?
It is what you make it. There’s a formal role, there’s no doubt about that. I operate a bit differently from the average person. I’m here by choice, I wasn’t forced to come. I wasn’t sent here. I came because I thought there are things we can do to help Canada and to help Ireland also, becaus
e it has to be a two-way street. If you believe in that, then you identify what the possibilities are, what the opportunities are between the different countries. And you go to work on that. If it’s not a formal process, then you do a lot of it informally.
You get to know people and you get to trust them. To get them to make you part of the planning process, you have to be one of them. It’s not a difficult job for me. I fit in here pretty easily.
Basically, an ambassador is appointed to represented one country in another country. The management and direction of the mission, that’s your job. I run this mission, its management and activities and supervision of the people who work here. We have about 17 people who work here, divided into three different areas. We have our trade section, which will be responsible for trade, business, what have you. Then we have the political wing which basically keeps tabs on everything that’s happening here politically as it relates to Canada. Canada wants to know what makes Ireland tick, if we’re into an issue at the world trade organization, if we’re into an issue at the E.U. free trade agreement, whatever … where is Ireland on this issue? Are they supporting us? If not, it’s our job to get out there … in fact, we had an agricultural issue where Ireland was neutral, maybe even not agreeing with Canada’s stance and we arranged for … it was in relation to wheat, as I recall. Some of the countries involved, the United States, Argentina and Brazil, we got together and they asked me to lead the delegation. We met with the Irish, explained the situation, told them where it was going to affect them negatively, etc, etc, and they changed their vote and voted with us.
These things can be crucial when it comes to major decisions being made. That would be our trade area and our political area.
If people are visiting, this past month, we had four senators here and a delegation with them. All kinds of meetings with government officials and educational officials. The Minister of Finance and some MPs were in town. The Minister of Defence was here and just a couple of days ago we had Tony Clement, the president of Treasury Board here.
We arrange any of the meetings these people will have. I spent a couple of days with Tony just a couple of days ago meeting with the Minister of Finance, the Junior Minister of Finance, the Vice President of the Central Bank … you’re heavily involved yourself in what’s going on, because you’re part of it all. But we also make all of the arrangements, and that comes down to transportation, back and forth, meeting rooms, who you meet with, the information you need before hand, follow-up afterwards. You’re involved with all that.
That political division also deals with the cultural side, all the university contacts, meetings, people who are coming through, Canadians who might have a book release here. We might do some of the musical groups coming through. It depends. You don’t do all the tacky stuff, but the stuff of importance to either of one country or the other or the people who are involved. We try to promote Canadians wherever we can, use every opportunity to introduce them to like-minded people over here. We throw the odd reception to bring people together and we’ve found that opens a lot of doors.
Rosemary House was over here and released one of the documentaries she had done on Bloomsday, which is the music of James Joyce. We had a reception here and she made tremendous contacts. There was another woman who’s from Ontario and has a summer home in Renews who is married to an Irishman and has done some Irish documentaries on emigration and immigration. She is now trying to put together a film on the Blasket Islands, which would be like doing a documentary about Merasheen island in Placentia Bay – the last bastion of the Irish culture. They still spoke Irish when they were forced to move from there. She came here and we invited in a number of people and the opportunities that they had to meet people who had some interest one way or another. Rosemary ended up with, I think, two or three different opportunities to show her documentary and get involved with the Bloomsday festival. Eleanor met up with people who had owned the Blaskets or had investments there, wanted to invest, all kinds of things you do like that.
The third division here is the one that manages the properties, the one that looks after the employees in relation to salary and the residences and the places where the Canadian people stay.
It’s a handful.
I never had a drink in my life. If I did, I wouldn’t have time to have a pint. But that’s what I wanted. I didn’t come over here to sit around. We could easily do that home. It’s a great opportunity to do something worthwhile.
Sounds like a lot to sort through. How do you prioritize?
One of the biggest things that we’re working on is direct flights between Ireland and Canada. We don’t have them except for a couple of months during the summer. If you wanted to come here later on in the fall, you would probably end up flying to Toronto, flying back over Newfoundland, flying to London, then to Ireland. It took me 34 hours to get home Easter.
If we had a direct flight between here and say, St. John’s, it would be a little less than four hours.
Different attempts have been made in the past. The business group would do it, or the tourism group would do it, or the students, whatever. What we did in this case is, we looked at everyone involved, every agency, and we got the Irish-Canada Partnerships Business Association which we have here representing all the Canadian companies here in Dublin. Very active. And we work hand in glove with them. We have an Irish Canadian Society which represents the people generally, it’s more of a social outlet. We got them involved. We have the City of Dublin, the Lord Mayor has become a good friend of mine. We have the City of Dublin actively involved. We have Tourism Ireland, the department of tourism for Ireland … we have Dublin Airport heavily involved … we have the airports in Halifax and St. John’s heavily involved … ourselves, we would have access to all the numbers, immigration, people who travel to work, the student programs, student exchange, all that kind of stuff. We have compiled a brief, completed last week. We’ve met already with Air Canada, Aire Lingus. We have created a real interest in some of the airlines and there are other airlines also who are looking at this and expressing interest. We hope to do it in a reasonable period of time because it’s not as easy as it seems, you know, put a plane on tomorrow. Most of them only have planes enough to cover the routes they cover. You have landing times and costs and crews and all this kind of stuff. How many days you can operate and whatever. It’s a complicated job BUT there is major interest and I would think some time in the foreseeable future, in the next 12 to 18 months, we’ll find an airline providing a direct year-round link between Ireland and some part of Canada.
There’s a lot of stuff on culture too. Darcy McGee, who was born here in Ireland and shot on the streets of Ottawa, is well known over here. Well known in Canada. Not a lot was done to recognize that. We’re using that to build on. There’s the major wreck up in Bomcrawna with 23 Newfoundlanders lost. They do a major commemoration up there on the anniversary in January. We had the Air India crash just off Momtry Bay here in Ireland and we’ll represent the country at that in June. There are a number of things that are commemorated over here that tie in with Canada, a lot of them with our part of Canada (Newfoundland).
Speaking of those close cultural ties between Newfoundland and Ireland, do you ever feel like you’re as much Newfoundland’s representative over her
e as you are Canada’s?
Yes, I sometimes feel like Newfoundland’s ambassador to Ireland, especially on the university side, the cultural side. On the university side, a lot of work is being done with relation to ocean research and so on. Heavy connections with Newfoundland when you get to talking culture and music and so on. Now, because of the way things are turning around at home, we’re seeing the business interest also. Certainly, Newfoundland is not the 2% that we are of the Canadian population. It’s a lot more than 2% attention here, not just because I’m here, but because of the nature of our geography – and our geology. Where we’re doing exceptionally well right now because of the development of offshore oil resources, Ireland really isn’t getting that much income from its raw resources. There are reasons for that, but some say they haven’t pursued it the way we have and that something that a number of them are looking at now. To get themselves out of the current financial situation that they find themselves in, they need to find new money somewhere and I really think they have, personally, a lot of untapped natural resources and I think you’re going to see a bigger effort there over the next few years. Who better to help work with them, advise them, than the people of Newfoundland? There’s a natural fit there.
Looking to the financial sector, Ireland was in a tight spot after the most recent global financial crisis while Canada fared fairly well. Do you get asked many questions about the Canadian economy and its fiscal situation?
Do I get calls from people in Ireland wanting to learn from the Canadian banking example? Big time. We’ve had a number of meetings. The Finance minister here is close to the Finance minister in Ottawa. In fact, we had some meetings last week when the president of Treasury Board was here. He met with the Finance minister and the junior finance minister, who is responsible must as the president of treasury board in Canada for public sector employment and where the money is spent. We had great chats.
The Minister of Finance in Canada, of course, is Jim Flaherty. His people came from Galway one generation ago. Jim is very, very close to Ireland. We were very good friends when I was in Ottawa and that’s carried over, I have a very good liaison. That might be the advantage of coming from the political side rather than the bureaucratic side. There are certain things that need to be driven from the top. When you’re sort of buddies with some of the key movers, it’s easy to sit down and have a chat about things that are of real importance. I wouldn’t bother them with foolishness. Things where we see real opportunities one way or the other. To have people like Jim Flaherty, Peter McKay, Tony Clement, around, you can sit down and chat with them – makes the job a lot easier.
Do you foresee a larger presence for the Canadian financial sector in Ireland?
We already have a very good presence here as is in relation to some of our financial companies. Many of the major banks are established here. Not in the sense of the retail side, like you can’t go into a Bank of Canada and cash your cheque or the Bank of Nova Scotia or Montreal. But all these banks, I think I’ve met with all of them, I try to meet with any Canadian contacts we have here, formally and informally. Most of them are established here on the commercial side, working with other banks. Canadian financial agencies have some involvement with some of the Irish banks. They also, not only with the banking sector but with a lot of sectors, it’s a stepping stone to the rest of Europe too. They’re based here but doing a lot of work throughout Europe.
I think you’re going to see more demand on Canada. The big question we’re asked is, how did you guys avoid the recession? My answer, quite often, is that we have an Irish Finance minister. Without hesitation you’ll hear them say, send him home.
One of the ministers here last week kind of spoiled that because I said we had an Irish finance minister. He looked at me and he said, we did too.
But they are really looking towards Canada. I remember being there when we took an awful lot of heat on a lot of things, fairly quite often, on the banking changes that we made a few years ago. Everybody said they were too tough, too stringent. Now, of course, it’s thank god that you made them.
On the other hand, one of the things we don’t have is mortgage deductibility. You can’t claim your mortgage on your income tax. They do over here. Of course, if you can claim your mortgage, you don’t worry too much about your interest because you’re knocking off most of it anyway. Consequently, little things like that that encourage people to go out and borrow a lot, not worry too much about your personal debt load, when the bottom went out of everything, these are the people who got hurt and they’re now losing their homes and whatever.
Our housing bubble in Canada was quite tight. It didn’t burst, we controlled it very well. These are the things they’re looking at, the things that made the difference, why our economy didn’t tank. Why our housing market didn’t go bottom up. They are learning from there, actively involved.
In fact, we’re seeing groups, agencies talking and meeting.
How long will you be Canada’s Ambassador to Ireland?
It’s a four year appointment, I’m here less than a year. If everything goes right, I’ll be here for three more years. You can request an extra year, after that it would be the call of the department and the government. But I think, something like this, four years is just about right. A year wouldn’t be enough. It’s only now you’re getting the feel of it and starting to feel effective because you’re getting to know the people, you’re seeing the opportunities, you know the players. You need the next couple of years to really start to build on that and work things out and then a year to sort things out and make sure that everything is coming together. In my case, I doubt very much that I … not that I wouldn’t want to or wouldn’t enjoy being here. It’s a lovely spot. For me, it’s a second home and I’ve been on the go quite a bit.
This is sort of the crowning… I couldn’t say no to this one. I always say I retired from the best job I ever had. I enjoyed fisheries more than anything I ever did in my life. And there were some really good things happened from a fisherman’s point of view. Whether it be capital gains, what we did with NAFO, contrary to what some might say. I mean, the record speaks for itself. You don’t hear anything about overfishing these days. Stocks are rebuilding. Collectively, we had a great department and I loved that.
I had been involved on and off and I was coming home to come home, but I had always said that the only thing for which I’d lace up again was if I got a chance, in some capacity, to work with Ireland. Out of the blue, the ambassador who was here got an early appointment and it opened up the doors. How could you say no?
What were your thoughts when you arrived, vis-a-vis the Irish economy and the stability of its government?
I’m not as concerned about the Irish economy now as I would have been six months ago, or four or five months ago. I came here when the former government was in its last few days and there were major battles politically going on. Then we had the election and a minority government but then both parties, the Fine Gael and Labour came together. They seem to have made a solid compact. They are operating as a government and not two parties, which is very positive. I think it’s like everything else. When the going gets tough, people really come together. You fo
rget your own personal animosities and they’re working together for the good of the country.
For a while, all you heard was that Ireland is going to go bankrupt. The Irish economy headlined every economic story. You’re not hearing that now. You’re hearing about Greece and you’re hearing some other countries mentioned. Ireland isn’t out of the woods by any means, and they still have some very hard decisions to make. But I think the politicians here, business to a large extent, a lot of people feel that collectively, it will be tough but they can come out of it. They always did. That’s basically what the old crowd would say, we always came out of it.
I think that kind of optimism is here and if they play the game right and people are sensible… and they are sensible. You don’t see any major protests here. People are realistic. A lot of that comes from being well educated. The young people understand what’s going on. You’re going to see a major drive by everybody to try to put Ireland back on solid footing. You have to remember that what happened here was the banks overextended by far, they were giving away money like they were giving away candy. People took advantage of that, and low interest rates, and instead of building one house they wanted to build four. Three to pay for my own. When they realized the bottom was gone out of that market, because everybody was building houses, the construction industry had gotten completely out of whack, that was mainly what built the job opportunities. Most people unemployed would be in that sector.
There hasn’t been one multinational that left Ireland. Exports are up by 12 per cent or more this year. It’s mainly in the construction sector – that’s what put the banks in trouble. And the government had guaranteed the banks and that’s what put government in trouble. It’s a small circle but the amount of money was horrendous. It really weakened the economy.
They will need help from their friends. As our politicians have offered, they’re there to do whatever they can to help in any way at all, they’ll be available. Certainly, we have told them – look, if we can do anything as a conduit to meetings with the right people, to provide you with information, if we can let you know about opportunities for investment or job opportunities, we’re there to do it. And we’re working with the Canadian side, looking at projects that weren’t finished by maybe do have potential, just don’t have money, opportunities are there for Canadian companies.
Any worries about political unrest in Northern Ireland?
You travel back and forth into Northern Ireland now the same as if you were travelling into Galway or Cork. No difference. You go up to Belfast for a day the same as you go anywhere else. There was a little bit of a kerfuffle around July, marching time. Every year they commemorate some of the old battles with marches. Sooner or later, I guess, they’ll give those up.
What happens is… it would be like Petty Harbour winning, in the old days, the hockey league, the Harbour winning the cup. Instead of parading through Petty Harbour, they would parade through the Goulds who they just beat. You aggravate old hurts even more.
That was the old days. Generally speaking, things are going quite well. The regional council up there has even talked about, maybe it’s time to be taking down some of the walls. I have no jurisdiction on the other side of the border. Northern Ireland comes under the office in London. However, I deal with… in fact, tomorrow I’ll be right on the border, and I have been a number of times dealing with towns, dealing with cross-border committees. I’ve been invited up there oodles of times to participate and I’ve had to say I can’t officially, but we can certainly meet on this end and anything we can do to help further the peace process. But things are coming along really well. There’s still, I suppose, some old harboured animosities. The Queen’s visit here helped to dispel a lot of the old feelings, the old hurts. From a lot of people, the comment afterwards is that it’s time to move on. She was gracious. She seemed to be extremely sincere. Most people accepted her when she came. To have the Queen participate in a function here, the last night she was here, and to get a standing ovation from people in the Republic of Ireland. That was unheard-of.