Presidents Address to the AGM of the Irish Business
Forum of Hong Kong
Friday, 7th December 2001, The Hong Kong Club
Good Evening everyone - members of the IBF, friends and guests.
We are delighted to welcome you to the third annual general meeting
of the IBF.
As was the case last year at our AGM, we plan to keep the formalities
I will give a quick recap of our history, and talk a little about
our recent activities and upcoming plans.
We also have a number of agenda items to address, including the
election of our incoming committee.
And we welcome questions and comments from our members - an opportunity
will be available later this evening.
First - a quick recap of our history:
The IBF was established in late 1997 following an initial meeting
of Irish business people in the Ritz Carlton Hotel, right next door.
A need was felt to create an Irish-focused business networking group.
Members are comprised Irish nationals and those with an interest
in Irish business. We are fortunate to retain a number of the founding
members, many of whom are here tonight. Their ideas, initiatives
and hard work have ensured the continued success of the Irish Business
Forum and an expansion of its role.
We work closely with the St Patrick's Society and indeed share
a number of key committee members. We also stay in close contact
with the GAA, another Irish group with strong representation here
in Hong Kong. Each group has its specific focus yet we all share
a common interest - that is Ireland.
The Irish Business Forum fulfills a number of roles here in Hong
- we offer a platform for speakers of interest to the Irish business
- we liaise with the European Chamber of Commerce to ensure the
interests of Ireland are represented via this umbrella group
- we act as a sounding board for visiting diplomats, politicians,
educators and business people helping them to take the pulse of
this vibrant region
For our members, we offer
- an array of interesting speakers
- networking opportunities
- a chance to help further Irish business interests in Hong Kong
- a chance to stay in touch with the Irish business community in
- first hand updates on business, political and educational trends
Recent speakers have included
- Professor Gerry McKenna, the Vice Chancellor of the University
of Ulster, who provided an illuminating account of the development
of education in Ireland, particularly Northern Ireland, and insight
to the close links developing between the corporate and academic
- Mr Alfie Kane, CEO of Eircom and President of the Dublin Chamber
of Commerce, who enthralled a large contingent with his firsthand
account of the fast-moving telecom world and Eircom's dynamic changes.
He also spoke of the Chamber's focus on Hong Kong as a sustainable
gateway to China and one through which Irish businesses would continue
to operate as it seeks to take advantage of one of the region's
fastest-growing economies (or should I say only growing economy!).
In addition, we have liaised with the Honory Irish Consul and the
British Consul on a number of business cocktail evenings, with one
held last month on behalf of the Northern Irish Trade Board. And
many of you attended the cocktail evening with Mary Harney late
Through our membership of the European Chamber of Commerce and
affiliation with InterCham (umbrella group for HK-based international
chambers of commerce), we can continue to offer IBF members opportunities
to participate in events organised by these bodies and at the members'
Our membership numbers saw a decline earlier this year and have
recently started to climb again. Active members stand at about 50
with an estimated additional 20 silent or dormant members. For those
who have not yet signed up, please take the opportunity to do so
today. Applications forms are on the reception desk.
Business societies are as affected by economic cycles as any business
and additionally, we can be negatively impacted by expats moving
out of Hong Kong. While we would be pleased to see our numbers climb
toward 100, we feel that an active membership of 50 is already quite
a healthy membership for our relatively small community.
We have launched two new initiatives recently
- A Quarterly Newsletter for members (copies are on the reception
desk). This is designed to keep you up to date on planned activities
and facilitate easier two-way communication between the committee
- Informal Roundtable Lunches where a featured speaker will highlight
what is happening in his or her world. Renowned headhunter, Harry
O'Neill, will kick off this series in January. Given that Hong Kong
is in its second recession in three years, the words of a veteran
headhunter can always help with our own career plans. Harry cannot
join us tonight as he is en route to Lamma with a key client.
In summary, I can say we are very pleased that the IBF continues
to thrive in these tough market conditions. We will continue to
work to best represent the interests of our members and to make
this group the best place for meeting other people with an interest
in Irish business matters. It has been my honour to act as your
President for this past year and I remain committed to help the
IBF as we go forward. I would like to thank my fellow committee
members who have been instrumental in ensuring our success.
On that note, I will hand over to Liam Drake, our secretary, who
will officiate over the rest of the proceedings.