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  • 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 brief.

    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 Kong.

    - we offer a platform for speakers of interest to the Irish business community
    - 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 Hong Kong
    - first hand updates on business, political and educational trends in Ireland

    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 world.

    - 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 last year.

    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' price.

    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 and members.
    - 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.

    Many thanks
    Maeve Gallagher

    © 2002 Irish Business Forum of Hong Kong Ltd
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