By Denise Marray/Gulf Times Correspondent/London

“Ninety percent of Ireland’s GDP comes from exports. For a company to achieve scale it has to export.”
With this statement, Sean Davis, regional director, Mena, Enterprise Ireland, makes it clear why the Irish government wants its companies to make the most of the wide array of opportunities in the Middle East.
An 87 strong Irish trade delegation led by Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton, is visiting Dubai, Jeddah, Riyadh, Doha and Abu Dhabi between April 19 and April 23.
Davis explained that alerting companies to the potential of the Middle East is especially important as what he termed ‘the red zone’ countries beset by conflict tend to dominate world headlines and make it harder to see the positives. Part of his job, he said, is to demystify the Middle East.
ICT, healthcare and energy are the sectors of key interest for the Doha meetings.
With regard to ICT, Ireland is emerging as a global technology hub. The sector is thriving, with exports and employment in both indigenous and multinational technology firms continuing to grow.
In the last three years over 17,500 jobs have been announced by technology companies and the sector is responsible for 40% of national exports (€72bn per annum). Ireland is home to 10 of the top 10 global technology companies, 9 of the 10 global software companies, 3 of the 3 top security software companies, 3 of the top 3 enterprise software companies and 4 of the top 5 IT services companies.
So it’s no surprise that meetings have been arranged in Qatar with Ooredoo.
At the meeting to be held with the Supreme Council of Health, companies such as Slainte and OneView will have an opportunity to share the latest information on their advanced healthcare technologies.
Slainte Healthcare (Slainte means Good Health in the Irish language), whose clients include Mediclinic Middle East and Operation Smile, will showcase its Vitro‘paperless hospital’ technology.
Vitro, featuring electronic patient charts, allows extensive levels of complex medical information to be collected and used across departments to improve performance, strategic direction, resourcing and planning and the overall patient experience.
Innovative Irish healthcare company Oneview is helping to revolutionise patient experience through next generation technology. Its Core Platform seamlessly integrates a hospital’s IT systems onto one high performance healthcare technology platform and provides point-of-care access to those systems across all end user devices.
Davis explained that in addition to the high level meetings, site visits will form an important part of the itinerary where specifics of products can be discussed right within the practical working environment.
The aviation industry is the main draw for one of the highly specialised companies participating in the trade mission.
Dublin headquartered Botany Weavers, established in 1934, is one of the largest aircraft seat fabric manufactures in the world. It is a market leader at the cutting-edge of high-quality aviation and ground transportation interior textile manufacture, supplying Air Canada, Air France, British Airways, Cathay Pacific, United Airlines, Qantas and Virgin Atlantic.
In 2007 and 2008, the company invested over €4mn in weaving facilities at its three manufacturing plants in Ireland.
Approved by Boeing and Airbus, it has also received their ‘approved supplier’ status for carpets, a growing part of the family-owned business.
For the 87 companies in the trade mission the visit to the Gulf is an opportunity to forge new business ties and strengthen existing relationships.
Ireland is once again a country ‘on the up’. To quote from the latest report of the IMF:
“Ireland enjoyed strong growth in 2014, at about 5% y/y, led by exports and investment. Solid job creation has brought the unemployment rate down to 10½ percent, from a peak of 15% three years ago. These positive economic developments drove higher than expected growth in revenues, helping bring the fiscal deficit down to an estimated 3.9% of GDP in 2014 despite some spending overruns.”
In the last eighteen months four Irish trade delegations have visited the Gulf. The upcoming mission is part of a pattern of continual efforts to foster commercial and business links.
When Taoiseach Enda Kenny visited Qatar last year he said the doors were “wide open” for business. That’s a message that this delegation is keen to drive home.
As Sean Davis concluded: “We have a good story to tell.”

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