Tuesday, February 21, 2017

What's with the Shamrocks?


Each year the Irish Prime Minister (An Taoiseach) visits the White House on or around St. Patrick's Day for what has become known as the Shamrock Ceremony, where he presents a Waterford Crystal bowl filled with shamrock to the President of the United States in recognition of the two countries special bond. The official exchange and photo op is joyfully followed by a festive reception for guests at the White House. The festivities actually begin much earlier in the day with a sit down St. Patrick's Day lunch. This tradition began, on a much smaller scale, during the Truman administration when, in 1952, the Irish Ambassador to the US John Hearne dropped off a box of shamrock plant to the White House. Ironically President Truman was not home at the time but rather on vacation. 

So what's all the fuss about? 

To answer that question we need to go back to the founding of the countries. Anyone who has read modern history would have little choice but to appreciate the strong connection between the US and Ireland. A few notables: 

  • Of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence eight (8) were Irish Americans, three (3) of whom were Irish born - James Smith, George Taylor and Matthew Thornton. 
  • Many Irish fought and died in the American Civil War. 
  • The Irish Proclamation of Independence (Easter Proclamation) of April 24, 1916 specifically mentions America in its text: 
"... she (Ireland) now seizes that moment, and supported by her exiled children in America ..."

America continued to be a bastion of support for Irish independence and consequently for peace in the northern part of the country. Many Irish of course immigrated to the United States to work and send money back home to aid their families in Ireland. The first shamrock ceremony, as referenced earlier, was post World War II and there is some thought that Hearne was motivated to try and warm the relationship with the US given Ireland's neutrality during the war. 

With different administrations came different levels of interest in the tradition. Obviously the election of John F. Kennedy was a game changer in terms of recognition and appreciation of not just Irish heritage but also Catholicism. As the first Catholic ever elected to the Office of the President, JFK was the embodiment for so many Irish and Irish Americans of what they and their families had sought - recognition, acceptance and, most of all, respect. Other Administrations followed and all maintained the shamrock ceremony on or around St. Patrick's Day. President Ronald Reagan, a very proud Irish American, found particular enjoyment with the ceremony and added speaking programs as a way to educate Americans about the current state of affairs in Ireland, as did President Bill Clinton. Clinton, however, changed the dynamic considerably by adding a political element in his proactive and unwavering support of peace in Northern Ireland. His interest was made clear early on when as a candidate he acknowledged that he would advocate for a visa for Gerry Adams - the leader of the Sinn Fein political party in Northern Ireland. It was a risk as both a candidate and as a President but the gamble paid off and Clinton's administration was integral in helping to shape and realize the Good Friday Agreement, with incredible contributions from people like former Senator George Mitchell. Accordingly, Clinton's White House St. Patrick's Day guests included not only An Taoiseach and the Ambassadors but also the political leaders from Northern Ireland - a first. 



Today the ceremony is mainly celebratory where the political leader of Ireland is provided a unique opportunity to present his American "wish list" for Ireland to the leader of the free world. In recent years, a key focus has been the economic ties between Ireland and the US, particularly foreign direct investment from America into Ireland, and immigration reform to assist the undocumented Irish in America. 

This year's St. Patrick's Day visit will be interesting to say the least. The political climate in both countries is, in many respects, unprecedented. Despite considerable criticism he has received at home, Taoiseach Enda Kenny is scheduled to travel to the US for St Patrick's Day to visit with President Trump. The traditional asks on behalf of his country, however, will be met with a different set of ears than he may be used to. Trump has demonstrated a very different view of immigrants than that of, at the very least, his immediate predecessor and many believe is uninterested in working to find ways to integrate any of the so-called undocumented - Irish or otherwise. Further, he supports a tax on imported American goods which are produced by American companies abroad and wants to see a revamp of the US tax code, which in part will be aimed at enticing US companies with foreign HQs and/or operations to physically and legally return home. Many such US companies currently call Ireland home. 

Unfortunately for Enda Kenny, this could very well be his last visit to the White House as Taoiseach. He is currently under considerable political stress in his own government and could quite possibly be out of office in 8-10 weeks time. Add to all of this the sobering consequences of Brexit and the possibility that Ireland may be forced back to the days of a physical border between the Republic and the 6 counties of the North, it makes for a critically important and potentially challenging exchange between the two leaders over the shamrock bowl. 

Regardless of politics, it is indeed encouraging to see that the time honored tradition of the shamrock ceremony will continue into the Trump Administration. It could even lead to other things in the future. I have no idea if President Trump has any Irish heritage. President Obama did not learn of his Irish lineage until he was in the White House - a fact he pointed out at one of his St. Patrick's Day lunches by commenting that such knowledge, as a son of Chicago, could have delivered him to Washington "sooner". Could there be a Moneygall in Trump's future? We can only speculate - I for one would be curious to see the kind of reception he would receive compared to the likes of Kennedy and Obama. 

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Pfizer deal - pointing the finger at Ireland

Labeling seems to be something we as Americans do more of these days.  I know I am as guilty as anyone but the consequences can be dangerous and lead to inaccurate perceptions which can lead to false realities.  I think that referring to Ireland as a "tax haven" falls into this category.  Aside from the fact that Ireland does not meet the standards of a so-called tax haven, as defined by the OECD, (see here) there remains those who irresponsibly and cavalierly label the country as such.  This issue has yet again raised its head with reports of the massive deal between Pfizer and Allergan and the anticipated move of Pfizer's operations to Ireland where Allergan is headquartered.  On Monday the Irish Times reported, "A deal, structured as a tax inversion, would see Pfizer move its tax base to Ireland where Allergan is based, allowing the company to avoid US tax bills on more than $128 billion of profits earned overseas."    

The deal has reignited an on-going debate about US companies based in foreign countries for the sole purposes of evading US tax.  Ireland has been front and center as many major US corporations call Ireland their legal home where there is a 12.5% corporate tax rate.  The arguments, however, too often put the focus on other countries' practices and sets blame on them for offering an unfair advantage. An alternative, that would unfortunately require Congress to come together on something, would be a frank and substantive discussion about the problems with our own tax code and ultimately a comprehensive legislative package to address the effect of corporate taxation on international business. After all, our own corporate rate has been a whopping 35% for some time and Ireland did not set its corporate tax rate yesterday.       

American politicians are no strangers to this debate.  In 2004, Congress passed a law (26 U.S. Code § 7874 - Rules relating to expatriated entities and their foreign parents) that, among other things, took aim at corporations engaged in "corporate inversions" - which is basically reincorporating in a foreign country that has a low corporate income tax rate allegedly for the sole purpose of avoiding US tax on that income.  The term "expatriated entity" was born in this law.  President Obama supported the initiative and specifically mentioned Ireland as a target country.  

Former US Sen. Carl Levin who was extremely vocal in his characterization of Ireland as a tax haven - supported only by his own "common sense" test, expressed his outrage with Apple, referring to its strategy as "the Holy Grail of tax avoidance" (Washington Post 5/20/13) - using what became known as the "Double Irish" tax.  Sen. Bernie Sanders has added his voice to the mix in his run to win the Democratic nomination for the Presidency, which is no surprise as he considers himself a socialist - although I doubt there are many Americans who can appreciate what true socialism is.  

In an effort to preserve its tax rate and appease critics from the US and Europe, Ireland eliminated the so-called "Double Irish" tax, coined as such because companies would establish 2 subsidiaries in Ireland - one that collects profits and another that moves those profits through a separate entity headquartered in a country with a lower rate than Ireland's.  

Although legal, are these tax schemes unfair to America?  There is certainly a strong argument in favor, but in the interests of transparency and honesty, there is also a strong argument that the classification of Ireland as a so-called tax haven is not only false but also grossly unfair.  All too often, politicians and others attribute a company's presence in Ireland solely to avail of its corporate income tax rate without looking deeper and considering the many other benefits the country has to offer to help business thrive.  

To suggest that a 12.5% corporate tax is the sole consideration a company gives in moving to or expanding into Ireland is, in my opinion, either naive or manipulative.  Is the rate attractive? Of course it is, particularly given the fact that the bottom line purpose of a business is to make a profit.  

Lest we forget, Ireland offers: 
  • a highly talented and skilled workforce, 
  • outstanding and competitive schools and universities (1 of top 10 countries globally), 
  • competitive cost of living, 
  • stable labor costs,  
  • 5 hour flight from the east coast, 
  • English speaking,  
  • excellent quality of life, 
  • proximate gateway to Europe for US companies; 
  • and yes - competitive corporate tax rate at 12.5%

In none of the recent reporting on either side of the Atlantic that I have read or listened to has there been any discussion of the above referenced benefits or, for example, the R&D and regulatory advantages which are available in Ireland and the EU - particularly for biotech, life sciences and medical device companies.     

Also, for anyone to suggest that the US is losing significant jobs to Ireland is inaccurate.  Due to a lack of jobs, Ireland has seen hundreds of thousands (89,000 in 2013 alone) emigrate from its shores since the Great Recession (many in their twenties) in search of work to places like Canada and Australia.  

Let's not forget Northern Ireland which is home to many blue chip American companies - as I made reference to in this blog last year.  AllState, Liberty Mutual, CVS, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, NY Stock Exchange, Intel, Concentrix, and Citi to name but a few.  These companies, however, pay the UK corporate tax rate of 20% and are indeed happy as I learned first hand visiting Liberty Mutual in Belfast last September.  

In 2018, there will finally be the devolution of tax powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly from Westminster and the corporate tax rate as proposed is 12.5% - consistent with the south.  Are they the next haven?   

Aside from being outright false, the danger here is that Ireland, in the context of business, becomes a euphemism for tax haven.  For all that the emigrants of that country have done for ours and for the incredible business partnerships that have been developed between our countries, it would be shameful for that to happen.  Ireland deserves more than soundbites and labeling. 
     

     

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Irish Network Boston President Sean P. Moynihan discusses Boston Ireland Business Connections


With St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in high gear, NECN delves into the business connections between Greater Boston and Ireland. The guide for the journey is Sean P. Moynihan, President of Irish Network Boston (IN Boston) and VP for Global Partnerships of the Boston Irish Business Association (BIBA). http://www.necn.com/news/business/NECN_031415_b_twib_10am_NECN-296316041.html

Monday, March 9, 2015

Five Minutes with Sean Moynihan

The following article was printed in the March 7th issue of the Irish Emigrant-Boston and appeared on Irish Central's website http://www.irishcentral.com/culture/community/Five-minutes-with-irish-Network-Boston-President-Sean-Moynihan.html It is re-printed here with permission.


Five minutes with Irish Network Boston President, Séan Moynihan

The Irish Emigrant | @IrishEmigrant | March 12,2015 | 12:30 PM

Irish Network Boston is hosting it's biggest St. Patrick's Day celebration ever with their annual party to take place at the Massachusetts State House on March 13. The event which has become a firm favorite on the Boston Irish social calendar is also an opportunity to toast to the organization as it celebrates it's 5th Anniversary. The Irish Emigrant caught up with Attorney Sean P. Moynihan, the founder and principal of The Moynihan Group and President of IN Boston to talk about his role and the St. Patrick's day celebration.

How have you enjoyed your role as President of IN Boston?

I have thoroughly enjoyed my time so far as President of IN Boston. I did not appreciate, however, how time consuming it could become! What makes it easier is that we have a tremendous board of directors and very supportive Consul General and together we work very hard to meet and hopefully exceed the expectations of our members and of the Irish government. I think I enjoy the outreach the most – the opportunity to connect with people in Boston and beyond that share an interest in and a passion for Ireland. As we move forward, we are considering new initiatives such as a mentorship program and a volunteer/charitable program where we can have the opportunity to give back to the Boston community.


Your thoughts on the year ahead for Irish Network Boston


I am very excited about 2015 for several reasons. First and foremost, we turn 5 years old this year! The organization is still very young but it is nonetheless remarkable that 5 years have passed by.

Second, Boston will play host to the annual Irish Network USA National Conference in November of this year. This will be a great opportunity to showcase our incredible city to members of Irish Networks throughout the country - of which there are currently 20. Over a 3 day period, we will meet with our colleagues, Ambassador Anne Anderson, our Consul General Breandán O'Caollaí and many of our city’s leaders in business, government, education and the arts. Among some of the highlights will be a signature event in celebration of our 5 year anniversary where our members and guests can celebrate with their colleagues from our sister city Irish Networks. I have already spoken with colleagues from places like Seattle, Washington, DC and Chicago and they are very excited about coming to Boston.

Finally, we will be re-launching our website this year. The site is actually live now and members will get a sample of it when renewing membership and/or registering for the St Patrick’s Day party but we plan a formal launch for April/May time period. The site will have significant more content for members to enjoy and there will be an active “community” section where members can network virtually. We will have other fun content like Irish historical facts and a Member of the Month selection. We will be sending members a formal announcement soon on the website re-launch.

What can people expect from this year's IN Boston St. Patrick's Day Celebrations on March 13?

We have changed our venue again for this year’s St. Patrick’s Day Celebration which will be held at the Massachusetts State House. I am thrilled about this location as I spent 11 years working in the House of Representatives as an aide and an attorney. Given the historical significance of the building itself, which served as a model for the United States Capitol building, and that March 17th is also Evacuation Day - when the Continental Army held Dorchester Heights in South Boston and forced British troops to retreat and evacuate the city – we and the Consul General felt that a St. Patrick’s Day celebration at the State House was long overdue.

We are excited this year to have two Irish craft brews for guests to sample. Dingle Brewing Company of Dingle, County Kerry will provide samples of their new craft brew – Crean’s (which will be distributed by one of our long time and generous sponsors Burke Distributing) and Carlow Brewing Company of Bagenalstown, County Carlow will provide sample’s of their stout O’Hara’s.

As always we will have our signature Guinness beef stew and our mashed potato bar – which was the brainchild of our first President Dave Greaney. This year we will be entertained by trad Irish band Hogan’s Goat and the Brady Kenny O'Brien Irish Dance Academy.


Purchase your tickets for this year's Irish Network Boston St. Patrick's Day Party or learn more about Irish Network Boston at www.irishnetworkboston.net

Séan Moynihan with (Left) Consul General of Ireland to Boston, Breandán Ó Caollaí, (Middle) Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The North is Alive and Well

If the level of energy of Belfast’s Lord Mayor is any indication, the north of Ireland is on the right track and doing extremely well.  Not that it surprises anyone who has taken notice.  Hosting companies like AllState, Liberty Mutual, CVS, Chicago Mercantile Exchange, NY Stock Exchange, Intel, Concentrix, and Citi; Belfast and the North are hosts to major blue chip American companies.  Let’s not forget an incredibly successful City of Culture 2013 and 2013 All Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann for Derry – a city that has consequently been at the forefront of world wide press for all the right reasons.  Some other interesting facts about the northern part of the country:
  • One of youngest cities in Europe, almost 1 in 5 under 15;
  • Biggest film production in Europe last year with $700m in Belfast, Game of Thrones;
  • Biggest investment at university level in Europe - currently University of Ulster at $400m to create new campus in inner city;
  • Biggest stadium development in Europe taking place in Belfast now with new Gaelic $120m stadium, soccer $45m, and Rugby $30m.
Lord Mayor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is no stranger to the city of Boston.  I have known and worked  with him since 2007 when the Irish Echo first launched the Golden Bridges Awards Ceremony, which has become an annual event honoring the likes of Senate President Therese Murray, Lt Governor Tim Murray, Sister Lena Deevy and many others. 
This visit, however, was of particular significance as he and our new Mayor Marty Walsh, who in just 3 months is making major positive changes for Boston, agreed in principle to a sister city arrangement that will most certainly prove mutually beneficial.  Improv Asylum, a TMG client, which has grown in both Boston – Laugh Boston was launched under a year ago - and Ireland - IA Innovations was launched in Dublin; has begun initial conversations with Ó Muilleoir and others for a possible expansion in Belfast.  
Sean Moynihan with Mairtin O'Muilleoir
Boston has been just one of his many stops throughout the States and the world over for Ó Muilleoir over the past 10 months as he flies the flag for Belfast and the North.  We had the pleasure of catching up at a breakfast sponsored by Invest Northern Ireland, under the successful leadership of all stars Gary Hanley and John Logan. 
I will see the Lord Mayor this Summer in Belfast and then again in October for the annual Northwest of Ireland Conference and Golden Bridges award ceremonies.  Something tells me there will be more positive news coming our way from across the Atlantic. 




Monday, March 17, 2014

Sean Moynihan takes on new role as President of Irish Network Boston (IN Boston)


This article appeared in the Irish Emigrant newspaper in March.  It is reprinted here with permission. 

http://www.irishemigrant.com/ie/go.asp?p=story&storyID=18704

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Sean Moynihan takes on new role as president of Irish Network Boston
New President of IN Boston, Sean Moynihan with Ireland's Taoiseach Enda Kenny during his last visit to Boston in 2013
New President of IN Boston, Sean Moynihan with Ireland's Taoiseach Enda Kenny during his last visit to Boston in 2013
To say that Sean Moynihan is excited about his new role as President of Irish Network Boston (IN Boston) would be an understatement. Moynihan, a corporate and government affairs attorney in Boston, was elected President of the IN board of directors in January. A founding board member, he has served on the executive committee since its launch in 2010. We caught up with him recently and his excitement was palpable.
“I love this organization”, he said. “We work very hard to offer our members the opportunity to interact personally and virtually through events, programming, information sharing, and an active on-line presence. Our charge is an important one as we also aim to inform and promote the great work of the other Irish and Irish American organizations in the Boston and Massachusetts area”.
He credits the success of the organization to an extremely talented and committed board of directors, all of whom are volunteers, and an active and savvy membership base that is the “life blood” of the organization. “An organization like IN is only as strong as its members and our members are incredible. They come from all different walks of life and backgrounds – Irish born, Irish Americans and folks who simply have a great affinity for Ireland. We do our best to offer events and programming that cut across the spectrum of their interests – cultural, business, educational, one on one networking, etc.”
He has an ambitious agenda for the coming year that involves a complete overhaul and re-launch of the organization’s website, several speaker series involving discussions about the Irish economy, the situation in Northern Ireland, and the local economic and political climate as well as the group’s annual Summer networking series. He hinted at another major event that he thinks will generate a great deal of interest and support but refused to get into details.
Moynihan serves as Secretary of Irish Network USA (IN USA) which is the national organization overseeing some 17 chapters in cities throughout the US, Boston being one of them. This past November he was in Washington, DC for a national board meeting and the group was hosted by Irish Ambassador to the United States Anne Anderson. “She is an extremely bright and talented lady. We are fortunate to have such a competent and effective team from the Irish government here in America.” He specifically pointed out the hard work done by Boston’s former Consul General Michael Lonergan in launching IN Boston and current Consul General Breandán Ó Caollaí who has been “nothing but supportive since he arrived here in August.”
Moynihan himself is no stranger to supporting links between Ireland and the US. A dual citizen, he has family in Inagh, County Clare, Adare in Limerick and Barraduff in Kerry. His firm – The Moynihan Group, LLC – has ”been blessed” with a variety of American and Irish clients seeking to establish a presence in each country. He serves on the board of the Boston Irish Business Association (BIBA), the Irish International Immigration Center’s (IIIC) Intern Advisory Board, and is a past trustee of the Irish Pastoral Center.
When the subject of St. Patrick’s Day came up, he offered this observation. “There was always a real sense of pride in being ‘Irish’ in my family. It was far from just celebrating St Patrick’s Day. More so, it was being mindful of who we were as Irish Americans – a genuine respect and appreciation for the history of the family and the challenges they faced both at home in Ireland and then as immigrants in Massachusetts,” he said.
He joked, “Some may think my interest in Ireland is over the top, but it’s who I am”. Far from naïve, he immediately pointed out how his grandmother would now and again keep him in check and remind him that, despite his affinity for Ireland, he was an American. “She would just grin and look at me and say ‘Ah Sean you love Ireland, but you’ll always be a Yank’”



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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

TMG announces new Dublin client – IA Innovation,Inc.

Focus on business development for Dublin branch of Boston-based Innovative leadership and employee training company

               Copy_of_TMG_newlogo                                          

The Moynihan Group, LLC (TMG) is pleased to announce its newest client in Dublin, Ireland - IA Innovation, Inc. IA Innovation is a Boston-based corporate training company, which has expanded to Ireland as part of the "Succeed in Ireland" initiative, and will serve businesses throughout Europe. Spawned from the success of Improv Asylum, a multi-faceted entertainment company that launched in May of 1998 in Boston’s historic North End, IA Innovation was created to focus on the growing European demand for innovative and effective corporate employee training. IA will utilize a trademarked brand, methodology and approach to European multinational companies.

TMG will provide relationship facilitation and business development services to IA Innovation throughout the island of Ireland and into Europe by targeting companies and organizations in need of Corporate Leadership and Employee Training programs. Relying on its strong network of professional contacts, TMG’s efforts will include outreach to corporate, government, non-profit and educational organizations.

“We believe our success as an innovative training leader in America will readily translate here in Dublin and beyond, and create a much needed and accessible vehicle to all of our European clients. We are very excited to be partnering with The Moynihan Group in our efforts to establish strong and long lasting relationships within Dublin, throughout the entire island of Ireland, Great Britain and Europe," said IA Innovation partner Robert Melley.

“We are thrilled to be working with IA Innovation because this company embodies the type of cutting edge business we feverishly seek to partner with. The tremendous success of IA Innovation’s partner company Improv Asylum is a true testament to the entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in Boston and is an indication of the success in store for IA Innovation. Accordingly, in our opinion, a move into Ireland is one of the best strategic decisions the company could have made. Working with a Boston company in Ireland uniquely fits directly into our business plan and we look forward to a very productive 2014! ” said Sean P. Moynihan, Principal and Founder of The Moynihan Group.

IA Innovation is based in Dublin and managed and operated by partners Chet Harding, Norm Laviolette and Robert Melley. IA Innovation focuses on innovative training methods designed to teach and deliver the tools necessary to become more effective leaders and accountable employees through effective communication, listening, team building skills, and more.

For more information, please contact TMG at (617) 778-0384 inquiries@themoynihangroup.com  or Kimberley Ring, Ring Communications at (617) 957-9232 kim@ring-communications.com