Irish businesses look to the East for new opportunities

11th March 2015

Trade Mission to the ME for April announced

300 delegates assembled today at the inaugural Arab-Irish Business Forum from which two key messages, which could lead to the creation of 6,000 new jobs in Ireland by 2020, emerged:

  • The opportunities for Irish companies are significant: The value of the Arab world to Irish businesses grew by 16% in 2014 and was valued at almost €4bn for goods and services, with this figure expected to rise to €6bn by 2020.  This would see the number of jobs supported by trade with the Arab world increasing  from an estimated 8,000 at present to over 14,000 over the next six years
  • Irish companies are already experiencing considerable success in the Arab World and in particular, the five Gulf countries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain, which account for over 70% of Irish business to the region. This GCC region was identified as providing the best opportunity for business growth over the coming decade

Many of those attending the conference are already doing business in the Arab world and many more were interested in hearing about new opportunities in a region populated by some 365m people and that imports a significant proportion of its goods and services.

Opening today’s conference, Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Richard Bruton TD said; “At the heart of our jobs plan is supporting export-led growth, and in the four years since we took office we have seen 40,000 extra jobs in exporting companies supported by my Department. A key part of this is developing increased links with growth markets including countries in the Middle East, and I have been on a number of trade missions to the region since taking office and indeed can announce today that I will be leading another trade mission to the region in late April.

“Today’s announcement makes clear once again the scale of the possibilities that exist for Ireland in this region. I wish all involved every success and look forward to working with our partners in the Gulf to develop more opportunities for jobs and growth in Ireland”.

The programme of speakers and panellists included  some of the vanguards of Irish business people who headed east including Colm McLoughlin of Dubai Duty Free; Declan O’Mahony, CEO of the OMG Group; Michael Looby, CEO of Byrne Looby Partners and Declan Hegarty, MD of JP Morgan, Middle East.

In addition, business and diplomatic representatives who flew in for the event included Martinus Hendrikse, General Manager of one of the ME’s largest retailers, Spinneys; Faisal Belhoul, MD of leading private equity group, Ithmar Capital; Abdullah Al Hotayb, Chairman of ABB KSA, a global leader in power; Ramzi Salman, Former Special Adviser to Qatar’s Minister of Industry and Energy and Lalu Samuel, Chairman of Kingston Holdings.

Today’s sell-out event, which aimed to de-mystify doing business with the Middle East and encourage Irish business leaders to explore new opportunities in the Gulf region, was a unique collaboration between public and private organisations and was jointly organised by Enterprise Ireland, Emirates Airline, the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce and Bord Bia. 

Joe Geoghegan, Chairman of the Arab-Irish Chamber of Commerce commended the work of the Irish Business Networks, which, alongside agencies such as Enterprise Ireland and Bord Bia, are a formidable force in helping Irish businesses to succeed in the Gulf.

“We are confident that today’s conference will contribute to the sustained effort to further develop Arab-Irish trade and investment, in both directions, and that we can not only support the creation of new jobs in Ireland but also, help more Irish businesses to do business with the East,” said Geoghegan.

There are over 450 indigenous Irish companies currently operating in the Gulf region including Jones Engineering, Byrne Looby, Glen Dimplex, Glanbia, Chanelle Pharmaceuticals, PM Group, Glenbeigh Records Management and Kerry Group.

It has never been easier to do business with the Arab states with Emirates airline operating two daily flights direct from Dublin to Dubai, with 50 tonnes cargo capacity and onward connections to 17 destinations across the Gulf region. To whet the appetite of delegates, Enda Corneille, head of Emirates in Ireland gave away one pair of Business Class tickets with Emirates to Dubai.

Those interested in exploring business opportunities in the Arab world can contact Enterprise Ireland or visit



For media information Rachel Sherry – 087 6622111 or Nuala Ryan – 083 4212733