ICBA Southern Region – Opening Up Opportunities

Earlier this year, ICBA Southern Region, Cork Chamber & Republic of Work joined forces to host an event entitled:

 ‘Opening up new opportunities for China-Ireland Relations in the Southern Region in 2020’.

Under the aegis of the Lord Mayor and Cork City Council, in conjunction with Cork Chamber and Republic of Work, the ICBA Southern Region hosted a major event in Cork City on 10 January 2020 on the theme ‘Opening up new opportunities for China-Ireland Relations in the Southern Region in 2020’.

The timing could not have been more propitious. Throughout 2019, Ireland and China had celebrated the 40th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations. Events in both countries had marked the rapid growth in bilateral links between Ireland and China paying tribute to the many individuals and bodies who had achieved such success. Then at the end of 2019, the long-awaited Asia Pacific Strategy Global Ireland: Delivering in the Asia Pacific region to 2025 was launched by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Mr Simon Coveney TD. Significant growth in Ireland-China relations is planned to include the establishment of a third Consulate, expansion in two-way trade and in Team Ireland’s staffing presence in China.

Growing links with Greater Shanghai

In the history of Ireland-China relations, the vision and foresight of Cork City to establish a Sister City Agreement with Shanghai in 2005 stands out as a transforming moment. It has also led to links with Hangzhou, Wuxi and more recently with Shenzhen. Cork County Council has now signed agreements with Jiangsu Province, particularly with the great cities of Nanjing and Suzhou, promoting trade, tourism and cultural exchanges. Such links have enormous potential for the future of Cork, projected to be the fastest-growing region in Ireland in the next 20 years.

The presence of the Lord Mayor Cllr Sheehan, CEO Ms Ann Doherty and many senior officials from Cork City and County was testimony to the importance of this event for Southern Ireland’s links with China. In his opening speech, the Lord Mayor stressed the need to “continually strive to strengthen our connections with China and use them to further grow our ever-evolving relationship on so many levels with governmental, municipal, business, health and cultural interests.”

It was a rare and special honour to have both Ireland’s Ambassador to China, Mr Eoin O’Leary and Consul General to Shanghai, Ms Therese Healy in attendance. The Director of DFAT’s Asia Pacific Unit, Mr Tim Mawe was also present. In his keynote address, the Ambassador briefly presented an overview of past achievements and the promise of even greater successes with goals and follow on actions. Similarly, Consul General Healy focused on great achievements and opportunities for the greater Cork and Shanghai areas. ICBA Chair, Caroline Devlin reiterated its strategy of upscaling in the regions and thanked its partners Cork Chamber and Republic of Work. The large attendance included Chinese Irish representation from a wide range of sectors including industry, academia, agriculture, tourism, finance, national and local government and others, and from across the whole of Ireland.

Cork and the Southern Region as a launchpad

 In the course of a panel discussion, moderated by Cork Chamber Director of International Relations, Katherine Fitzpatrick, a range of Chinese-Irish initiatives which have chosen Ireland as a successful global launchpad was showcased. Award-winning Co-Founder & CEO of Remote Signals and expert in delivering hardware and software products, Joe Perrott, described IoT (Internet of Things) solutions to inform business decisions. Now based in Cork, but bringing huge experience from his many years working with PCH International in China, his current focus is the design of products aimed at the Chinese and global markets. Richard Linger, manager of the Nimbus Technology Gateway at Cork Institute of Technology (CIT), described successful next-generation software and hardware systems for new and established companies including enterprising Irish start-ups. Nimbus is currently finalising arrangements to hold a major global IoT event in China in 2021. Paula Cogan, President of Cork Chamber and Director of Sales at the Doyle Hotel Collection presented an overview of challenges and strategies facing the region. New opportunities for the greater Cork area were emerging but infrastructural deficits had to be addressed to capitalise on the potential. Tourism, in particular, offered huge opportunities. The legendary Cork-based Bill Liao SOSV, entrepreneur, venture capital investor, diplomat and speaker with a worldwide record in the areas of business, development and community activism, gave an inspiring presentation on enterprise thinking for local and global environments. The final contributor was DC Cahalane, Founder and CEO of Republic of Work, renowned innovation mentor and leader, and member of the three-person ICBA Southern Region group, who recounted his and Republic of Work’s journey of connection with China in recent years and plans for the future.

Looking to the future

PwC Ireland China Leader and Senior Tax Partner, Enwright De Sales welcomed the opportunity to support this milestone event in the Southern Region. He said that as trade and investment opportunities with China continue to grow, driving inbound and outbound transactions is a priority. Irish companies were competing well in the Chinese market and in a post-Brexit Europe, companies will look to diversify from the UK market. Continued synergy between our two economies is the way forward. Also representing PwC at the event were Yang Cao (Eddie) PwC Senior Manager for the Greater China Area; Nicola Quinn PwC Ireland, Partner leading the Tax Practice of the Cork Office and Isabelle Kearney, Advisory Consultant at PwC.


Founded in 2000, ICBA is the leading and only Irish Association focused solely on all aspects of the Chinese market. The Southern Region of ICBA was launched on 22 May 2017 at The Clubhouse, Fota Island Resort Cork; there is also a Western Branch. With a strong base in Leinster, ICBA’s development of a determined policy of regionalisation now aligns with Ireland’s Project Ireland 2040 policy. ICBA identifies strong local partners with whom to pursue its goals – in this case, Cork Chamber, Republic of Work, working in collaboration with the City/County Councils, other sectoral stakeholders and increasingly the whole southern region. The strong core-group includes Mary Ruane (who has longstanding links with UCC Asian Studies), Katherine Fitzpatrick, Director of International Relations at Cork Chamber and DC Cahalane, Founder and CEO of Republic of Work, based at its wonderful venue on South Mall. This highly successful event was another step in partnership to build bonds for a future where, as stated in the 2019 Asia Pacific Strategy, our economic and societal aspirations and plans have to embrace all the opportunities offered by the Asian Century where China is a pivotal player. More such events in Cork and around Ireland are planned.

If you are interested in joining the ICBA Southern Region, click here to learn more.

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