Questions & Answers on Ireland

Ruth Parkin, Ambassador of Ireland to Finland, answers the questions and tells about Ireland's place in the world and the future of Irish-Finnish cooperation. Ambassador says that there are clear opportunities for knowledge sharing, for developing the circular economy and trade in green technology and energy expertise.

Ireland’s place in the world and the geopolitical situation.

On 17 March we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with Ireland’s diaspora, affinity diaspora and international friends. We marked how Ireland is a globally connected committed member of the EU and committed to the rules based international order. Ireland is a core member of the EU single market and the Eurozone and the EU has been a catalyst in the creation of the prosperous and progressive Ireland we live in today. The Irish economy is a highly developed and open-knowledge economy, focused on services in the high-tech, life sciences, finance and agribusiness sectors. Irish GNI* (Gross National Income modified) was €273billion in 2022 placing Ireland near the top of high income economies globally. This is very different to the situation before our independence over a century ago or joining the EU in 1973.

However, the notion of “celebrating” in our world today is more difficult than it used to be. I arrived in Finland in the summer of 2020 but due to the Covid-19 pandemic it was 2022, and just after Russia’s brutal and illegal invasion of Ukraine when I hosted my first St. Patrick’s Day reception in Helsinki. Then we recalled how Ireland’s history of conflict and independence assisted in extending empathy to Ukraine and the Ukrainian people. We have now witnessed more than 2 years of unprovoked Russian brutality in Ukraine. Ireland has demanded accountability internationally for Russia’s illegal invasion, we are one of the strongest supporters of Ukraine’s path to EU membership, and will support Ukraine as long as it takes. More recently, the appalling Hamas attack on Israel on 7 October last year was stark in its depravity. Ireland condemned outright Hamas’s terrorist attack and have called at every juncture for all hostages in Gaza to be released unconditionally. Ireland has also strongly argued, since the early weeks of the conflict, for an upholding of international humanitarian law, a humanitarian ceasefire and for sustained humanitarian assistance to be provided for the over 2 million desperate civilians in Gaza. Protecting civilians in conflict - all civilians, everywhere - is our highest priority.

When the Ambassadors of Ireland last gathered our Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin spoke to us about the challenges facing the world including the climate crisis and conflicts beyond Europe. Then he underlined that just as the challenges the world faces are global, so too are the solutions – only through dialogue, partnership, adherence to existing rules and agreements carefully reached, can sustainable progress be made.

For Ireland that means, upholding the values and rules which underpin the connections Ireland makes in the world, building and strengthening our connections across the world, and supporting the connections Irish people continue to make internationally. A key time of year for Ireland in strengthening these connections is St. Patrick’s Day our theme for 2024 is ‘Ireland’s future in the world’. So this year we will celebrate the achievements of our young people and leaders around the world including in the fields of innovation, creativity, community development, business, and academia. In Helsinki we will have the hopes and expectations of children from the Irish Finnish communities displayed at our official reception in the form of drawings and writing. Have a look at our new website to explore St. Patrick’s Day celebrations around the world and explore Irish policies and events.

What kind of opportunities do you see in R&D innovation cooperation between Finnish and Irish companies?

In 2021 the Irish Government published the Nordic Strategy for Ireland’s engagement with the region. This strategy highlights that Ireland and the Nordics, and here I particularly highlight Finland, share a commitment to free, rules-based, and sustainable trade. There are clear opportunities for knowledge sharing, for developing the circular economy and trade in green technology and energy expertise.

For St. Patrick’s Day 2024 Ireland's Minister for Land Use and Biodiversity, Pippa Hackett visited Finland. Her visit was a fantastic opportunity to engage on innovation in uses of wood and to engage experiences and knowledge on areas including land use, biodiversity, divestment from fossil fuels and how Ireland and Finland can work together an on achieving climate goals.

Ireland and Finland are both members of the Small Advanced Economies Initiative and we see great potential for learning from each other and co-operating with each other. Our countries are of a similar size, our economies are at a similar level of development and we have growing connectivity between our Universities. Ireland and Finland have 1,578 collaboration links through Horizon Europe. In addition, Erasmus links and increasing numbers of joint project contracts are growing R&D. I hope that these partnerships in areas including clean-tech construction, renewable energy and ICT can continue to grow.

Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government’s enterprise development agency, invests in and supports the development of Irish-owned companies to become global leaders in their field. R&D funding and support drives economic growth and progress, spurs innovation and is critical for companies to stay competitive. The Agency provides a range of programmes that help enterprises to innovate from short-term and relatively small innovation projects, right through to building deeper engagement through large-scale, multiannual collaborative projects. The focus is on transforming R&D activity in enterprise, promoting industry collaboration with the third level sector, and realising the commercial potential of the Irish research community. These are all areas where there is space to collaborate with Finland in my view.

The last few years have brought challenges including increased costs, high energy prices and skills shortages – What is the view from Irish companies?

I have no doubt that if two Irish and Finnish company leaders met, they could find much to compare in their experiences over the past number of years on issues such as energy costs and skills availability. I also expect that each company would have a different answer both to their greatest challenge and the way in which they have tackled it.

Through the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, the Government works to address all issues that arise on a business or sectoral basis across all areas of enterprise activity. These business and sectoral initiatives are across a wide range of areas covering internationally traded goods and services as well as the domestically traded sector. The key focus is to develop and implement policy to enhance the enterprise environment leading to the start-up and growth of competitive firms in Ireland and sustainable development for enterprises of all sizes.

Some places to look for Irish company perspectives are the opinions coming from Chambers Ireland, the partner organisation of the Finland Chamber of Commerce (; or the employers confederation Ibec ( For instance a recent survey for Ibec, found that the for 230 CEOs surveyed in Ireland recently stated that labour cost increases and skills availability are the two most significant challenges facing businesses. However, these same CEOs are largely optimistic both for their own businesses and the wider business environment. 87% of respondents rated the outlook for the next six months as good or very good, marking an increase from 66% last year.

Is there opportunity for cooperation between Finnish and Irish companies?

Absolutely! The Irish Business Club ( in Finland is actively working on developing relationships between Irish and Finnish business people based in Finland and have connections to their sister organisation in Ireland. We also have strong historical links. For instance in in the 1960’s, Kaj Franck brought an instrumental influence to the development of the design industry in Ireland. Today Ireland has vibrant design and craft sector. The Design and Craft Council of Ireland ( celebrates this important shared heritage. In the Embassy in Finland we will continue to celebrate these living links and more information is on

More recently, we have seen strong growth in exports into the Nordic Region with exports from companies supported by Enterprise Ireland to the region increasing from €877m to €1.33bn since 2019. Today there are over 560 Irish-owned companies working with Nordic partners and customers in areas like agriculture, high-tech construction, technology and services, engineering and energy, and the future is certainly bright.

In Ireland’s Nordic Strategy we identified that knowledge-sharing in areas such as smart energy, near zero agriculture and land management compatible with the Paris Agreement temperature and food security goals, and the bio-economy as well as supporting the development of research partnerships and exchanges would all be of benefit. Through the Strategy we are working to facilitate business-to-business exchanges in green transition and growth in renewable energy. Areas such as wind energy, smart grid technology, fossil free steel production, energy efficiency solutions and battery manufacturing would be the main emerging opportunities resulting from the net zero transition. In early March, our Minister for Enterprise Trade and Employment, Simon Coveney launched Ireland’s new offshore wind industrial strategy and this shows huge complementarity with Finland’s plans for the sector. I am very hopeful that more cooperation and mutually beneficial connections are possible in these areas and more.

How Irish companies have followed requirements of corporate responsibility – very important theme today?

The Irish Government recognises that how business is done has significant impacts on people’s lives, society, the environment and economies. Being a responsible business means taking steps to prevent and reduce negative impacts on these areas and promoting the positive outcomes.

The public, consumers, shareholders and governments also have increasing expectations of businesses to operate in a responsible manner.

To that end business owners need to be aware that there are both mandatory and voluntary initiatives, which guide and regulate different aspects of responsible business and the government works with business to ensure that these are well known.

Chambers Ireland have been appointed as an SDG Champion in the 2023-2024 SDG Champions Programme recognising the leading role played by the Chamber Network in achieving the SDGs. In support of this Chambers Ireland have created an SDG Toolkit to help businesses start their journey to sustainability.

Please, tell us about the tourist attractions and holiday resorts in your country. What about delicacies of Irish cuisine?

For me, Ireland’s greatest asset is the countryside which gives us the designation of the Emerald Isle. It is true that even in the depths of winter, when much of Europe has lost its colour, it is possible to find green grass and even flowers in Ireland. There are so many options in terms of activities and things to do, from a city break in Dublin, to a road-trip along world’s longest defined coastal route the Wild Atlantic Way, to soaking up the history in Ireland’s Ancient East.

The beauty of Ireland is the opportunity to explore the different regions and landscapes as you can travel from Dublin to the west coast in about 3 hours. I love the mountains and the sea and there are fantastic hiking, golfing, biking and other outdoor activities possible all year round – the saying goes you can experience all 4 seasons in one day – so don’t forget your raincoat and sunglasses! Sea swimming is now very popular and the Irish are learning how wonderful it is to have sauna near the beach.

Ireland has built heritage going back to the Neolithic period and you can explore passage tombs such as Newgrange, which was built to align with the winter solstice, and is older than the pyramids! There are lots of ancient monasteries and castles across the country and I would recommend exploring one of these on your trip.

My perfect day in Dublin would include visit the Book of Kells (c800), a pint of Guinness in the Galaxy bar above St James Gate brewery overlooking the city, a visit to one of the many museums and galleries and a music session enjoying the famous ‘craic’ or fun that happens in Ireland and meeting some locals.

Ireland, like Finland has a great attachment to fresh local food and increasingly great restaurants. Examples could be seafood chowder in a coastal pub or traditional Irish stew on a misty day. Food in Ireland is about experience, and as the agricultural sector is very strong, it is also about locality and sustainability.

A great Irish-Finnish connection is Dublin’s Chapter One which is a two star Michelin Restaurant where the Finnish chef Mickael Viljanen wows everyone. Book early – there is a queue.

Ireland has an agency dedicated to promoting the island of Ireland as a tourist destination and no one can do a better job than Tourism Ireland ( at highlighting all that Ireland has to offer. I recommend visiting their website to find your interests and a holiday in Ireland!