Austin-Ireland connection will benefit UT through new consulate

Jan Ross Piedad

It’s about time another consulate came to town. For a city of such international influence, the recent arrival of the Irish Consulate marks the second official diplomatic post for Austin and the second consulate in the last 80 years for Ireland. The strongest connection pulling for this partnership is research and development in the tech industry. However, just like any up-and-coming startup, the consulate is going through the growing pains of finding office space in downtown Austin and working hard to network through meetups and events around the city.

Consul General Adrian Farrell said this particular consulate has been “quite upfront” about its focus on trade and economy. On the controversy over American technology companies relocating funds and operations to Ireland for tax break advantages, Farrell affirms the end of this so-called “Double Irish” tax scheme, which the Irish government declared its intention to phase out earlier this month. Apart from the obvious access to Europe, the convenience of an English-speaking country, high level of education, and an affordable cost of living are favorable reasons to invest in the Emerald Isle.

Accompanying the consulate to Austin are Enterprise Ireland and the Industrial Development Authority, two organizations which seek to support entrepreneurs at different stages of their business. Gerard Hayes, a new addition to the consulate crew, said the preference toward quality of life and a strong work ethic are two qualities both Texans and the Irish seem to have in common. Hayes, with a background in hospitality, now serves as vice president of emerging business for IDA Ireland but was once an intern on exchange who worked in the Barton Creek area and subsequently “fell in love with Austin.”

Hayes’ experience is akin to what one UT professor hopes to bring to students through the Ireland-Austin connection. Brad Love, a faculty lead for the University’s Pro-Social Public Relations Maymester program, travels to Dublin each summer introducing students to the reality of professional communications. He also contributed to the city’s proposal to host the consulate in the first place. For Love, the academic and career opportunities are a strong point of exchange that Austin and Ireland could further develop. According to Love, the University’s purpose is to “bring the best of Texas to the rest of the world,” and rightfully so.

Farrell says one can find Irish students in almost any discipline in UT and wants to “fuse more relationships” with institutions of higher education in Austin. He shared the view of campus from President William Powers Jr.’s office last month and plans to meet with different heads of faculty throughout the next few months. From a cultural standpoint, the Briscoe Center recently highlighted the Irish influence in Texas history, for Farrell and the consulate’s partnership with the Ransom Center will bring out events featuring Irish art and literature in the next year. While perhaps the general University population has yet to see the convenience of Ireland’s in-town consulate, the ties are ready to be set.

Piedad is a journalism junior from San Antonio. Follow Piedad on Twitter @janjourn.