I start my tenure as Managing Partner at an optimistic time for the Irish economy and for the firm.
Recent reports from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) in Ireland predict that the economy will grow by 3.4% this year, higher than the Government's 2.1% estimate. On a seasonally-adjusted basis there was a 2.7% increase in GDP in the first quarter of this year compared to the fourth quarter of 2013, while GNP rose by 0.5% over the same period. Ireland's deficit was just under €5bn in first half of 2014, a €1.7bn improvement on last year. Meanwhile, tax revenue is up 4.9% on this time last year and 1.2% ahead of profile. In light of these reports and figures the Government is now reconsidering its growth targets for 2014 and 2015, which is likely to impact the Irish budget in a positive manner this October with €1bn rather than €2bn of cuts now predicted.
This positive data for Ireland is mirrored by activity in the firm. Corporate transactions, financial services and real estate work have increased very significantly. The nexus of those disciplines perhaps being best represented by our launching Ireland's third REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) this spring, with more predicted by the end of the year. We also worked on a number of loan portfolio sales, and demand for loan portfolios and property has been consistently high, with multiple bidders competing on each sale.
Foreign direct investment in Ireland remains strong and, in common with the top tier of the professional service sector in Ireland, our partners are frequently on the road in the US and elsewhere promoting Ireland as a location for business.
A feature of the new wave of investment in Ireland is the number of US technology companies using Ireland as their gateway to Europe. This is not just driven by our much commented-on tax regime or the availability of a flexible multi-lingual workforce. Those factors are complemented by a sensible and proportionate approach to the application of data protection laws. At Mason Hayes & Curran, we have assisted numerous household names and niche players in establishing a European platform for data control, using Ireland as a hub.
While a recovering economy should make things easier for professional services firms, it is no panacea. We remain committed to the fundamental values that resulted in our nearly doubling in size over the course of the economic downturn. These are:
1. to consistently provide excellent legal advice and service that is clearly communicated, commercially-informed and responsively delivered; and
2. to have an authentic and transparent relationship with our clients about meeting their business objectives, fees, conflicts of interest, complaints and compliments.
We were honoured to win 'Irish Law Firm of the Year 2104' at the prestigious Chambers European Excellence Awards in London this April. While getting awards is nice, what is really gratifying is the fact that the award is largely based on client testimony regarding the quality of advice and service delivered by the firm.
I would like to thank our clients for their support and assure you that there will be no divergence from our unrelenting focus on providing you with excellent and responsive advice and service on my watch.
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