Donegal woman has key role in bringing jobs to Ireland

THE director of IDA Ireland, the government inward investment agency for the Australian and New Zealand market, is Letterkenny woman Kathryn O’Shea.
The eldest daughter of Aidan O’Shea and Janet Gaynor, Kathryn first moved to Sydney in 2012 to complete a masters degree. When she saw a vacancy to work in the IDA office in 2014 she jumped at the chance.
She took time out from her busy schedule to talk to the Donegal News about life, work and her hopes and aspirations for 2021.
A past-pupil in Woodland NS and Loreto Convent, Kathryn went to Galway to study Law for three years before moving to Dublin for a few years.
“In 2012 I was offered an opportunity to study a postgraduate degree in Sydney. I was extremely lucky to be awarded a scholarship from the Rotary Club of Letterkenny to support my studies in Australia and I am hugely grateful to the club, particularly Dr Ailish O’Boyle and Lance Ball for all the support and encouragement they gave me,” she said.
Kathryn studied Human Rights law. It was challenging and a little lonely at first but she quickly built a network of great friends.
“There are so many ex-pats in Sydney, so we were all in the same boat and the Irish community, in particular, is so welcoming,” she said.
In 2013, a close friend drew her attention to an ad in the paper to work with the IDA and encouraged her to apply. “I went through the rigorous interview process and the opportunity came up to move to Sydney and head up the Australia and New Zealand office and I jumped at it,” she said.
Kathryn’s role involves working with companies from across Australia and New Zealand to encourage them to invest in Ireland. She works with companies from across all sectors.
“We help companies by providing information for their evaluation, organising bespoke visits (now virtually) to help them understand a location and meet some of the other businesses in the area and develop a business plan for Ireland,” she explained.
Once the company sets up, IDA Ireland works very closely with them in both Ireland and Australia.

Impact of pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed how they do their jobs, but they are still very much open for business, albeit virtual.
Because of the lockdowns in Australia staff haven’t been able to travel or attend the usual events, so they have increased their online presence, meeting companies virtually and presenting at many events about the benefits of doing business in Ireland.
“A lot of time was spent working with our existing client companies making sure they understand all the supports available to them in Ireland to help them through this tough period,” she said.
Kathryn used to get home at least once a year but unfortunately due to the Covid-19 situation all plans are on hold. Her nephew was born in July and while technology helps to keep everyone connected, she admits that nothing will compare to getting home and seeing them all in person.
“I’ve really missed getting back to Donegal this year and walks in Glenveagh and Dunfanaghy with my family,” she said.
“I hope that family and friends stay safe and well throughout the pandemic and that we will be reunited soon. It’s very hard hearing the news of the Covid-19 situation from Ireland and I hope that the current crisis will start to improve soon,” she added.

3,000 staff

IDA Ireland has been represented in the Australia and New Zealand (ANZ) market for more than 30 years. There are now more than 70 Australian and New Zealand companies in Ireland with just over 3,000 staff.
“Our clients are in multiple sectors, insurance, financial technologies, sports technology and many more and we have been working to encourage investment to the North West.
“Companies that are investing are interested in talent, track record, infrastructure, access and connectivity and proximity to third-level educational institutes,” she said.
Working with IDA and through the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce, Kathryn has met a wide range of Irish people.
“Almost every company we meet with has someone Irish working there and the Irish workforce is very well thought of, a great testament to the hard work ethic and general approach of the Irish team members.
“I’ve met many great Donegal people along the journey too. I sit on the board of the Irish Australian Chamber of Commerce with David Greene from Dungloe as our President,” she said.
“Australian companies find it very easy to do business in Ireland – culturally, we get on very well; geographically, it’s easy for Europe and the US; the common language and legal system make it straightforward to do business together. We have seen an increase in investment in Ireland from Australia due to Brexit and there will be many opportunities presented by the Australia – EU free trade agreement,” she said.



Although she misses home, Kathryn says she loves her job and finds it hugely satisfying when companies decide to set up in Ireland and the difference they make to towns and cities around Ireland.
“Coming from Letterkenny I’ve seen the huge impact that investments like Tata Consultancy Services (formerly Pramerica) and Abbot can make to counties like Donegal,” she said.
IDA has just launched its strategy for 2021 – 2024 Driving Recovery and Sustainable Growth with ambitious targets to win and deliver 800 new investments to help in Ireland’s recovery with 50% of those investments in the regions.
“I want to continue to support our Australian client companies in every way we can to help them through the challenging times ahead and encourage new investments to help in Ireland economic recovery. I’m excited to play my part in that,” she said.

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