Martin Shanahan

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Martin Shanahan (born 1973) is an Irish businessman and public servant. As of 2019, he is CEO of IDA Ireland, the Irish State agency responsible for attracting inward foreign direct investment to Ireland, a role he has held since 2014.

Early life[edit]

Shanahan was born in Abbeydorney, County Kerry.[citation needed]

He holds a H.Dip (Higher Diploma in Hotel and Catering Management), and an M.Sc., from Dublin Institute of Technology, as well as a B.Sc. (Mgmt.) and M.A. (1994) from Trinity College Dublin, and an M.Res (Master of Educational Research) from Lancaster University.[1][2]


Early career[edit]

Shanahan's early experience was in the hotel industry and Irish public sector roles including Fáilte Ireland, the Irish tourism promotion and development authority, and CERT (a State tourism training body). According to his resume, Shanahan worked in some private Irish hotels (e.g. Sinnott Hotels).[2][3][4]

Shanahan worked from 2005 to 2014 in Forfás, an Irish state-funded policy agency which advised government on enterprise, trade, science, technology, and innovation, with a staff of 90.[2][5][6] Shanahan worked in a number of Forfás roles before becoming head of the policy unit in 2010.[2][5] Forfas was dissolved in 2014, as part of the then Government's commitment to reducing the number of Irish State quangos,[7] and its functions were transferred to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Enterprise Ireland, the Industrial Development Authority and the Health and Safety Authority.[8][9]

IDA Ireland[edit]

Shanahan took up the position of CEO of IDA Ireland on 1 September 2014.[10][11] The role was described by journalist Colm Kelpie as "part politician, part diplomat, and part salesman".[4] Shanahan has highlighted Ireland's talent, and the quality of third level education system in particular, as the reason why Ireland has been so popular with multinational companies.[12]


The first major event to occur during Shanahan's tenure as IDA CEO was Brexit. Shanahan was quoted as saying Brexit was likely to be a net positive for IDA Ireland in terms of attracting companies (both UK and non-UK) to Ireland as a base for selling into the EU.[13][14][15] In June 2017 Shanahan was criticized for filling only one of ten positions that his office had been given to hire people to attract companies to Ireland that were leaving the UK due to Brexit.[16]

In October 2017 and again in January 2018 Shanahan testified before the Public Accounts Committee that Ireland needed to improve the affordability of its housing and its infrastructure, particularly broadband internet access, to remain competitive in attracting foreign companies; he also said that while companies in the financial industry were considering moving from the UK to Ireland due to Brexit, the loss of access to the UK for companies that depend on it for sales or supplies could harm Irish companies.[17][18]

As of December 2017 several major financial firms based in the UK had chosen to go to Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Brussels, or Paris,[19] and in January 2018 Shanahan reported that no new jobs had been created in Ireland due to Brexit and that he expected to see the outcome of his office's efforts at the end of 2018 or the beginning of 2019.[20] By June 2018 companies opting to go elsewhere had caused Ireland to fall out of the top 10 rankings for European financial firms.[21][22]

US corporate tax changes[edit]

The second major event was the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 (or TCJA) which changes the tax structure for U.S. multinationals in Ireland. Shanahan was initially relaxed about the TCJA noting Ireland's "headline" corporate tax rate of 12.5% was competitive against the new U.S. corporate tax rate of 21%.[23][24]

Other items[edit]

In November 2014, Shanahan was interviewed on CNBC's 'Squawk Box' live in the CNBC studio.[25] During the interview, long-standing CNBC presenter Joe Kernen asked unusual questions including:[26] "Do tax breaks lead to better golfers?" "Is Ireland really in the euro?" "Is it not just part of Britain?" and "Is it actually its own island?". The unusual interview received international coverage[27][28][29][30][31]

During the Irish Same-sex marriage referendum in 2015, Shanahan stated that a 'Yes' vote would be in the State's economic interest and that a 'No' vote would send a negative message to the international business community (Ireland's largest company is Apple).[32] His interview drew praise and criticism with some questioning if he had over-stepped his position, as Shanahan himself is gay.[33][34]

Personal life[edit]

As of last report, Shanahan lives in Skerries, in Fingal, north of Dublin, with his partner, Gary.[3]

He is a prominent member of the LGBT community and LGBT in business.[35] He was ranked #11 in the Financial Times OUTstanding Lists for LGBT Public Sector executives.[36]


  1. ^ "Trinity College Alumni Interview; Martin Shanahan, CEO IDA Ireland". Trinity College Dublin. 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d "Press release: IDA Ireland Announces Appointment of new CEO, Martin Shanahan". IDA Ireland. 9 June 2014.
  3. ^ a b "IDA New CEO: Ireland's trusted adviser". Irish Times. 5 November 2010. Martin Shanahan may, as yet, hardly be a household name but we will be hearing a lot more from this 41-year-old former hotelier in the years to come, following his appointment as chief executive-designate of the IDA.
  4. ^ a b "IDA's Shanahan: 'We don't have natural resources other than the quality of our people'". Irish Independent. 10 March 2016. Shanahan is part politician, part diplomat, and part salesman.
  5. ^ a b "Forfas chief Martin Shanahan to replace O'Leary at IDA". Irish Independent. 10 June 2014.
  6. ^ "Government plan for 20,000 new manufacturing jobs by 2016 – Minister Bruton, Minister Quinn". Irish Government News Service. 22 April 2013. Retrieved 30 October 2018. Forfás is Ireland’s policy advisory board for enterprise, trade, science, technology and innovation.
  7. ^ "'Quango cull' results in just 17 fewer agencies Fine Gael had listed 145 quangos which would be terminated when it got into power". Irish Times. 9 January 2017.
  8. ^ "Industrial Development (Forfás Dissolution) Act". Act of 2014.
  9. ^ "Forfás to be abolished". The Irish Times. 23 December 2013. Richard Bruton, the responsible Minister, received Cabinet approval last Tuesday for the move to dissolve the quango, which has a staff of about 90. The aim of the move is to strengthen the department’s capacity to drive job-creation policy.
  10. ^ "Martin set to take up the mantle". Irish Examiner. 16 June 2014.
  11. ^ "We wish Martin Shanahan - new IDA Ireland chief - well but..." FinFacts. 13 June 2014. We wish him well but with reservations as both he and the chairman of what is a key public agency, are both insiders in a system in recent decades where ministers hone the enterprise policy making message for political impact while dissent, at least in public, is as rare as a black swan.
  12. ^ Shanahan, Martin D. "With developments in the USA and the UK, the threats to Ireland's economy have increased". McGill Summer School. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  13. ^ "IDA confident of winning Brexit jobs as firms exit UK". Irish Times. 5 July 2017.
  14. ^ "A Brexit "silver lining" will deliver 2,500 new jobs for Ireland over the next three to five years, IDA boss Martin Shanahan has claimed". Irish Independent. 14 June 2018.
  15. ^ "UK's difficulty is Ireland's FDI opportunity, says Shanahan". Irish Independent. 25 January 2018.
  16. ^ "IDA takes on just one of 10 allowed extra Brexit staff". Irish Independent. 14 June 2017. The IDA has so far managed to recruit just one of the 10 extra "Brexit" staff for which it received approval from the Government.
  17. ^ 1.3245354 "IDA warns of need to do more to maintain competitiveness" Check |url= value (help). Irish Times. 5 October 2017. Head of State body says action needed on housing, broadband and infrastructure
  18. ^ "Tight property supply constrains Dublin's Brexit appeal: Escalating prices and rents prompt anxiety about ability to draw more business". Financial Times. 31 January 2018.
  19. ^ "Disappointing number of financials plan to come to Dublin post-Brexit". Irish Times. 28 December 2017. Transfers from London mainly going to Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Brussels and Paris
  20. ^ "Brexit bounce yet to come as Trump tax moves change little, IDA says". Irish Times. 4 January 2018.
  21. ^ "Ireland falls in FDI ranking as Paris gains to London's cost". Irish Independent. 12 June 2018. Ireland fell out of a top 10 ranking of the most attractive European destinations for foreign direct investment (FDI) last year, slipping to 11th place overall after being overtaken by Finland.
  22. ^ "Frankfurt Is the Big Winner in Battle for Brexit Bankers". Bloomberg News. 27 March 2018. Frankfurt has emerged as the biggest winner in the fight for thousands of London-based jobs that will have to be relocated to new hubs inside the European Union after Brexit.
  23. ^ "Despite Trump's ire, Ireland expects to avoid any pain from U.S. tax overhaul". Washington Post. 13 December 2017. Martin Shanahan, chief executive of IDA Ireland, the government agency tasked with securing foreign investment, said that American companies are being guided by market principles, "trying to acquire talent, trying to build global teams." The GOP tax plan "would leave companies free to use the capital wherever they want it."
  24. ^ "Ireland does not see big investment impact from US tax changes". Reuters. 4 January 2018. That may mean that there are some marginal calls where a company decides to stay in the U.S. rather than come to Europe,” IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan told a news conference. “But does it signal a significant change from an Irish perspective? I don’t believe so. I can tell you, sitting here today, that I expect the next couple of months to be strong in terms of investment.
  25. ^ "IDA CEO becomes an 'unlikely viral video star'". Irish Times. 5 November 2014.
  26. ^ "Ireland's IDA boss faces bizarre CNBC interview". Irish Times. 4 November 2014. You have pounds anyway don’t you still? It is sort of the same, same island isn’t it? It is just too confusing.
  27. ^ American TV host surprised to learn Ireland has the euro not the pound, The Guardian; 3 November 2014
  28. ^ CNBC presenter quizzes IDA Ireland boss...doesn't realise Ireland isn't part of the UK and no longer uses the pound, Independent; 4 November 2014
  29. ^ Hilariously embarrassing video of CNBC co-anchor bemused by Ireland's use of the euro, The Telegraph; 4 November 2014
  30. ^ Irish Agog That Joe Kernen, CNBC Host, Missed Their Exit From U.K., The New York Times; 4 November 2014
  31. ^ This American TV Host Has Absolutely No Idea Ireland Uses The Euro, BuzzFeed News; 4 November 2014
  32. ^ "Martin Shanahan: 'A Yes vote is good for business'". Irish Times. 1 May 2015.
  33. ^ "Revealed: IDA chief in row over gay marriage call". Irish Independent. 5 July 2015. Senior executive gobsmacked by Shanahan's email stating a Yes vote is good for business
  34. ^ "IDA boss didn't talk to the government before calling for a Yes vote". 1 May 2015.
  35. ^ "Accenture named Ireland's best LGBT workplace". Irish Times. 20 September 2016.
  36. ^ "The OUTstanding lists: LGBT leaders and allies today". Financial Times. 17 October 2017.