Corporate Ireland responding to diversity – O’Brien
2007-09-13 12:52:47 -
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 BUSINESSMAN Denis O’Brien says the Irish business community is starting to respond to issues of cultural diversity within the workforce. 

Last year O’Brien said Irish business was “asleep at the wheel” on cultural diversity issues. Now, he says, corporate Ireland has got more attentive. 
 
“I think there has been a lot of progress made in the last 12 months,” he said. “I think the work of National Action Plan Against Racism has drawn a lot of attention to this whole area, and I think more and more companies, particularly larger scale employers, are becoming much more focussed on the issue. 
 
“I think smaller companies are slower to wake up, but I think that’s happening.”
 
O’Brien was speaking last week at the launch of the call for entries to the 2007 MAMA (Metro Eireann Media and Multicultural Awards), which are sponsored by the businessman’s philanthropic initiative, the Iris O’Brien Foundation. 
 
He said business leaders with multi-national workforces can respond to diversity within their workforce by “learning more and more about the people they employ and the culture that they originally come from, the country they come from and the customs and the traditions.”

He cited the importance of “making sure that people are properly trained into the company, that they are given an opportunity to really learn on the job, and have proper training. The other aspect of this is mentoring - as companies employ new Irish, as such, that they actually mentor them and provide mentors from within the company…
 
“Whether it’s a small or large business, people love doing that because as a country we’re very open minded and we generally want to assist people in developing.”
 
O’Brien, reportedly a billionaire, made his first fortune after his telecommunications company, Esat Telecom, was sold to British Telecom in 2000 for over €2 billion. However, the Esat name has stayed in the headlines through an ongoing investigation, as part of the Moriarty Tribunal, into the manner in which the State’s second mobile phone license was awarded in the mid-1990s. O’Brien has always denied anything untoward in the winning of the license.
 
After the sale of Esat, O’Brien established Digicel, a highly profitable mobile telecommunications company operating largely in the Caribbean. He also has numerous media interests, mainly in radio, with his Communicorp company operating Dublin’s 98 FM, Newstalk, Spin 103.8, and, pending approval from the Broadcasting Commission of Ireland and the Competition Authority, Today FM and Dublin’s FM 104. 
 
Anecdotally, the radio and print media sectors in Ireland employ very few ethnic minorities. Asked if the entry of more ethnic minorities into radio will have to wait until the Irish-born kids of immigrants are working age, O’Brien responded: “No, definitely not, no.” He said he would be “encouraging any chief executives of radio stations that we’re an investor in” to recruit minorities.
 
He added, “There’s so many well-qualified people coming to Ireland and so many people who are undergoing very high quality courses here in journalism, that are new Irish.”
 
Lucy Gaffney, chairperson of the National Action Plan Against Racism, who is also the chairperson of Communicorp, said if more minorities can be encouraged to access journalism courses, placements within the media will follow.
 
“I know that a number of the media - in all aspects of the media - do have ethnic minorities representing them, but it needs to be increased,” she said.
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