GOING to school in Terenure, Edel Creely’s main afterschool interest was the violin. So when it came to choosing a university course, a degree in music studies was high on her agenda. However, Creely — who has just been inaugurated as president of employers’ body Ibec — was also fascinated by the career path her brother had taken in engineering, which had led him to a role in Aer Lingus.
“He was always pulling things apart and he’d have me help, saying ‘You hold those pieces and this...’.”
With a natural aptitude for maths and science, engineering seemed like a good option. “So that’s how I ended up doing my engineering degree, although my brother says it’s not fair to blame him,” says Creely with a laugh.
Her decision to opt for an engineering degree rather than studying music served her well, eventually leading her to a career in technology. Her day job is that of managing director of Trilogy Technologies, an It-managed-services company that she founded with four other people in 2009.
Creely takes over the role of Ibec president at a crucial time for business. Brexit is a top concern at the moment, as are threats from the EU to Ireland’s corporate tax rate. For Creely, the priority is to get the Government to take a long-term approach to the challenges ahead.
“It is crucial that we’re not going to be thinking too much in the short term and we’re not defining what happens in each budget as it comes along,” she says.
As an entrepreneur, Creely is particularly strong on measures which support the indigenous sector.
“I would call for an improvement in our capital gains tax (CGT) regime for entrepreneurs,” says Creely.
“As an entrepreneur — and also from my involvement through my time with the Irish Software Association, advocating for growth and scale for technology businesses — I have seen how we need a competitive environment that rewards entrepreneurship, rewards people for taking those risks.
“That encourages the ability for companies to then grow and scale here in Ireland, rather than go somewhere else to do the same thing.”
While the Irish CGT system for entrepreneurs selling their businesses has improved, the UK system is far more generous.
“They’ve put some very attractive schemes in place, and we wouldn’t want to see companies that could potentially set up here in Ireland go and set up in the UK because of a more favourable regime,” she says.
Creely also flags the need for both Irish and international companies with operations here to be able to attract staff. “Our unemployment rates are down at much better levels than we have seen in a long time. A lot of companies are finding that they now need to attract talent from outside of Ireland to come here, and that talent can decide to go here or decide to go somewhere else,” says Creely.
“So if we don’t make sure that we’re retaining our competitiveness, the challenges are that those people may go elsewhere and therefore our businesses won’t be able to grow and create more jobs.”
Like many other employers, she also has concerns about the very tight housing market, with rental accommodation a problem for many workers travelling to Ireland.
“As well as housing being an acute social concern, which we are hearing about every day, it’s also a problem for businesses, seeking to attract and retain staff. If we’re not looking favourable in that space, well, then we may not get the people to come,” she says.
Creely herself is a Dublin woman and has spent most of her career in the city. She grew up in Terenure, where her father ran a Spar supermarket and her mother raised the five children.
When she started engineering in Trinity aged 17, she was struck by the lack of young women in her class. “I never even thought at the time that it was something that not many females did. I was a bit surprised to go in and discover there was about 120 of us and only 12 girls in the class.”