Local Faces: Peter Byrne

By Aideen O'Flaherty

PETER Byrne is a familiar face to entrepreneurs all over South Dublin County, having spent the past 18 years at the helm of the Whitestown-based South Dublin Chamber of Commerce.

Peter, who is originally from Finglas, took up the post of CEO of the South Dublin Chamber in 2001, after graduating from Trinity College with a Master’s degree in organisational behaviour.

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Peter Byrne (Image: by Aidan O’Neill)

To many business people, the South Dublin Chamber works quietly in the background of commercial enterprises in the county, but for business owners it is a vital lifeline offering support, advice and networking opportunities – strengthening the business community locally and beyond.

“Sometimes we have several different people calling us about the same issue and, in the chamber, we try to bring concerns into one voice, and with a course of action,” said Peter, when asked about the work of the chamber.

“The unseen part of the work we do, that takes up the most time, is usually one-to-one meetings with business owners.

“An awful lot of them want a trusted, confidential conversation with us about commercially sensitive things and things like HR issues, so we help them with things like that.”

Peter lives in Saggart with his wife, Jennifer Gray, who is the deputy principal of Old Bawn Community School, and their two sons, and he believes that good communities, like the ones in South Dublin County, are always at the centre of good business.

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Peter Byrne (Image: by Aidan O’Neill)

“You’d want to be very foolish to set up a business and to exclude the community,” explained Peter. “In my mind, you can’t have a successful business without a successful community.”

The chamber works closely with South Dublin County Council and the South Dublin Local Enterprise Office (LEO) but it also looks at connecting businesses from all over the world with South Dublin, and is a member of Chambers Ireland, Euro Chambers and the World Federation of Chambers.

The South Dublin Chamber is the only Irish business organisation to have achieved National, European and World awards for its work, and getting some local businesses to look beyond their immediate locality for export opportunities is also a key part of their work.

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Peter Byrne (Image: by Aidan O’Neill)

“We were supposed to have 150 people coming over from a chamber of commerce in Tampa, Florida, this month, as it’s South Dublin County’s sister city, but obviously they can’t come now, and even though we can’t plan forward, we’re hoping to reschedule it,” said Peter.

“We went to Edinburgh last year on a trade mission to assess the impact that Brexit could have, and this year we’re hoping to go to Newcastle.

“The chamber is always looking at how we can help businesses in the county who mainly deal in exports.”

On a local level, the chamber has also been at the forefront of assisting local businesses following the dramatic decline in the economy following the implementation of the government’s lockdown measures to tackle the spread of Covid-19, leading many businesses to have to cease trading during this period.

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Peter Byrne (Image: by Aidan O’Neill)

“At the moment, the main thing is fear,” Peter explained, “fear of what business will be like when the lockdown is over, and the uncertainty of it all.

“I think this time may have given a lot of people the opportunity to look at their businesses in a new way.”

Peter is hopeful that, when the measures are lifted, people will choose to shop locally and support local businesses, while the South Dublin Chamber will continue to help businesses in the area to weather this period of uncertainty.

“We would be hopeful that, when the opportunity comes, people will go out and shop,” he said.

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Peter Byrne (Image: by Aidan O’Neill)

“People will likely revert back to the behaviours they had before, and we’re hoping that people who got paid during this period will go out and spend when this is over.

“I would hope that, with a bit of goodwill, people will shop locally – that would make a big difference to businesses in South Dublin County.

“We should be able to get back up and running if we all support each other.”

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