APPLE boss Tim Cook has heaped praise on the company's Cork operation, describing it as a key component in the success of the technology giant.
Apple established its first operation in Europe in Cork in 1980 and currently employs more than 6,000 people across the country, with over 104 nationalities represented.
Speaking in Dublin, Mr Cook said: "It is no exaggeration that Cork gave Apple the sure foundation that made us the company that we are today, those first 60 employees took a chance on an idea that seemed a little crazy in 1990, today we have nearly 6,000 employees across Ireland, and tell the story of Ireland's welcoming and inclusive culture."
He added that Apple's commitment to Ireland is "unshakeable".
Mr Cook was in Dublin to accept an award for special recognition for investment in Ireland from the Investment Promotion and Development Agency in the National Concert Hall.
IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan said: "Apple's Cork site is an example of what is possible when a great company finds an exceptional pool of talent.
"Apple and its CEO have demonstrated continued commitment to Ireland over that 40 years - making Apple a very deserving recipient of this inaugural award.
"The impact of Apple's investment and innovation extends far beyond its own campus to the hundreds of companies and merchants of all sizes, across the country, who benefit from Apple's presence in Ireland."
Meanwhile, at the same event, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said he believes big companies should pay their taxes.
In 2016, it was ruled by the European Commission that the Irish state had given undue tax benefits worth €13 billion to Apple, which is illegal under EU state aid rules, and said it allowed Apple to pay substantially less tax than other businesses.
Ireland was ordered to recover the illegal aid, plus interest, however the state and Apple are currently appealing against the ruling.
Mr Varadkar was asked if he and Mr Cook discussed Apple's much litigated tax bill, to which he replied: "Not today, we have in the past, but it is before the courts so the courts will decide on that."
The Taoiseach added: "I'm a firm believer that big companies should pay their taxes and that's why we've changed the rules, we got rid of double Irish (a tax avoidance technique), of stateless corporations, we got rid of a lot of the loopholes that allowed big companies to avoid tax, which is why we're taking so much money in now in corporation tax that we have closed those loopholes.
"Things are changing, there are going to be new international rules on corporation tax and we need to be part of shaping those rules, and we will be.
"The likelihood is that will result in a fall-off in the amount we take in on corporation tax over the next couple of years, and we've factored that into our financial plans."
"Our financial plans are Brexit-proofed, and proofed against any drop in corporation tax in the next number of years, you're not seeing that from the other parties, if they see a surplus, they want to spend it and we all know what happens when you do that, the surplus isn't there when you need it, and that's the reason why we shouldn't trust them with this country.
"I'm a big supporter of multinational investment, I know some people criticise FDI, the big companies that invest in Ireland, but I know the real story, that they create and sustain a quarter of a million jobs per year, contribute €8-10 billion a year in taxes, roughly the cost of running our education system, so we need more foreign direct investment."