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The Other Referendum….Why I Am Voting Yes

On Friday 22nd May 2015 the eligible (and registered!) voters of Ireland will be asked to vote in favour or against 2 amendments to the constitution. I am proud to say that I live in a democracy that places the power to decide on the content of the ultimate reference (the constitution) with respect to the laws that govern us as citizens of this democracy. Only the people of Ireland have the right to change or amend that laws that govern us and it is a fundamental power of self determination that we perhaps take for granted. This requirement to state the preference for or against any change to our constitution does mean on occasion that we are required to make decisions on elements that we believe to be trivial or less important than others but this coming Friday we are being asked to vote on what I believe are two fundamental questions on the rights of the citizens of this state.

The forgotten referendum?

Whilst there appears to be enormous coverage on the question posed under the marriage equality referendum from both domestic and international media, and the arguments for and against have been played out in almost every conceivable forum, there is a second referendum that will be put to the voters on Friday 22nd and that is around the question of whether the right to hold the office of President of Ireland can be amended so that the minimum age of the office holder is reduced from 35 to 21 years of age. As a result of the low level of coverage, it would appear that the public has not been as well informed as possible on the arguments for and against the proposed amendment and as such, it would appear that, in the absence of fullness of information, that the voting public will opt to retain the status quo, a belief already being echoed by senior politicians up to and including the Tanaiste.

Why I am voting Yes

Perhaps I am being flippant in suggesting that the lack of awareness is triggering the preference to retain the current wording of the constitution, however, I genuinely find it difficult to comprehend how the concept of equality is getting (according to the polls at least) such a high preference in the marriage equality referendum but that this is not being translated into similar levels when it comes to equality on the basis of age. As a society, we allow the citizens that live in the country to choose the type of government that we would like on a proportional representative basis, the right to amend the constitution that is the ultimate legal reference point, get married, drive a car, purchase alcohol and tobacco etc yet as it stands, that proportion of the population under the age of 35 does not have an equal right to hold the highest elected office in the state and for me that strikes me as inequality on the basis of perception of ability based on age.

I could easily rhyme off a list of well accomplished individuals in their various fields of expertise all under the age of 35 from Mark Zuckerberg to the Collison brothers of Stripe fame. Equally looking back in history one of the greatest leaders in recent Irish history, Michael Collins, would not have been eligible to hold the office of President, and throwing out examples such as this can perhaps change some perceptions of the actual importance of the “life experience” that is the fundamental concept behind the current age restrictions and perhaps how the logical basis of this restriction is flawed. Either way, in an equal society, why should age be a barrier to the ability to hold office?

I don’t believe that age matters all that much; we are already arbitrarily deciding that 18 years of age defines the lower boundary of independent and mature thought, and that is why I will be voting Yes on Friday 22nd on the proposed amendment to the constitution concerning age of eligibility to hold the office of president, and would encourage those of you that have a vote to do the same.

If the referendum on the minimum age does pass and, horror of horrors, a callow youth of less that 35 years of age does have the gumption to run for office, you can count yourself lucky that we are in the fortunate position of living in a democracy that empowers us to vote for others we believe more suitable!

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Gold, Silver & Bronze for Kinnegar in Commonwealth Cup, Kentucky

Kinnegar Brewing


Well, we’re still blinking in the limelight after stepping out onto the international stage for the first time in Alltech’s 2015 Commonwealth Cup in Kentucky. We entered five beers and four of them have medalled! Gold for Black Bucket, Silver for Rustbucket, Bronze for Devil’s Backbone and Yannaroddy. (There’s a free T-shirt for the first person who can guess which was the fifth beer we entered!)

A massive clap on the back for our brewers, Rick, Rachel and David, and another for Tom, Louise and Sandra who made sure the prize beer was perfectly packaged.

See the full list of medal winners here.

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Why the result of a UK General Election has never been so important to Ireland

The electorate of the United Kingdom go to the polls tomorrow to vote in an election that has the potential to bring about the biggest political landscape change in a generation. Although no votes have yet been cast, the polls all indicate that we are entering something of uncharted territory with the rise of multiple smaller parties that will consign the concept of single party government to the past in the UK for a long time.

So what are the key differences this time around?

  • The arrival of the nationalists

After a near miss in their campaign for independence the Scottish National Party (SNP) have the potential to make the biggest single impact in Westminster since the Irish Home Rule Party held the balance of power pre World War One and used it to sue for the concession of Home Rule for Ireland. Fast forward just over a century and the SNP have the potential to adopt a similar position, pushing for greater autonomy for self determination through a similar means. Based on the current polling, the SNP could feasibly take almost every Westminster seat available in Scotland primarily on the back of, frankly, the most charismatic leader of all the party leaders (something which has been reflected in her ratings in every poll post debates), a sense of opportunity to get a better deal for Scotland as a part of the UK and also the approach taken by the No campaign backers (the 3 main UK parties) in scaremongering to drive the No vote and then being overtly triumphalist in celebrating a marginal win. For the good of the Union or not, it would appear the SNP will be the king makers this time around.

  • The rise of the right

Not since Enoch Powell’s famous speech in Wolverhampton have politicians as far to the right as those belonging to UKIP had as much media coverage. The uneven distribution of the positive economic upswing in the UK in the past couple of years has proved fertile breeding ground, (along with their more acceptable position) for UKIP in terms of creating a sense of jingoism around a sense of Britishness, immigration more tightly controlled and the sovereign (and her presence on the currency) being someone to be revered. UKIP policies (agree with them or otherwise) are finding support across England and they are potentially on the brink of become a sizeable political force on the right in Westminster with potentially the ability to influence a more right of centre agenda with the more mainstream parties.

  • The demise of the centrists

The populism of UKIP has also had an effect of drawing the mainstream parties away from the centre positions that they had been drifting towards ever since “New Labour” came to power in 1998 on the back of a highly centrist manifesto. This polarisation has meant that whether in power or not, UKIP can succeed in achieving many of their policy preferences by proxy as the Conservatives seek to win the hearts and minds of their more conservative supporters that they would likely leak to UKIP. Similarly for the Liberal Democrats, their encompassing politics of the centre allowed them to make huge strides in the last general election. However, they have been badly damaged by being the junior party in a coalition for the last number of years. No one will blame them for seizing the opportunity to have a period in power to implement some of their manifesto, but their swing voters will more than likely abandon them for something a little more neutral at the polls this time around.

So what is the potential impact of this changed political landscape?

As a single vote has yet to be cast, there is still a chance that nothing will greatly change. Realistically, what is likely to happen is that despite an electoral system that is setup to almost protect the sanctity of single party government, through single seat constituencies and first past the post system, that no single party will have anything like a sufficient number of seats to even form a minority government. This means that there will inevitably be some horse trading in order to reach the magic number, where pre-election pledges are forgotten and some manifesto items severely diluted in exchange for a seat in power. While this is nothing new for Irish people as there has been a history of coalitions and the ebb and flow junior parties in these coalitions taking a pasting in the immediate aftermath of their period in power (PD’s, Greens, Labour??) this kind of situation is certainly something new for the UK electorate which conversely may lead to polarisation to the left or right.

The likely outcomes?

Based on the polling two scenarios are starting to look equally feasible,

  • A right wing coalition of Conservatives, UKIP (and possibly Liberal Democrats if required) with the support of the Democratic Unionist Party.
  • A centre left coalition of Labour & SNP with the support of Plaid Cymru, Green Party and SDLP

What are the potential ramifications for Ireland of either of these scenarios?

A  right wing coalition would more than likely lead to a renegotiation of the UK’s position within the EU and its adherence to the rules thereof. What the Conservatives have committed to is a straight Yes/No referendum on ongoing EU membership within 18 months, UKIP would certainly be supportive of this and it would appear that the Lib Dems are positioned to drop any opposition to such a referendum in return for retention of power. On the basis that they have sufficient support to make up a majority government and assuming continuing policy support through their support base, it is entirely feasible that the UK could opt to leave the EU. The consequences for Ireland of any such result are grave indeed. Figures produced just last week outline that the UK is the destination for more than one third of all Irish exports. A UK outside of the rules and beneficial trading environment of the EU could place Irish exports at significant risk in terms of competitiveness. From a simple logistical perspective it would also create the UK’s only land border with the EU and has the potential to place significant barriers to cross border trade on the Island of Ireland. Whilst there is no certainty on how this may manifest itself and when, a period of uncertainty will create a challenging market environment for Irish trade with the UK (not to mention to UK’s ability to act as a safety valve for Irish workers in times of economic challenges domestically)

A centre left coalition presents an entirely different dynamic. Despite protestations to the contrary it is inconceivable that the Labour Party will forgo power for another 5 years simply to avoid working with the SNP and it is entirely unlikely that they will be able to cobble together sufficient support in the other non-right of centre parties to make a workable majority. Under such a scenario we will undoubtedly see a push for greater federalism within the UK with greater ability to set taxation and policy in a wider variety of areas. We already know that the SNP view the Irish model as something to work towards in terms of corporate taxation regimes, pro-european approach and attracting high value FDI to an English speaking location within the EU. This would create an opportunity for Wales to act similarly and all of sudden some of Ireland’s USPs are under threat from our near neighbours.

Essentially, the enormous change that is potentially coming in the UK political landscape will impact Ireland directly within a short period of years. In the short term I believe that having our neighbours in the same club is hugely beneficial to Ireland given the fraternal relationship between the UK and Ireland and the impediments that would come into place by virtue of the UK leaving the EU. I suspect however that the right wing will hold onto power in this election and this creates a period of enormous potential change for Ireland in terms of our relationship with our nearest neighbour that will potentially draw us closer to the EU and under the influence of the key power brokers there.

Two things are for certain, single seat constituencies and first past the post remain one of the most undemocratic approaches to representation of the diversity of views but it still appears have been somewhat overcome this time around, and also, things will never be the same again after UK GE 2015, for more than just those in the UK!

**Disclaimer: This is my personal blog, and the content and opinions offering herein in no way reflect or claim to be representative of the opinions of my employer (pro or contrary)**

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To be or not to be “Craft Beer”…and does it actually matter?

As the craft beer movement has moved towards the mainstream something of a backlash has begun against those that champion it over the standard mass market alternatives. Indeed, the dismissive use of the term “hipster” is usually not too far from any commentary on the rise in popularity of the craft beer industry and products. To a degree, I am not 100% convinced that there are not indeed some hipsters among the following who’s sole purpose is to stand out from the rest of the beer drinking crowd,  “as an individual” however, I would argue that the craft brewers of the world have awakened something in the average generic lager drinker beyond a desire to be different, otherwise the industry would not have persisted as it has. The thing that it has awakened, in my opinion, is a desire for something of quality, produced with attention to detail, that is a little different to everything else on offer and that is more simple in terms of ingredients (resulting in lesser hangovers!)…it is perhaps a question of taste?


But what is the definition of a craft beer…and does a strict definition actually matter to the drinker?

I’ve been thinking about doing this blog post and its contents for a while, stirred on by something local that I will come onto shortly but what actually encouraged me to write it was an article I spotted this week about a civil suit against the producers of Blue Moon. Without getting into the nuts and bolts of the argument, essentially someone is suing MillerCoors on the basis that Blue Moon is being positioned as a craft beer, where in fact it is produced by one of the worlds’ biggest brewers. Whilst, I get the argument that the “craft brewing” industry supports the little entrepreneur in producing a fine product let us be realistic about the ability for these brewers to become mass market and thus large brewers and employers in their own right! What the craft brewers of the world have done is to become a vehicle for the consumer sentiment by having a sufficient enough impact on the bottom lines of the major brewers by re-introducing a high quality, different, and great tasting fresh competitive force that has caused them to rethink the policy of churning out only volumes of generic industrial and bland product aimed at as big a possible audience and their actions in addressing this should commended because it brings about better quality and selection for all beer drinkers.


Enter the big boys…

In the interests of full disclosure, I will openly admit that whilst I am a big fan of the micro brewers products I am also quite partial to the non-generic-lager outputs of the major brewers too. The major brewers have not been slow to react to the growing craft beer market by introducing their own alternatives and this is what prompted me to write this entry in the first plGuinness Dublin Porterace. What we have seen in the Irish market in recent years is a move by Diageo, the big market incumbent, to rollout a variety of craft style beers through the likes of Smithwicks Pale Ale, Smithwicks Blonde, Guinness Dublin Porter, Guinness West Indies Porter…to name but a few. As verified advertising geniuses they have also used their considerable financial muscle to rollout a beautifully crafted TV advertising campaign that strikes all the right notes in terms of the things that a craft brewer should stand for, namely, personal attention to detail in production, the virtues of family, and subtlety in their product outputs in terms of flavours and different target markets. A little cynical in their approach….possibly (probably)….but it does come back to core argument here, “What actually matters to the drinker?”

I would argue strongly that what matters to the drinker is the high quality and variety of the product and if the major brewers can lend some of their considerable weight (and production capacity) to making that happen then all the better. Let’s not forget, that Guinness have actually been one of the much maligned pioneers of attempting to diversify the drinkers palates and product mix on offer in Irish bars for more than 30 years at this stage, from Guinness Light to Breo, Guinness Draught Bottles, The Brewhouse Series (Brew 39, Toucan…) to Guinness West Indies Porter. I say much maligned because the products invariably disappear into obscurity within months however it would be difficult to argue against their credentials as a producer of consistently high quality product on a global scale and the depth of their experience.


So to answer my question, does it matter if a beer is “craft beer” or not by definition of who produced it? I would argue that it doesn’t matter at all to most ordinary punters, what matters is that the emergence of a sizeable craft brewing industry has, provided diversity for the the palates of the beer drinking community, and also forced the larger brewers to take note of changing consumer behaviours and demands and put renewed focus on quality of the product that they are producing….and that is in everyone’s favour!


For the record, Dublin Porter gets a 4/5 and Smithwicks Pale Ale 4/5 too!



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The argument in favour of Aer Lingus sale to IAG

There has been a huge amount of commentary in recent weeks around the proposed takeover of Aer Lingus by International Airlines Group (IAG) after much deliberation on the part of the government it now sadly looks like the proposal will be turned down by the government (and by default in totality as a result of the size of the government shareholding of 25%) Without getting too  much into the politics of my point of view (and in the spirit of full disclosure I would tend to lean just slightly to the right of centre politically…)  I just cannot fathom the logic of the really political nature of the decision to turn down the offer from IAG for Aer Lingus. I understand the question of jobs protection, having personally experienced the merger of businesses in the past, I know that it is absolutely unavoidable not to have duplication of some roles & efficiencies from economies of scale that will result in certain jobs being lost, neither am I naive enough to think that any Irish operations will have a competitive advantage in pure labour cost terms as part of a bigger group employing similar roles in cheaper economies but we really do need to look at the bigger considerations longer term…


So what are the arguments in favour?

I am not by any means arguing that this is a comprehensive list / assessment but the following are some (i believe) reasonably solid arguments in favour of the take over of Aer Lingus by IAG


The pure cost argument…

Running an airline costs quite a lot and whilst Aer Lingus is profitable currently it is not that long ago that they were loss making and in the cases where losses are being incurred then there is no payback to the shareholder community. Further, aviation is an expensive industry from a capital expenditure perspective and Aer Lingus’ incoming Chief Executive has already  stated this week that he believes that they will require a capital investment of $2 billion over the next decade, this investment will either come from loans which will need to be financed out of profits (and hence no dividends) or from further shareholder investment. This is where I have a real problem…what business does a state have in investing in the commercial drivers of a 75% private business and furthermore, how could a government with bigger investment challenges in terms of social services possibly prioritise investment in aviation CAPEX whilst our public health system crumbles under the pressure of years of underfunding and lack of investment resulting in intolerable suffering among society’s most vulnerable…..Sorry, no question for me where the priorities should lie! Cashing out now for the government would mean an immediate inflow for the government for investment where most needed.


“Landing slots”

There appear to be two problems here. Firstly, SAS got 50 million for a pair of these when they sold them recently and by that valuation those that Aer Lingus hold are worth (allegedly) €1.3bn but is it a problem is it that they are undervalued in the IAG bid or that they are of strategic value in terms of connectivity? If it is in fact the connectivity argument that is the be all and end all then how can any value be put on these slots, if not and everything has it’s value why would Aer Lingus market valuation not reflect this?

Secondly, I really have to take issue with the “importance” of the Heathrow slots. At a point in time, pre open skies, Heathrow was the be all and end all for connectivity for Irish air travellers, however, I am really struggling to see the value of Heathrow as a hub for Irish air passengers given the frankly enormous range of international routes now available out of Dublin (including to other major hub airports globally). From personal experience, using Heathrow as a hub is something I would avoid at all costs,  it has simply become too big and cumbersome and far too much hassle to make it usable without hours of changeover time. In terms of direct connectivity to what is unquestionably one of the world capitals, you have to go back to the open skies argument again, Dublin has never been as well served in terms of connectivity to all of London’s airports. There is huge capacity to serve the undoubted demand that exists on the route, apparently the second busiest in the world, so it is inconceivable that IAG would withdraw services with high load capacities, and even if they were to do so there are a string of other airlines looking to service Dublin to Heathrow, Gatwick, Stansted, Luton, London City and Southend, some of whom are increasing capacity and currently launching new services….


Ireland as a hub

Given the huge capacity challenges in some of the British hub airports, geographical proximity to Ireland of most of the UK’s major cities and towns, and US pre-clearance facilities, Irish airports are potentially a solution to major routing headache for IAG and an opportunity to add value to their services. It has been reported that there are already 1 million UK residents transiting through Dublin Airport T2 each year, imagine the potential for growth in that area with IAG’s support in terms of delivering the transit customers, indeed huge numbers of Spanish travellers to the US are already transiting in Dublin each year.


Connectivity for Shannon and Cork

This has repeatedly being highlighted as a challenge to any IAG takeover of Aer Lingus. However, it should be borne in mind that where there is a public service obligation, someone will always be able to service those routes and where there is commercial return or opportunity the commercial airline operators will seek to exploit them….simply look at the growth that Ryanair has been able to deliver to Shannon in recent years. If no commercial merit or public service subsidies are available on routes from these airports then its clear that Aer Lingus (as a commercial airline) is not going to continue to operate services from them.


Better the devil you know…

Lastly, it is unquestionable that IAG see Aer Lingus a true valuable addition to their stable of independent brands (BA, Iberia, Vueling) and that there are natural synergies in terms of the business reach of Aer Lingus to those of IAG. The alternatives for Aer Lingus are to attempt to stand alone in an increasingly consolidated space and try to compete against the buying power and economies of scale possible from the major international groups like Air France – KLM, Lufthansa etc or to put together a multitude piecemeal code share agreements with other international groupings, whilst attempting to fend off the threat of the budget carriers that have now got enormous scale…Considering all these likely scenarios it is difficult to see how Aer Lingus can confidently continue to operate in this space.


In all, there appear to be major compelling reasons for an acceptance of the IAG bid for Aer Lingus (particularly at the premium being offered on the share price in addition to the above). However, there is an election looming so it would appear that logic goes out the window in return for votes…or indeed an ability to stall the need to make a decision that could be contentious either way until after an election so as not to lose any votes…sadly it does smack of political rather than economically sound decision making…

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My Top 5 Beers of the Moment – Autumn / Winter 2014

Let’s Try This Again..

So I’ve been working on this craft beer blog for the last 2 years almost (admittedly most of that time was dedicated to *ahem cough* research) and it’s a little light on content so as a means of getting started again I am going to kickstart things with a simple subject matter based on the copious volume of research imbibed. So here goes, my top 5 craft beers of the moment….in no particular order…


Bo Bristle IPAipa

I’m usually a fan of IPAs and seeing the sheer number of bottles of this stocked in my local off-licence gave me an indication that it was probably pretty popular / either that or someone was pretty confident that they would sell a lot of it. After the first bottle I had caught the bug somewhat and this has quickly become one of my fail safe beers that I always make sure to have in the house. Brewed in Banagher (of Pure Mule fame) this is one of a range of beers from the Bo Bristle Brewery, who appear to be doing very well if number of places its available is anything to go by! As IPA’s go its really smooth, yet still hoppy with that citrus finish and a great beer for an evening at home at the end of the working week…presumably it’s not too bad out in the pub either!



Kinnegar Black Bucket

For anyone that knows me they will be aware that I am a massive fan of the beers that these guys are producing in Rathmullan, Donegal. Indblack-bucketeed I did fret somewhat a couple of weeks ago when the supply in the 2 local off licences of choice looked to be drying up (thankfully it was a temporary supply issue but that didn’t stop me stocking up when it did come back in just in case!) My favourite currently of the beers these guys are producing is the Rye Ale Rustbucket. A big shout out to my local that has been selling this in bottles for the last number of months, but anyway I digress!


The thing that I really like about Rustbucket is the really distinctive flavour and colouring that the Rye gives the beer, it adds a real complexity to the flavour (which also serves as a reminder the respect the strength of it!) but it remains very smooth to the finish making it really drinkable. Being a fan of this, imagine my excitement (perhaps a little too much so) when I discovered that Kinnegar were unleashing another Rye variant called Black Bucket, especially for the All Ireland Craft Beer Festival back in September, so much so that I dragged my willing accomplices directly to the Kinnegar bar as soon as we got there and used both of my free tickets on it. Slightly stronger, in terms of alcohol content at 6.5% again it deserves respect, and produced with black rye it has a really distinctive black colour, bursting with Rye flavours but retaining a level of hoppy crispiness I would have quite happily stayed drinking that for the night! So in the unlikely event that anyone from Kinnegar reads this, please give me some hope that it wasn’t a once off and will be available more widely soon.



Blackstairs Brewing Irish Red IPA1619557_1513015622276053_3469716274981772404_n

A discovery from the craft beer festival and sampled partly in deference to my Wexford side, partly by the fact that it looked pretty cool as a bar and was just beside me at that point in time I sampled this tasty, and somewhat unusual number. Only brewing since June, this beer goes down incredibly well. It is not quite a Red Ale and not quite an IPA but somewhere in between the two. It is not quite as hoppy (indeed the hops are very subtle) as an IPA and captures some of the light caramel flavours of an Irish red ale to make a really great combination. Possibly not a beer you would be drinking in massive quantities but certainly one that you could enjoy two or three with an afternoon of sports on TV. This is starting to become more widely available now, however can be a little pricey, but definitely worth the little extra for the quality and freshness



9 White Deer – Stag Bán9_WHITE_DEER_LOGO-247x300

Perhaps the best discovery of the Craft Beer Festival for me. Again these guys are only brewing since June and what really drew me in in the first place is when I spotted that they were based in the Cork Gaeltacht of Ballyvourney, a place that holds lots of happy memories for me as a teenager in the Gaeltacht for 3 consecutive summers.  Stag Bán, the name derived from the story of St Gobnait and the nine white deer in the Ballyvourney area, is a crisp and really fruity IPA. It retains a lot of the hoppiness of a good IPA yet also has a distinctive flavour that is not quite citrus but more something of a subtle peach flavour. As I said, probably the discovery of the Craft Beer Festival for me, and Imagine my delight when I discovered literally a couple of weeks after the Craft Beer Festival that it was available in both of my local off licences. If you can get your hands on it you definitely won’t regret sampling this and at the same time supporting industry in the Gaeltacht…doing your bit for the language one beer at a time!



The 5 Lamps Brewery – Blackpitts Porter


When out for a few drinks, I am usually not averse to a few pints of the more mass produced Black Stuff however the time generally comes where either I’ve reached a point of fullness where I can’t go on, or we reach an establishment where its not advisable to continue on that path at which point I usually struggle to find an alternative! A number of months back on a sunny Sunday of a bank holiday weekend, I found myself out in town with a willing accomplice mid-afternoon and after a few “nice pints” we decided to try somewhere else. Finding ourselves perched at bar in another establishment (about 100 feet from the previous place) awaiting the start of the Sunday evening jazz that we discovered was also on there we decided to try The 5 Lamps Lager, which was calling out to us  from behind the fridge doors.


As beers go I am not a big lager drinker although I have to say I really enjoyed the 5 Lamps Lager, but looking for something a little more akin to the stout that went before it the barmaid suggested that I try Blackpitts Porter from the aforementioned 5 Lamps Brewery.  For me this is a great great beer from the bottle, it’s a porter but not in the creamy draft stout vein as Guinness but more in the style of Guinness Extra Stout. Best drunk nicely chilled, this beer is slightly bubbly  with a mild yet unmistakably roasted barley flavour, it is a very dark colour and not dissimilar to Guinness Black Lager. Definitely one worth trying, great from the bottle and easy enough to drink at lager drinking pace!



So that’s me for the moment, let’s see if I can keep up the volume of content! I need to get some further research in in order to have something to write about so (if anyone reads this) I’d really welcome your suggestions as to where I go from here! As always, in the even less likely event that anyone wants to send me some samples I am more than open to that too!

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Economic Sovereignty and the Blame Game

Allow me to preface this blog by saying that I am not remotely extreme to the left or to the right in terms of my political views, I have no party affiliations and, whether I like or agree with them or not, I comply with the laws of the land. Additionally I have always felt myself to be as European as I am Irish and firmly believe in the economic and social benefits of closer integration and cooperation with our neighbours. (I should also point out that this is probably the most serious matter that has ever triggered me to write anything on my personal blog!)

However, the recent pronouncements on Irish taxation regimes (in addition to those of the Netherlands and Luxembourg) and the now seemingly constant misgiving murmurings of some of our European neighbours on the choice of corporation tax rate in Ireland have gotten me to thinking, “who’s economy is it anyway?” and “if it bothers you that much what is to stop you doing the same?”

As someone in a TV ad once said, “Ireland is a small economy on the periphery of Europe”, we had decades in the last century of attempted self-sufficiency and economic protectionism….and guess what? It failed as an ideology! The result?  Economic stagnation, massive unemployment, rural depopulation, urban decay and enormous levels of emigration. In the teeth of this economic stagnation, Irish governments took hugely brave and costly moves in introducing free secondary and then free third level education creating a more educated and skilled labour force, setup government backed training schemes (the fact that some of these failed is an irrelevance with respect to the initial intent) and ultimately played a little fast and loose with the corporation and other business tax rates, taking massive gambles with regards to lowering corporation tax rates to 12.5%  for example on the premise that this would help to drive more foreign direct investment versus whatever would have to be foregone from the previous level at a higher rate.

This was further empowered by the creation of state bodies with a remit of driving FDI by roadshowing the country globally with the support of senior government ministers. Furthermore, in order to make up the short term tax shortfall the Irish public paid through the nose with exceptionally high levels of personal taxation and neglected social services in areas such as health and more recently through the governments protection of the European banking systems by making private debt in Irish banks sovereign debt in order to prevent their collapse. Additionally, Ireland has remained committed to the Euro despite its central bank governance working almost diametrically opposite the best interests of the Irish economy in terms of interest rate policy in order to maintain Eurozone membership as an attractive proposition!

In the light of the level of work and sacrifice (bearing in mind that we have just again begun to exit very straightened times) the fact that Ireland can boast of its attractiveness to global technology and pharma companies in particular and notable domestic success stories such as Ryanair (one the top Airlines in Europe by profitability and customer volume) is something that Irish citizens should continue to be exceptionally proud and protective of. The fact that the best measure of success of the irish economy is GDP as opposed the more commonly used metric of GNP is testament to the importance of FDI in Ireland.

Which brings me to the crux of my argument (rant), the results of the economic and social investment of the last number of decades should not be fair game for political point scoring from our larger international neighbours. In recent days we have heard stories of the German finance minister being unhappy with patent tax breaks that are causing certain German companies to offshore certain activities in other EU countries, President Obama come out publically against the practice of tax inversion and David Cameron complaining that Irish corporation tax rates put Northern Ireland at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to attracting FDI….and my response, which covers all these scenarios, is this; the economic conditions created in certain geographies, and Ireland in particular, were done so at a cost and a risk to those that live in and govern those economies, if others have a problem with this there is nothing stopping them from similarly rolling the dice and taking the chance to create those opportunities themselves.

In short;  if German businesses are offshoring certain business elements to capitalise on more preferential tax regimes then perhaps there is something that should be amended fiscally to retain that internally; if Mr Obama has a problem with the practice of Tax inversion perhaps he should look to create the conditions domestically so that those businesses do not have to seek this entirely legal loophole and lastly; if Mr Cameron has a problem with competitiveness in attracting FDI in Northern Ireland then he should devolve power to the local executive to set corporation tax rates and invest in the regional infrastructure that is badly needed to enable it to compete.

So why are these leaders not following making these decisions and opting for the route of attempting to coerce others around to their less successful policies? Well, it’s probably down to a number of factors but for me it is perhaps interesting to see that in all of the referenced examples there is pressure on their political powerbases, most notably in Mr Cameron’s case from the more conservative elements of his party obsessively concerned with loss of power to the nascent UK Independence Party which is euro-sceptic and primarily concerned with national identity and national sovereignty fostering an “us against everyone else” competitive stance.

But then again perhaps it’s easier to blame someone else rather than look at what is in your own control that you haven’t done….

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