March 5, 2008

Why Newry shows way forward in this new era

Posted in Irish Economy · 34 comments ·

Newry is not the sort of town that you’d automatically expect a dynamic, home-grown multinational to spring from. Yet, in a converted old corn warehouse at number 3 Canal Quay in Newry, a company called First Derivatives is doing just that. This is one of only three listed companies in the North and its business extends out from the centre of Newry to Tokyo, Singapore, New York and across Europe.

Just across the road, Daniel Lebeskind, the world-famous architect who designed the stunning Holocaust Museum in Berlin, has pitched to design a landmark building overlooking the Quays. If anything underscores the ambition of this town, it is a monument like this.

But ambition and trading are not new for Newry. Over 200 years ago — before Belfast took off as the dominant city of the North — Newry was a crucial exporting town. The canal and the quays were all constructed to facilitate trade. If you take a stroll around the town, you can see the architecture of trade everywhere, complete with fine Georgian buildings, a Cathedral and numerous echoes of its mercantile past. There is a rich commercial pedigree in this part of the country and now it is beginning to re-emerge after the Troubles.

The renaissance of towns like Newry — which last year had the fastest rising house prices in the UK — is what the peace process is all about.

It is also what globalisation is all about.

And, if the example set by First Derivatives can be followed, there is no reason for any provincial town in Ireland to feel anything but confident about the future.

First Derivatives provides technical software to the world’s biggest banks. It has been growing exponentially since it was founded in the 1990s. Like hundreds of thousands of young Irish people, the founders are returned emigrants. They are the professional echo of our economic and political failures in the 1970s and 1980s.

They left and many resigned themselves to the idea that “home” was a place to go back to at Christmas, for weddings and, ultimately, funerals. But that has changed. The economic migrants of the late 1980s and 1990s have come home and they are possibly the best asset the country has.

They are cosmopolitan and globalised, yet understand the value of the local. They have made invaluable connections with foreign peers. Many have learnt the most advanced ways of doing things and have brought home a work ethic and know-how that those who stayed put might not necessarily have. All around the country they are making their mark. This is a brain-gain, which has reversed the previous brain-drain.

Equally, globalisation — far from condemning provincial towns — provides a platform for companies that want to fuse the best the local economy has to offer with the opportunities that the global market affords. In the years ahead, all our industrial efforts should facilitate local companies that want to compete on international markets.

This should be a priority over and above the present policy of trying to get multinationals to set up here to provide jobs. Jobs alone are not enough.

In the years ahead, Ireland has to own what is termed the “intellectual property”. This means that Ireland needs to become the natural home of entrepreneurs wanting to set up businesses, deploying their inspiration as well as their perspiration.

This is what the founders of companies like First Derivatives have done. Using contacts and know-how learned abroad, they have come home and set up locally.

When you look a little closer, the question becomes not why they’d pick Newry, but why wouldn’t they chose Newry? This is a region where over 33pc of the population are under 15 and 1,900 students leave school in the area each year. But you might ask, aren’t they a bit far away from the buzz of London, the IFSC or indeed Wall Street, where many of the company’s clients are based?

But this is the change, globalisation and the roll-out of telecoms infrastructure has led to, a process that can be best described as “the death of distance”.

It doesn’t matter where you are located as long as you can be plugged into the global world.

South Down is as close to the southern tip of Manhattan as you need to be. Distances are only inside the head of workers.

Newry has one advantage over many other similar towns — infrastructure. The finest, but least busy motorway in Ireland, connects Dublin to Belfast and Newry is arguably the main beneficiary. It is now only an hour from Dublin and less than an hour from Belfast.

In the year ahead, if the transport infrastructure is complete, there will be a significant rebalancing of economic growth as provincial towns and cities can compete with Dublin. It is sometimes not appreciated just how small our country is and just how the geography of the country could change if we were to get our transport infrastructure right. Newry is the leading indicator.

The main change is a mindset change. Irish entrepreneurs are crucial to our success and facilitating this process must be the most important goal of the State.

If we create wealth, sustainable wealth, not the sort of stuff built on selling over-valued property to each other paid for by other people’s money, there will be the cash around to solve many social ills.Sustainable wealth is made with brain power and, to move into this area, Ireland must see the world differently.

The old idea that we can attract foreign investment with a combination of tax breaks and cheap labour is over. China and India will win this game. Equally, the era of easy money from property is over.

The property market is only going to weaken further from here. Now Ireland has to create value by owning the intellectual capital.

In the past, Irish start-up companies were often happy to sell out to bigger, usually foreign buyers before their companies had grown to a world-beating size. In the future it will be essential that we protect these new companies as they try to grow, by providing capital and, more importantly, management techniques.

We have a long way to go because our misplaced infatuation with property has led to huge amounts of Irish money invested in an asset that is now falling in value worldwide.

Check out this figure — last year we invested €159m in high tech start-ups but €8bn in overseas property!

If Ireland wants to profit from globalisation and ensure that the success of towns like Newry is repeated all over the country, we have to invest in brain-power.

  1. Philip

    Spot on observations as usual David. The guys up there are are getting their knowledge based approach together in short order. However, let’s not knock property investment and other “trad” methods of getting wealth completely. These will be a factor in firing up 1st Derivative companies. The reality is that BOTH infrastructure (rapidly coming on-line) and access to wealth/ leverage will be needed.

    You mention the people coming back (our diaspora) will be a 3rd element. I think this is a nice idea, but it will not be enough and one thing you forget is the North’s attitude to training and development as a key pillar for economic growth. In the South, there is no government dept with the mandate to drive the knowledge economy.

    Your diaspora idea drives one aspect of this. But you are forgetting about the thousands of people now being let go in MNCs as they outsource and leverage China and Poland etc. with necessary training and skills needed for the the new economy. And as I said, there is no one mandated (i.e. has ass on the line) to ensure we are managing these skills and ensure they are reconfigured correctly. For example, it is clear there is a massive shortfall in IT Skillsets and Broadband. Who gets the kicking? Eircom, Universities, Schools etc. Unless the govenment takes ownership to coordinate this, we will wind up blaming the usual targets.

    The problem for many businesses large and small in Ireland is that they are cavemen with 21st Century weapons. All we know how to do as a collective is use these weapons to club one another. Not good when you are competing with other countries like Netherlands, Scandanavia and indeed Poland and China. This ignorance is driving people away from hard disciplines (Sciences, IT, Engineering etc.) becasue there is a low perception of their value – i.e. we need them just as the low cost grunt end for getting things done. This low perception exists at the political, and civil service level and with many of the Irish Businesses we have. Hence the need to address this issue at a national level. The returning diaspora will have little political clout becasue they have no vote. But tackling it more directly by looking at the people under threat in MNCs becasue of the reality of economics and also taking a proactive approach with schools and re-educating businesses would drive the sophistication we need to move to the next level.

    Newry is a great example of something close by where there is better infrastructure and a government policy there that drives the knowledge economy. There is an active drive to make business and trainers alike aware of the new toolsets needed. If I were to ask an Irish company how they were going to leverage Web 2.0 or SOA to improve their competitiveness and access emerging community networks, I guarantee you 99 out of the 100 of them would not know what you were talking about. Ask a similar group in our competitor countries…nuff said. And you know the sad thing about all of this, our civil service would onlyu ask MNC consultants becasue (probably rightly) they know their own countrymen would not have a clue – and that reinforces the low confidence attitude to Ireland (south) being able to do anything beyond the basics.

  2. coldblow

    I first visited Newry about ten years ago when we took my aged parents on a quick holiday up north (they’d always wanted to go but like many they wouldn’t have tried it on their own) and my mother remarked on how down-beaten the locals appeared (admittedly it was a funeral she was looking at). I always had an interest in the place as we had a formidable spinster from the town as headmistress of our primary school back in Blighty, so it’s great to see the improvements.

    Philip, your own comments also hit the spot although for me that is more at the level of intuition than acutal comprehension as such. When I got to the bit about “civil service” and “consultants” I found myself laughing. Why? Because it brought to mind Declan Lynch’s column in last Sunday’s Indo. Discussing Ireland’s claims to sporting grandeur (where success has only been denied by bad luck or treachery) and the related delusion that its sons are possessed of a unique passion in this area (despite all available evidence) he arrives at the conclusion that we do indeed have a talent for one thing. And that thing is called Bullshit.

    World beating sophistication will not be achieved by engaging consultants, commissioning any number of reports, using buzzwords convincingly, phonic innovation (eg “roundabout” and related words), “progressive” use of kilometers and centimeters in the news and weather (to say nothing of millimeters) where people do not understand these concepts, or even by talking “in relation to an issue” instead of “about it”. In fact, talk per se will not be sufficient on its own.

    I know I’m drifting ever so slightly off the point here but since sport has now been mentioned this might be a good place to dispel a few lingering myths:

    1 At their last Word Cup Ireland did not win two games but one (the German game was actually recorded as a draw).
    2 The Olé “song” was not invented by Ireland supporters and set to an ancient Gaelic air – it was sung on the terraces of England long before. I heard it live on the terraces myself but I’m sure it was available to you via Match of the Day.
    3 Ditto that Mary Hopkins/ Beatles tune. This dates to the early 70s. For boys in “green” read “blue”.
    4 “Passionate” support for your team is a guarantee of failure, especially if followed by verbal abuse. Consistency is the key here. (From prior observation of my own team I could have told you for free that this just doesn’t work.)
    5 A “jig” is not quite the same as a “reel”. The one is in 6/8 and the other in 4/4 time. Remember this next time you attempt to explain our “unique” musical culture to visiting foreigners. (This advice will save you embarrassment as they will probably already know this especially if they are from Germany.)

    I know. I know. I’ll get my coat…

  3. coldblow

    Before anyone points out the deliberate error in my earlier post above, Irish trad music is of course not “unique” but wonderfully unique. Uniquely unique in fact.

  4. Those bloody Nordies in Newry robbing our jobs too (Kingspan announced 40 new jobs today) and the have cheap shopping – the cheek!!

    What do we get Daveeeed – 800 new start up jobs. This can be your article for next week – Ireland casts of the US Multinational crutches.

    Keep up the good work!!

    A norn iron reader

  5. Garry

    Great to see a young company whose stuff is being exported doing well, it really doesnt matter if its north or south;

  6. coldblow

    After my last post I thought I’d try to offer something a bit more positive.

    I seem to recall reading an interesting comment in the archives here about the lack of an R&D culture here (possibly by Philip?) and what needs to be organized if we are serious, and also another post from someone whose company just could not get broadband organized in their chosen location, Someone else mentioned the success of Finland’s Nokia.and this got me thinking about the role of the state in fostering home-grown world beating companies.

    Revisiting Hutton’s The World We’re In last night it seems as if Nokia at the start of the 90s was a wood processing outfit whose main customer was the former Soviet Union. Then you have Michelin and VW. These companies benefited from benign cultures, systems of company law and ownership, and banking setups which encouraged R&D (essentially lower dividends and more reinvestment), protected them from hostile takeovers and, with union participation on their boards, gave them a stake in the community. Then you have laws governing land ownership etc.

    Could we try to do something similar? It is worrying to think that our future is so dependant on the fragile plant that is inspired entrepreneurship. While the openness of the economy doubtlessly benefitted us overall in attracting investment and multinationals now that the wind is starting to blow the other way could we provide them with direct support, even surreptitious protection, within the letter of the law? Controls on land ownership might have dampened excessive inward investment in housing for example. It might not be too big a job in the short term to “adjust” the business regulatory framework to this end, even just to exercize more discretion in applying the rules. My guess is that France, Germany, Finland and the rest did this and isn’t it the prerogative of small nations to do likewise? It would be interesting to hear any comments from visitors about this.

    Iceland’s example in unilaterally extending her fishing waters in the 70s is an extreme one, but I was thinking more along the lines of Luxemburg’s giving official recognition to its own language (a dialect of German and indistinguishable from the dialects spoken in neighbouring Germany, and also Belgium and France – althought the French are doing their best to eradicate it) ostensibly to protect it but probably more to regulate access to the public service etc. (It’s spoken by all natives, up to and including nearly all parliamentary debate, but you won’t see it written hardly anywhere, in fact you’d be very hard pressed to find a book in the language on a day trip there.) Without reverting to the extremes of the Italians isn’t Europe’s mosaic of language and national and regional regulations a useful hidden form of protectionism? Seen this way speaking a world language is a weakness rather than a strength. I won’t try anyone’s patience by sharing my daydreams about restoring the language requirement for Irish (or Gaelic as I like to call it) for the civil service or to use the language “creatively”, not so much as the state helping to save the language as the other way round.

    When my cousin graduated as a chartered accountant he “did” the accounts for the family farm for free – and declared “every stick” on the place to the Revenue Commissioners. The point I am getting at is this: is the state now over zealous, over literal in drawing up the rules and applying them? To return to the football analogy, why don’t we do the odd dive if everyone else is, as long as we don’t get sent off? When I first came here I was impressed by the live and let live attitude to regulation and, for example, admired the way learner drivers were allowed to go on the road unaccompanied. Now instead of legislating for the benefit of all, or at least the majority, laws are now being imposed objectively fairly and disinterestedly but not really to the benefit of anybody. (I realize in the past that everything was not perfect. Consider for example the job of a rural guard which was 90% checking bicycle lights, after-hours drinking and dog licences.)

    Put another way has the Civil Service lost sight of its duty to its people by naively focussing on the letter of the law and forgetting what it’s there for? Other countries see it as a matter of course to have two faces, one for internal consumption and the other, straight faced and serious, for the benefit of outsiders. Even Sweden had its Bofors arms scandal caused by a desire to protect jobs. I am not blaming the Civil Service entirely – at top level I understand that at European summits they can think on their feet if there is a sudden change in circumstances while the others are lost if the plans already drawn up no longer apply. I think it’s rather a wider cultural thing, a mental thing, probably partly due to the tribunal mentality and its mania for “transparency” and involves the whole of the commentariat class.

    I realize this might sound perverse and akin to advising an alcoholic to go down the pub for a few quick ones, but in times of crisis we need to do what we are good at. After all, we gave the world the poor mouth, Tammany Hall, Fianna Fáil and a host of scams which will probably never see the light of day. But we could do worse than take another look at our “core business” where we are world leaders.

    Or we could even just do it the slow, boring and patient way. Like Newry.

    I’ll leave you with the family motto: Better Late Than Never.

  7. Ed

    Newry is in a different country and it’s of little benefit to the south. Does it purchase anything from the South? The South, on the other hand is of great benefit to it – a new motorway to Dublin, giving it a link to the greater world through the Airport and then there are its retail parks benefiting from Southern shoppers. While we provide infrastructure for it, we downgrade our own at Shannon and have failed to provide decent communications between our capital and our other cities. The motorways are way behind schedule and now we’re having to borrow in order to finance their completion. Newry, benefits for a massive subvention to Northern Ireland from the Westminster Government – somewhere in the region of nine billion euros. There’s no point looking to it for a template – we must work within our own structures. A population of 4.5 million is just too small for out location on the outer reaches of Europe and we don’t appear to be able to get anything going other than the basics.
    Then there’s the legacy of 1922 to live up to – politics and politicians dominate the landscape. Nothing happens without they having an input and they won’t release that power easily. So while some people want to look outwards, politicians are primarily only interested in the grass root parochialism.
    The enterprise boards are totally controlled by politicians – look at the Celia Larkin farce in Limerick last week – that’s where we’re at, there’s nothing in the tank.

  8. Fred

    It would be interesting to analyse just how what you propose would in fact challenge the FDI model.
    I would think that boosting home grown innovative companies may in fact challenge the MNC agenda,
    in that they would have to compete for talent, thus driving their costs up, not to mention a host of competitlors
    challenginf their business. Furthermore they may be asked to pay more tax in order to support the development of the country along the lines you suggest.

  9. Jonathan

    I have to agree with Ed. We really do need to get our own house in order, and fast.
    I have recently moved (to a secret location) and there is great potential from a tourism point of view in that area. The place is controlled and run by a town/urban council who do not seem to have any vision whatsoever regarding the development of the place, one way of the other. In fact, most of the participants of the council are small business men and women looking after their own small interests (sometimes to the detriment of everybody else’s). As a result the is very little to attract people to the area.
    Aside from gobshite politicians, both local and national, there’s also the bureaucrats in the civil service to deal with. Somebody should do citizens, right minded people and entrepreneurs everywhere a favor and run amok in the nearest civil service offices with a flamethrower.

  10. Garry

    agree with you on somethings Ed but …

    Definitely Newry is in a different jurisdiction and yeah a different country if your politics is that way. but its only up the road and its great to see businesses taking off there again. It will benefit us, even if from the viewpoint that if everyones making a few bob then people wont be distracted by the colour of the postboxes.

    As regards downgrading Shannon, I think the country is only big enough for one decent airport with good connectivity, our airports are competing against manchester, glasgow, charleoi etc who have similar catchment areas to Ireland as a whole… Sadly, Dublin Airport hasnt had the leadership or investment needed, partly because its been nobbled by Cork/Shannon at every turn. The net result is a shambles where innovation is figuring out how much more you can jack onto a greasy fry up or car parking. But make no mistake policy is controlled by the shannon and cork lobbies, where else would you see demands for a company to be split in 3 but first make Part A build new facilities for the other 2 and be left with the bill?

    And on local politicans, I think we’re always going to have the gombeen men from Shannon, Cork etc moaning who constantly whinge about the people of the western seaboard as if they actually represent or give a sh** about them. What about Knock, Donegal etc?

    It would serve everyone better if we had 1 decent airport and great rail links.

    I think we need a directly elected mayor for Dublin. Someone with a bit or real clout who can represent the region where the most people actually live and where the most taxes are paid etc.
    Just like the workers in the MNC’s who are actually funding the economy are not represented at the national pay talks, the majority of the population are not represented in the smoky backrooms where rubbish like shannon stopovers or decentralization is foisted on them.

  11. Wessel

    David, have noticed a “quest” in your latest writings to find answers to our future direction. A welcome change from the populist stuff.

    Some of the things I think that will help in finding a direction is how we change the way we do things. A few suggestions. Make the gombeeners redundant… I get the sense that more and more people realise how detrimental the scattered small-minded short-term gains are in the bigger picture. Resist the blame game… a real challenge, but the more we seek the scapegoat, the more we take our eyes off the ball. Support and celebrate entrepreneurial success…. the real entrepreneurial breakthroughs built on intellectual property, not the myriad of “me too” flashes.

    My two cents

  12. John Q. Public

    Wessel, we need more talk about our future direction. Just watched ‘The American Dream – Dead or Alive ‘ on RTE1 with Mark Little talking about immigrants, the Mexican border and the future of the USA under a range of headings and it was excellent. Why can’t RTE do that here? I’d like to see them portray illegal immigrants coming here in the same manner as was done in that programme but not a chance in that left-wing looney establishment. David, any plans to shoot a new series? ‘The Celtic Tiger-Dead or Alive?’ A more balanced view on modern Ireland would be good this time.

  13. DubinSF

    I think the dream of the Diaspora returning is not backed up by a serious commitment from the Government and so will not amount to much. Ive been in California for about 16 years now and travel home often. I married an american 11 years ago and have two step teenage children. About 5 years ago I seriously looked into returning home with my Family to live in Ireland. My wife and I are IT and work for fortune 500 companies – we fit the profile of the type of people that Ireland says it want to get to return. Alas when I looked into the details I found that it would take 3 years to establish Irish residency and during that time my kids who would then be at college would have to pay non Eu Resident tuition($$$). My wife has her Irish citizenship via marrage (a door that was slammed shut 3 years ago by a new Irish law) but the kids would never be citizens and after they finished college would be forced to leave the country. What kind of welcome back to Ireland is that???

    On top of that the Irish Diaspora dont get to vote in Irish elections, something that other countries allow their diaspora to do. Once you leave Ireland the Government slams the door shut behind you.

    Despite all the political talk the legal reality is that Ireland will only welcome you back so long as you divorce your family and leave them all behind. Other countries such as Australia, Canada and the US will welcome the entire family to come and live and promise them all a future in their countries. Compared to their generosity, the Irish Welcome is a blast of ice cold air.

  14. Ed

    DublinSF, It’s a difficult situation for the government because of our free third level education. They have obligations to our European partners, most of which have good educational systems of their own. The fear is that the Diaspora would descend upon us to avail of free education and then, at the end of the process, would up a go back to the their country of origin. Our free educational system is creaking at present and it has to is to be protected at all costs.

  15. John Q. Public

    Exactly Ed and a lot of other things would creek too if people like DublinSF were let back in with their foreign wives etc. People like DublinSF give me a pain in the face, why don’t they stay here and work hard here? Oh the plight of the poor Irish going off to work for fortune 500 companies, boo hoo. As it is certain parents can’t get their kids into schools here because of foreigners taking their places. DublinSF, if California is so wonderful send your step children to Stanford. Oh no you want to do it cheap. You made a new life for yourself DublinSF, took on other people’s children etc. so get over it!
    As for the diaspora not being allowed to vote, 50% of us don’t vote here so what interest would the diaspora have abroad? Bugger all at best. The Irish are gas sometimes, they leave this country with a grudge against the politicians and then complain years later that they can’t vote! You don’t have a right to and rightly so. What the likes of DublinSF don’t understand is we are now in the EU and face a lot of complex questions like never before so you can’t expect to come back after 16 years without a lot of changes. We have a lot of strain on our resources now so don’t add to the problem DublinSF, stay in la la land, it was your choice so grow up and get over it.

  16. Sean

    What a nice sort you are John Q. Public. The word is getting out among the diaspora about you lot, meaning they won’t want to go there and spend their money in your tourist traps either. Ireland is too big to accept tourism dollars these day with the grand EU and all. Not to mention, you would rather have foreigners from Asia and Eastern Europe move in on your welfare state rather than returning bread winners that might compete with your feeble skill set.
    Don’t fret, the rejected diaspora will forget about you in a generation along with your Guinness, butter, cheese, Magners and the lot. Who needs the guilt of collecting those revenues from the ungrateful weeds that left home to survive, not you anyway. I suppose I’ll conclude that it is better to be plastic than a paddy.

  17. AndrewGMooney

    I’ve been asking where a potential Irish Nokia might be hiding. ‘First Derivatives’ sound like an interesting research project.

    Long-term economic prosperity has to come from product and service innovation. It’s that whole Finnish 80s ‘vision-thing’. Leap-frog to a higher plane of ambition, etc. It can’t be based on endless cost reduction within an existing ‘off-shore production/distribution paradigm‘. We had that baloney here in the UK when some Tory nutcase announced that Liverpool could be the next Hong Kong if it’s denizens weren’t so lazy and feckless.

    When it was sarcastically pointed out that Liverpool didn’t have exactly the strategic geographic strength of Hong Kong or Singapore, pointing only to Dublin (oops!) – he had a tantrum and stormed back to his government limo.

    Newry seems geographically blessed. And blessed by an historical architectural vernacular as well as providential demographics. With ‘Hybridity Being The Nw Authenticity’: The mix of British and Irish cultures in the town could work miracles. Not too insular or monoculturally inbred, but not a seething petri-dish of un-assimilated and radically opposed worldviews like London and Brum.

    Assuming that ’religion’ thing is done and dusted. Good luck to the them. I’ll pop up and have a look when next I’m over. Thanks for the tip, David. It’s new on my radar.

    Daniel Liebeskind: I remember having a heated discussion at the top of Canary Wharf in the mid-80s about how London Docklands would never ‘work’ until there was sufficient Art and Culture in place. At the time I got some ‘funny’ looks from the British Banker I was with. He just didn’t get it. Now there’s The O2 and various other amusements to distract the tired financial drone after a hard day chipping away at the perilous number – crunching – black – type-coal-face.

    There’s a curious split in society at the moment which David‘s article taps into. Urban ‘edge’ versus suburban/exurban safety. I was in Hammersmith on Weds night to see the venerable Neil Young perform a marvellous show. Pre-gig, I had a nose around the Hammersmith Irish Cultural Centre, which I assume will soon be the Hammersmith Polish Cultural Centre from the babble on the Streets of London! Last night it was Clannad at The Alexander Theatre in Brum.

    “So what!” you all shout, having patiently read through ‘coldblow’’s football dribbles and swerves earlier on in this thread…

    Two things struck me. The ‘muted’ atmosphere in Hammersmith ICC and the ‘ageing turnout’ of the Birmingham Irish for a splendid gig by a superb 9 piece ensemble.

    Haven’t most of the ‘full – on – “We -were-really-always-Irish-even-though -we-were-born-in-London/Boston/Brum’ Diaspora who are going to return to Ireland already upped and left?
    If that sentence makes sense…

    I went to a pub next to the theatre after the Clannad gig where the carpets haven’t been changed since 1973. No-one else was there except 2 lesbians doing impromptu karaoke, and a ‘jazz band’ rehearsing upstairs. Interesting, in it’s own way, but: The concert goers had fled from the N.C.P car-park back to suburban safety and had no intention of hanging out in that dilapidated, still run-down area of the city centre. Yet other renovated areas of the city were buzzing in the relative safety neon-glow of CCTV re-assurance. It being Thurs, of course. Fri / Sat night being absolute drunken hell fisticuffs breakdown of law and order scenario.

    Some (2nd Gen Anglo-Irish) people I know in London who are talented and/or wealthy would consider ‘returning’ if they could be sure of a genuine welcome, a chance to earn a decent living, and cultural ‘Fair Play‘.

    The London ‘buzz’ is well and truly over once your kids have to pass through a knife detector to get to school. But the general feeling is: You’re not really treated equally. Not ‘Irish’. You can’t win. If you say you’re English you’re betraying your ‘roots’. If you say you’re Irish: Plastic Paddy! Same as it ever was really. Nice for a brief holiday in the rain: But ridiculously expensive with similar chronic facility problems to major English urban areas. So what’s to attract them?

    They would also want the things London, [Dublin] and Birmingham have: Art. Culture. A ‘critical mass’ of restaurants, bars and ‘interesting people’. And they crave what those cities don’t have:

    Safe clean comfortable Public Transport. Infrastructure that works. Safe schools and access to decent medical facilities as standard, not ‘pot-luck’ postcode lottery shambles. ASBO-free neighbourhoods. Etc

    ‘Wealth’ is a complete package. It sounds like Newry could have it all. Look at St Ives after they got a mini-Tate Gallery. Here in Malvern there’s superb housing, good health and sports facilities, access to unspoilt countryside, reasonable road-links to major cities. Crap extortionate trains, like the whole of the U.K. But there’s also a suffocating inertia which sounds exactly like similar towns in Ireland from the comments of posters on this thread.

    You don’t need to be in Manhattan or London anymore. If I was ‘in charge’ of Newry or, say: Portlaoise, near where my parents came from:
    I’d be looking at a ‘strategic wealth creation plan’ that covered all bases. From facilitating knowledge-economy and ‘intellectual property’ entrepreneurs, to ensuring the town is simply a stunning place to live, work, raise a family or looks after a couple of cats. With a cutting edge venue for bands/theatre/ circus / panto, not just a one-off boutique festival. Newry seems like it could tick those boxes with a bit of work. At least their web site looks nice!

    Birmingham has just renovated it’s stunning Grade 1 listed Town Hall, but the underpasses nearby are still dark, stink of piss, and attract ‘undesirables’.
    At some stage, something ‘awful’ is going to happen in one of the mega-cities. There’ll be a stampede, not a gradual exodus. I remember after 9/11 (my birthday) getting drunk with a mate and we did a cartoon strip called ‘New Y-Orkney’. It was a skit based on Yanks fleeing to the furthermost regions of the British Isles looking for ‘defendable space’. Gradually, the comic strip showed the empty islands being submerged by skyscrapers as more and more people tried to do the same… The final frame showed 2 planes on the horizon……We were aghast to find out days later that estate agents in Orkney and the Shetlands were being besieged with enquiries!

    Ireland is an Island. You can defend your borders. Your culture and heritage. You’ve thrown away your currency and banking independence, but never mind. You could even get all bitter and twisted about your language! Like the Welsh. I’m actually Anne Robinson posting under a pseudonym….. You can still nip the whole ‘urban hip-hop drugs crime life-style as normal’ nonsense in the bud. Surely? But it probably does mean focussing on small towns first. Towns like Newry. And Malvern.

    And if you think ‘nothing ever happens in Malvern’ just look at this piece of hot auto-porn:

    Looks like a good attempt at The Future to me. How many Irish visitors to Cheltenham in a week or so would detour to a purpose-built ‘Morgan Motor Museum’ showcasing this Uber-Art? Who needs Daniel Liebeskind when you’ve, literally got, ‘Sex On Wheels’?

    But you’d hardly know it was happening. The Morgan Motor factory could be a major tourist attraction. But no-one can be arsed, it seems. We don’t want tourist riff-raff anyway. Keep them in Cheltenham for the racing. Dreadful lot! We have The Elgar Route and that’s enough. Sounds like a different version of the same snobbish deal in many beautiful Irish towns?

    PS: I think I’ve beaten ‘coldblow’ on the old verbose ‘word count’ award. And, surely: I get bonus points for it all being in one place, not 3 different attempts?

  18. John Q. Public

    Sean, you are talking crap. I agree that this country rips off everybody especially tourists. I don’t want foreigners coming here to live in the welfare state from Asia or anywhere else. The feeble skill set should be jizzed up and made to think for themselves. In fact now that you mention it, we have a feeble-minded approach to starting businesses in this country, we mostly rely on US multinationals to come here and employ our workforce.
    I wish the ‘rejected diaspora’ would forget about us and shut up as they are a pain in the ass! Especially the ones who left when the celtic tiger took off. But the truth is that the whiners will never achieve true happiness with a chip on their shoulder. I’ve been to America and Australia and met them all in these so-called ‘lands of opportunity’, assholes that really wished they had stayed at home. The smart ones did come home in fairness but the rest get bogged down in one peoblem after another. Who exactly put a gun to their head and said ‘emigrate’? Guilt from collecting revenues? I don’t think so. Let’s sell the Yanks all the booze, fake tits and botox they want!

  19. DubinSF

    John Q Public, you and I and the Irish Government are in complete agreement. When I left Ireland, I knew what I was giving up and what I was going for. It was a good deal for me and still is – there is no whining from me. The Irish Laws are also pretty clear. Ireland is for its own residents and its hard to
    become a resident. When you leave the law says that you are putting things in motion that will make it hard to return. That is all fair enough. Also members of the Irish public like John Q are saying that you are betraying your roots and your country and good riddance to you so shut up whining. In many ways they are also right. Ireland paid the resources to raise and educate me and I left. And since John Q still lives in Ireland, he has the right to decide what kind of welcome there should be for anyone who might return. We are all in agreement here and there are no disputes.

    But the point I was making is that in several articles like the one that David posted here, there is some discussion that there will be a return of Irish Diaspora with their international contacts and the capital of their lifes savings (not insignificant in a place like the US where one must save all of ones pension $$ during your working life). There is a published argument that Ireland is so open and welcoming that the
    country is welcoming everyone back with open arms. We will get a bunch more of this rhetoric from the president on St Paddies day in the annual message to the diaspora. The only point I was making is that the offer is not as open as it sounds as illustrated by the Irish Law and John Q’s response to me above.


  20. John Q. Public

    In fairness to you DubinSF, I would rather allow your type back in to Ireland rather than the countless tens of thousands of Africans who claim asylum and every other cock and bull story so they can stay here. We import criminals by the boat load who have been turned away by the rest of Europe and we are polluting our society. If there was an intelligent minister in charge of this we could tap into the diaspora as and when we need to and keep out the useless undesirables. DubinSF, it’s different for you now as you have a foreign wife. Now that’s not a bad thing it’s just that too many people have been using that as an excuse to live here ‘I married an Irish guy so let me in’. Nigerian women having their babies here to claim residency, welfare fraud etc. It all had to be stopped and rightly so. So please try and understand our position, a lot changes in 16 years, we are no longer a 3rd world country with TV sets that nobody wants to live in.

  21. VincentH

    Over this past week we have had the unemployment records published. Records show a increase. But does not show that of those unemployed many are not counted, those who went home to Eastern Europe. A good thing many will say, but what of the dept’ of Finance and not being able to predict future income.
    The core of this post requires an ability to reasonably predict. Both from the position of the business and Finance. And while foolish volatility is inbuilt to the system nothing can be predicted within reason. This is evident with the University’s, a group not known for its speed to react and while pay is pegged to the civil service simply cannot do so.
    In the coming weeks the national hunt will have its festival. The trainers will do every thing that they can to get their charges through. But with all the variables, they know that jumps will not be put in or pulled out before or during the race. That and the distance are the two things that they do know.

  22. Ed

    VincentH, It’s not looking good , the increase in unemployment and the fall in revenue is serious. I was shocked to see so few trucks on the Naas road last Wednesday. They’re a great barometer of activity – if they’re not moving , nothing is selling. To add to our problems, American companies are coming under pressure back home, so there could be cost cutting/restructuring at their facilities here. Some of them are so desperate that they’re resorting to strange tactics. I manufacture and export to numerous countries and last week my Australian distributor informed me that he can no longer advertise our product there – the reason given was that the Australian government will only permit the sale of products in this particular area that are governed by a self regulating manufacturers association. The association they refer to is an American dominated one, with one Korean that is based in the U.S. This means that they’re starting to exercise muscle on foreign governments in desperation. Our product meets international standards, but this association has introduced standards of it own for reasons known only to itself. If these tactics are indicative of desperation, then the worst is yet to come.

  23. shtove

    Maybe the company chosen as an example in this piece wasn’t the best – IT spend by banks is being severely reduced because of the need to get capital ratios in line. And Derivative is going to become a dirty word when banks start going under.

  24. FreedomFighter

    15 years ago it was fashionable for Irish people with money to have the money abroad and to fly to it. 10 years ago it was fashionable to be into tech. Three years ago it was property, and whereever Eddie Hobbs recommended. It is not always intelligence that causes people to chose good investments, often status obsession, and the rear view mirror are more influential determinants. Somebody commented about Will Hutton. I read an article by him concerning the way forward for the British economy circa five years ago…he was concerned with fashion, media celebrities, etc…the old economy of coal, wheat, steel was the past he said…he obviously got that wrong…Trendiness does not determine economic success, as often as economic malprediction and malinvestment….the phrase “are you still afraid you will not make it onto the property ladder ???” has been the biggest joke of the past decade…

  25. Paul

    “The place is controlled and run by a town/urban council who do not seem to have any vision whatsoever regarding the development of the place, one way of the other. In fact, most of the participants of the council are small business men and women looking after their own small interests (sometimes to the detriment of everybody else’s).”

    This scenario is played out the length and breadth of this Island, this is why our infrastructure is a shambles. Everyone is
    working against one another, it is favours for the lads and feck everyone else, it has always been like this, I cannot see it changing with the current crop of Councillors or Politicians, they are too institutionalised into this tribal culture of “I am alright jack, feck the neighbouring parish/county/town” or whatever, they all work against each other in packs, or tribes. They have no foresight either, forcing through policies and projects without any thought for what problems they may cause further down the road.

  26. Paul

    Hi John Q,

    Do you think it was ok for thousands or Irish to go to the UK and draw benefits ?, alot of them fraudulently.
    This only really dried up during the 1990′s and the start of this Celtic Tiger, until then I knew many Irish people
    who were drawing false claims in England, but of course it must be ok for Irish people to do this, and it is not
    ok for Africans to do it. Remember, we shipped all our criminals to the UK in the 80′s and 90′s, well, they left
    for the UK, because they found it easier to break the law there as they had no previous records in that country.
    I think that it is good, that the Irish Government now have to get their finger out and help immigrants, rather than
    shipping us off on boats and planes as they used to, people are now coming the other way. Now it is time for them
    to stop patting themselves on the back, just because they put some money in the poor box on a Sunday, time for them
    to get their hands dirty and actually help the people coming into this country.

  27. Rob

    John Q, your views are your own, not ‘ours’ and you sound like a fairly close minded individual to me. If that guy wants to return home and has expertise and skills then he should faciltated and welcomed. If anything the irish govt should have put up a points scale like australia did and look at skills, education etc of potential immigrants instead of the farcical ‘i’m a chief of my tribe on the run’ rubbish we heard from nigerians. Certainly there is a case for taking in genuine refugees like the people from iran we took in recently. I fear the worst anyway, as the boom is gone and the past ten years was the perfect time to install a world class transport infrastructure system. Our politicians are a complete joke, look at the amount of them who are descended from civil war guys, that seems to be their only qualification. We need guys/girls with vision and determination not party hacks. The unmoving force of the civil service and public unions have also a lot to answer for.Anyway i’ll stop ranting and go back to my cocoa.

  28. Wessel

    This paranoia about immigrants is removed from anything factual… checkout the CSO site and you will find nowhere near the “influx” some people believe to be the case; checkout the rental sites ( etc.) and guess what, loads of places available for rent; checkout the actual numbers of “non-Irish” residents and the majority are UK and euroland citizens.

    Let’s get back to a discussion on where we could find a competitive advantage in a changing world for Ireland. We have to face up to a looming recession, uncompetitive cost base, losing out in the educational/skills stakes and lack of a strategy re innovation (we still want to do the stradling option… a little bit here, there and everywhere… a recipe for disaster).

  29. John Q. Public

    Paul, I am well aware of the fraudulent Irish. I don’t think it is ok for any person to go to another country and claim anything illegally, and I never said I did. Ship them home is what I say, they should not be a problem to the UK, they should be our problem. Rob, ‘close minded’ hmmm. ‘that guy’ you mention has a wife and two step kids. We can’t all bring home foreign people though, be fair. I agree about the points system though and the Nigerian situation. Wessel, we are not paranoid, we just don’t want to end up like britain.

  30. Rob

    John Q,

    That Irish guy wants to return with a wife and kids. Thats even better news. Here this guy, obviously quite able, wanting to contribute to Ireland and raise a family. We should be welcoming these with lámha oscailte. You hardly expect him to return alone? That doesn’t make sense? We should do our best to attract these Irish people and foreigners with talent and ability. Whats the problem? It will freshen up the blood and the talent! If anything we need people of ability to prop up this joke of a country of ours. Sin a bhfuil atá le rá agamsa.

  31. Disgusted

    I’ve never in my life seen such envious, spiteful begrudgery as expressed by one of the posters above to one of his own who happens to be living in the US. Irish begrudgery in all its poisonous glory. And yes, I’m Irish, living in UK, so f**k you, you pathetic little gombeen.

  32. John Q. Public

    Begrudgery, hmmm, I don’t think so, in fact good luck to the guy and I hope he makes a million dollars. Money aside, I hope he finds true happiness there and integrates well. The truth is few really do and it is quite often they who are spiteful and jealous of us back home and moan endlessly. Maybe if more people like you did not piss off at the first sign of trouble and focused-in at home, the country might be better equipped for the future.

  33. Ed

    Disgusted, I’m curious, did go abroad to gain experience or did you have to leave to get a job.

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