Gangsta rapper Dr Dre revamps Clonakilty set-up

No really.

By Stephen Kinsella

Senior Lecturer in Economics at the University of Limerick.

71 replies on “Gangsta rapper Dr Dre revamps Clonakilty set-up”

It’s a long way from the Famine lament: “Clonakilty! God help us.”

A unit of another Clon firm of chartered accountants became a German commercial property investment firm during the bubble and in 2007 purchased a major Berlin shopping centre for over €100m.

Some of the investors were likely in receipt of mainly German-funded CAP welfare!

It’s usually the big Dublin law firms that are involved in marketing tax haven opportunities and they are also likely to be advisers to the Government.

Conflict of interest remains a curious concept in Ireland.

So Ireland isn’t a tax haven!

Besides, non-resident tax vehicles, Ireland is marketed as a location for headquarters of companies because of what are essentially tax haven advantages.

These companies are not required to have normal business operations in Ireland e.g. production, sales, marketing etc.
Arthur Cox, Ireland’s biggest corporate law firm, said in a January 2011 tax briefing titled, ‘Uses of Ireland for German Companies’:

“There are numerous advantages for multi-national companies with large Intellectual Property (“IP”) portfolios who locate and manage these portfolios in Ireland. The effective corporation tax rate can be reduced to as low as 2.5% for Irish companies whose trade involves the exploitation of intellectual property. The Irish IP regime is broad and applies to all types of IP. A generous scheme of capital allowances as well as a tax credit for money invested in research and development in Ireland offer significant incentives to companies who locate their activities in Ireland.

A well-known global company recently moved the ownership and exploitation of an IP portfolio worth approximately $7bn to Ireland.”

It is believed that the global company referred to is Accenture, the US management consultancy, which moved its headquarters from Bermuda to Ireland in 2009.

Also in 2009, Cooper Industries with a payroll of 25,000 moved its headquarters from Bermuda to Maynooth, Ireland, to give the location more legitimacy in the eyes of US politicians. In 2012 it was acquired by Eaton, another US electric systems company, with a payroll of 75,000 and the bigger Eaton decided to move the headquarters of the expanded group to Ireland and save an annual $160m on its tax bill.

The different categories of Irish companies, raises the issue of compliance regulation or none.

Apple, Anglo Irish Bank and Irish company law

A Wall Street Journal May 30th op-ed piece from two Irishmen who make a living from the status quo:

In a contentious U.S. Senate investigative committee hearing last week on the amount of taxes paid by Apple, Ireland was described by one senator as being a “tax haven.” The description is entirely wrong.

Mr. Bruton, former Irish prime minister and first EU ambassador to the U.S., is president of IFSC Ireland. Mr. Murphy is chairman of the Irish Funds Industry Association and a partner at Arthur Cox.

What to really believe?

Mr Bruton, the Americans would surely understand your position given their metro line between Capitol Hill and K Street. You are another paid lobbyist and while you may have no sense of shame, in Ireland, you should have zero credibility on this issue.

“Ireland wholeheartedly” now supports OECD efforts to reform the corporate tax system!

…and wholeheartedly should be taken as seriously as terms such as transparent and gimmicks?

Ministers including your brother claim the services exports surge reflects competitiveness when it results from tax-related diversions of revenues from overseas by the likes of Google.

Ireland fully supports a recent OECD Base Erosion and Profit Shifting report, which says that corporate taxes should be aligned with substantial operations. Ireland wholeheartedly endorses that principle. In order to qualify for Ireland’s 12.5% rate, companies must have substantial activities in the country in the first place. International corporations should contribute intellectually and practically to this work, in their own interests.

Come on everyone. Stick to the party line. Repeat after me. “Ireland is not a tax haven” ok. These companies merely set up sham companies in Ireland for tax strategy purposes. Everyone is forgetting the small amount of taxable income they make in Ireland. This is all a product of us tax not our own

But can someone tell me why these companies are choosing Ireland? Rather than other European countries to set up sham companies in. Why would the scheme not work in other eu countries.. Does this not make us a tax haven

To quote Shakespeare, “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. The present definition of a tax haven is that agreed by the member countries of the OECD. Ireland does not qualify. According to Senators Levin and McCain, the member countries are not, therefore, “reasonable people”.

They are right!

From the NYT editorial linked to by John Gallaher on another thread.

“Corporate taxes need to be reformed to ensure that the profits of American multinationals are taxed by the United States when those profits are earned. In an era of mobile global capital, that will require international cooperation, a painstaking process. In the meantime, however, there are many steps Congress can take to curb tax avoidance, like ending procedures that allow companies to easily shelter profits abroad.

Congress should also follow the lead of the European Union in pressing ahead with laws to require corporations to report their profit and taxes on a country by country basis. Disclosure and exposure have a role to play in changing corporate norms. After all, multinationals want to be viewed positively and for some, like Apple, their image is part of what they sell. Under today’s corporate tax system, tax avoidance may be legal, but it’s hardly the stuff of a good reputation.”

It seems that there may well be an agreement this month, in the context of legislation currently going through the EU legislative procedure on accounting standards and transparency, requiring corporations to report their profit and taxes on a country by country basis.

It will be interesting to see what comes out in the wash (assuming the EU countries agree to start the machine).

Colm McCarthy in the Sindo.

“These services exports represent in large part the activities of multinational companies in the digital economy booking worldwide sales as exports through Ireland, offset by imports of intellectual property in the form of royalty payments on patents and the like. The national economic statistics are being distorted. To be blunt, some of the apparent buoyancy in the services figures is due to fake exports with little impact on the real economy here. These reported exports reflect the (perfectly legal) manoeuvres undertaken by the multinationals to minimise their tax liabilities in other jurisdictions. Everyone knows this but each data release is greeted with cheer-leading PR announcements, which is just childish.”

Again Shakespeare; “truth will out”.

Straight outta clon…taint nuttin but a tax thang…
So many many possible minor tweaks. He is part of a world class wrecking crew…

That is a good article by Colm McCarthy but I’m not as optimistic as you that the “truth will out”.

This bit is truly depressing…
“If the economy really was recovering, it would be visible in the retail sales figures, and it is not. The chart shows the volume of retail sales, adjusted for seasonal factors, from January 2006 up to April 2013. Sales collapsed through 2008 and 2009 and have failed to recover at any stage since. If you can detect an economic recovery in these data, your eyesight is in exceptional condition.”

After five years we still have broken banks which according to Jim Powers will require another 20billion, no domestic economic recovery and politicians addicted to spin and hype. I don’t believe that any troubled economy has recovered without a properly functioning banking system and the omens are not good now given the failure to address the banking problems.

Mad at me caus
I can finally afford to provide my family with groceries
Got a crib with a studio and it’s all full of tracks
To add to the wall full of plaques
Hanging up in the office in back of my house like trophies
But ya’ll think I’m gonna let my dough freeze?
Ho Please

AP News
Anti-austerity protests: Spain, Germany, Portugal (and Ballyhea)

MADRID (AP) — Anti-austerity protesters on Saturday took to the streets of dozens of European cities, including Madrid, Frankfurt and Lisbon, to express their anger at government cuts they say are making the financial crisis worse by stifling growth and increasing unemployment.

[…] Police in Germany’s financial capital said about 7,000 protesters refused to move after officers encircled a group of about 200-300 people because they refused to remove face masks they were wearing.

Organizers of the “Blockupy” protest said up to 20,000 people had demonstrated against the ECB’s role in pushing European countries to cut government spending as part of efforts to reduce public debt.

Looks like a straightforward move from West Coast hip hop to West Cork hip hop. No tax haven issues, of course.

Is Puff Daddy moving to Fermoy?

We need I dunno Boeing to route all its exports through ballina to get peopke to st a rr to see the ludicrous nature od what weve become

Brian, the caricature is now the real … blue pills all round with a tiny few exceptions …

*Andre “Dr Dre” Young. Forbes magazine named this California gangsta rapper-turned-music industry mogul the highest-paid musician in the world in 2012. He raked in an estimated $100 million, mostly from sales of his Beats headphone company along with concert revenue. Dre’s music electronics company was co-founded with Jimmy Iovine, who also founded Dre’s parent record label, Interscope Records. Interscope was funded by “progressive” billionaire Ted Field, heir to the Marshall Field retail empire and one of the nation’s biggest Democratic Party donors.

Dre boosted the careers of prominent Obama hip-hop cheerleaders Eminem and 50 Cent. But overseas, he’s rolling like a Romney supporter. The rap mogul is now using a County Cork, Ireland, tax haven to protect his global headphones empire subsidiaries and avoid high U.S. corporate tax rates. The Irish Examiner newspaper explained that the elaborate structuring “allows for money to be [channeled] between the separate companies in the form of royalty payments or [license] fees to artificially but legitimately reduce profits as a means of reducing tax liabilities.”

To paraphrase Dre and his Obama-endorsing rap partner Snoop Dogg, it ain’t nuthin’ but an E thang: Elitism. Exemptions. Evasion

@ Flj

It is, indeed, a very good article. As to what the economy is doing, nobody seems to know. There was a debate on another thread where some contributors had decided to trust the evidence of their own direct observations. Bumping along the bottom seems to be conclusion but doing BETTER than what other economies in Europe are achieving.

The truth will, at least, be a little more identifiable by next year.

Ireland was, of course, one of the first countries to sign up to FATCA.

I think CMc may be a little too pessimistic on the euro. While there is not exactly a breakthrough in the key relationship between Germany and France, there is a major improvement.

The issue of the role of the Commission is rather beside the point. They key is the political willingness of the two major economies to have closer coordination of their economic and social policies which cannot be created simply by changing treaty texts. (As every controversy in Ireland seems to confirm, the belief in legislative paperwork rather than action is unshakable).

“No Diggity”

Hey, yeah ya know what?
I like the tax arrangements
No Diggity, No doubt
Play on play that
Play on play that
Yo Dre drop the verse

[Dr. Dre]
It’s going down fad to Clonakilty
The homeys got accounting collab creations like low or no tax
No doubt I put it down never slouch
As long as my credit could vouch

A dog couldn’t catch me, *ass* out
Tell me who could stop with Dre makin’ moves
Ireland attracting corporate honeys like a magnet
Giving ’em eargasms with such mellow taxes
Still moving this flavour
With the homies Enda and Eamon
The latest rump shakers

[IRS tax collector]

I don’t like the way you work it
No diggity


Ireland is not a tax haven

I think they want to give Dieselboom the heave ho. I like the following attributed to Chirac..”he missed a good opportunity to shut up”.

Remington you of any Minister here?

The elites love to spin fairytales and the conflation of the FDI sector with the indigenous sector has given great mileage over the years.

The CSO does its job in accordance with international standards but the persistent misrepresentation of the data by ministers and others is against the public interest.

It’s good that Colm calls massive booking of diverted services revenues from other countries that become fake Irish services exports — what they are.

Last March when the CSO announced a rise of 15% in computer services exports (Google’s global web revenues rose 21% in 2012 and almost half are diverted to Ireland) and 13% in business services (mainly Apple), official Ireland including the Central Bank went along with the line that this reflected increased competitiveness and FDI.

IBEC and the Irish Exporters’ Association act as cheerleaders (at least IBEC know the difference between spoof and reality as its head is a former ESRI economist; I’m not sure about the export group – it is planning a trade mission to China in a few weeks and it is quoting a HSBC bank forecast for Irish exports but the data used is dominated by intra-company transfers that involve neither sales or marketing.

The addiction to spin is a cancer and until it is challenged, it will prevent the development of sustainable policies for beyond the crisis fire-fighting.

FDI has peaked while it’s clear that the linkages over the decades have been too weak to help develop a base for the development of a strong indigenous sector.

The bitter truth is that the indigenous export economy has performed poorly since the 1990s despite corporate and employer social security rates being among the lowest in Europe and no requirement to provide employees with an occupational pension; a large number of public supports, and current hourly wage costs at 78% of Denmark’s level.

Bruton and Murphy in the WSJ article recycled a common fairytale for an American audience:

“Foreign direct investment into Ireland is at all-time highs, and U.S. multinationals remain very important to Ireland. However, less well known is that Irish companies employ as many people in the U.S. as U.S. firms do in Ireland—around 100,000 workers.”

Inward FDI peaked a decade ago and full-time jobs in the foreign owned sector are at a 13-year low.

As for the claim on outward investment, on paper it exceeds inward investment and is good material for spinners of fairytales.

The Irish Government cannot even agree on the level of inward FDI. So-called ‘trapped overseas cash’ may well be in the US but its is treated as an inward investment inflow from the rise in reinvested earnings:

Wonder how a collapse in reported services exports would be spinned?

@Michael Hennigan

“Wonder how a collapse in reported services exports would be spinned?

… as a percentage increase in the indigenous sector!!

On the ‘real economy’ you are a leading light .. the spinners have been doin me poor head in for years.

@ Flj

The appointment by default – Hollande blocked the appointment of Schaeuble – of a very inexperienced Dutch minister to the chairmanship of the Euro Group has had little to do with the case.

The reality is slowly sinking home that even Germany’s core circle cannot keep up with current German economic policy e.g. in the case of energy.

Or in relation to labour costs.


when you look at the graph in your spiegel link at the left, you see that industrial users in Germany are already massively punished and disadvantaged compared to UK, FR, US.

we had this topic here before as well

with detailed, quantitative links.

If all those , who qualified in the last 2 years as heavy users, are really qualified, is one thing, which to my gut feeling will be revoked more often than not.

But to viciously put energy intensive industry in Germany at an even more unfair disadvantage, is criminal. And then Almeria and the Greens will pay the price for their falsehood.

on the lighter side: some may enjoy that the USA lead 4-2 to German soccer in the moment : – )

@ francis

We have debated some of these issues to a standstill at this stage. I am not arguing, and never have, that only Germany must change policy rather that the countries of the Euro Area must (i) coordinate – i.e. align – their economic and social policies and (ii) that Germany cannot – as you appear to argue – excuse herself from this exercise.

Merkel and Schaeuble have shown little or no recognition of the need to do so; at least until the change of direction inherent in the text agreed with Hollande.

Such a development is as much a sine qua non as the establishment of a banking union although, surprisingly, it gets relatively little attention (with the exception of Martin Wolf).


Ref the Colm McCarthy article. ‘Truth will out’ indeed, but only a bit at a time. Others will have their views on the process, but it seems to me that Michael Hennigan’s view of the FDI sector is coming slowly and painfully to be accepted by the citizenry. This insight will be resisted, to the political death, by the various placemen, spinners and acolytes who live from the froth. While the efforts of those who are trying to bring real economy activities to these shores, or build real economy capacity here on an FDI basis, have my great respect, the reality is that the financial froth is displacing the real economic beer.

Colm has got the first part right. The FDI stats are dross, and they are grossly distorting our national economic stats. The next question is about what else they are distorting, namely national economic development, or what passes for that these days.

Michael has some scathing observations on the Knowledge Economy. He recognises it for the myth that it is, but that will be a very tough call for any tenured Irish academic to make. Music aside, Ireland has poor craft base. We need mid range tech. IMHO, not hi tech employment, and we need to trade it internally for a few affordable pints, among other things. The Dork may have emigrated to Virginia but good ideas never die.

We can agree about the deficiencies in the European response to the crisis. As you have so often pointed out, governments in this region can only do things by agreement. That’s the game we play. There are no short cuts to cohesion, and too many bitter wars were fought to ensure that is so. The US has a federal government, and a hegemonic president, but these features make capture of the US executive more straightforward than capturing Europe. Pace Colm, US capture has occurred. What a tragedy, and not just for the US. One of my immediate family members is a US citizen. I have spent happy years there, and I love country music, but I cannot consider US macro management as a guiding light.

The stock market has been rescued by Obama, and the employment stats look better, but it is all based on historically unprecedented Fed activism, cheap money and expanding public debt. The crazy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the chronic principal agent problems which beset US healthcare, are governance problems of the first water. As for the 3k pages of Dodd Frank, the dogs on the street (K Street) know it will do nothing to rein in the leveraged speculating world dominating 1%.

DOCM, all

please read my


YES! On those 2 point we agree a lot, and we should celebrate that …. While it lasts : – ).”

in the post from april 28th.

It is the repeated attempts of willful destruction of existing competitive German industry, and the well paying jobs coming with them, by extremely unfair levies, which I strongly object to.

They pay now 225% of the US costs of one of their key production factor.
130% of those a few miles across a border (FR). 150% of neighbors like “green denmark”, NL, not to speak of PL. But there are limits to that unfairness.

When the Greens try to divert the attention of their cost wise disastrous EEG ideology with false arguments, well , to some degree I have to accept that as politics as usual. Actually not “well”. And the people voted for those costs, and I have to accept majorities.

But when this gets actively destructive, then the patience ends.

‘Music aside, Ireland has a poor craft base’

I refer to the broad range of manual crafts, and not to specialised white collar professional crafts, which are of a globally competitive standard. Hence the number of professional emigrants.

Just one more example:

I helped somebody this week to analyze dust data (parlance PM10) here in Dresden.

I am not a car guy. In contrast to probably all of you, I do not own a car, because it doesn’t make economic sense. I could easily afford it, I have of course a licence, the good old grey one of 30 years ago, and I can drive safely at 200 km/h, when there is a need. I live close to a “hot spot”.

When I look at the data, and I am confident, that I can read papers and analyze data better than most of you, I see that 90% is caused by the pan-(central) European background soup, and not in my city.

And then I look at those pretty arbitrarily drawn up EU regulations and limits, which were attempted to be used for willful interruption of local commercial traffic (Umweltzonen) which would have some ridiculously low (0.8 – 1.6% of what the Chinese tolerate in their capitol without measures taken) impact.

And what I see again this willful hurt with very little “objective” justification.

I apologize for extending on this semingly off-thread topic, but it is just like this pseudo creativity in Ireland just one more case of this destructive dishonesty which permeates now nearly all these discussions, like this FDI and “service exports”.

@ Francis
Enjoyed that post
It is very nice to see you make the connection between environmental pollution caused by the irresponsible emission of carbon and financial pollution created by the irresponsible creation and emission of credit by banks during the boom.
Nobody likes clearing up other people’s messes – do they!
We, in Ireland, are far from out of the woods. We had a lot of very bad credit pollute our economy – clean up is massive.


“I apologize for extending on this semingly off-thread topic, but it is just like this pseudo creativity in Ireland just one more case of this destructive dishonesty which permeates now nearly all these discussions”

In times like this there is perhaps less consensus about what is real and what is not. Unravelling social ‘glue’ is accompanied by a dreamlike state where on occasion mutually-exclusive propositions can seem to be true simultaneously (e.g. Ireland is/isn’t a tax haven; climate change is bunk/is happening; fracking is rolling back peak oil/fracking is an uneconomic red herring and so on).

It can be hard at times to keep a grip on reality. I have watched members of my (medical) family reluctantly acknowledge that the sustainability and comfort of their sheltered lives are no longer inviolate and understand that they are likely to be targeted by a reactionary administration forced to spend less while fearful of social unrest and declining control of service delivery. Accommodations like this are difficult and uncomfortable, and apt to provoke fight/flight behaviours.

@ PQ

“The FDI stats are dross, and they are grossly distorting our national economic stats.””The stock market has been rescued by Obama, and the employment stats look better, but it is all based on historically unprecedented Fed activism”

Yes and yes but are the punters making the bets in the market concerned? How many of them really dig into any numbers for off piste entities such as Ireland? Look at all the shenanigans every time the US non farm payroll numbers are released- they are always revised later and it’s impossible to capture reality in a single number but the markets don’t care- it’s all about momentum.

People believe what they want to believe.

And if the FDI numbers bring the bond yields down a bit there may even be a silver lining.

It does look, however, as if the house the PDs built is falling apart.

@ geronimo

With respect, maybe it is you who lacks insight.

‘ It would also be foolish beyond belief for the federal government to try to tax an American corporate transaction that takes place overseas. The last thing that anyone wants is for Apple to spin off into an independent foreign corporation’

Apple is not going to do any such thing, because it has got what it wants, namely the advantages of US domicile without the corresponding obligations. While the quoted judgement of Learned Hand makes good sense in a domestic context, the decision concerned a very small, domestic enterprise. Apple is a globally dominant business entity, with some of the sharpest (in every sense) advisers on the planet, so they have seen how this decision can be exploited in today’s poorly regulated global taxation space. The Hoover Institute is by no means wrong about the flaws in US governance, but they don’t really grasp the international context.

States like Ireland have to compete among each other for Apple’s grace and favour. Tim Cook has serious power, so stuffing a portfolio might be a way to share some of the gains…but hi tech stocks were hammered before, and the Bernanke put won’t last for ever…..

Last Friday, Richard Bruton announced an investment of €175m in a venture capital fund for high growth firms.

There was no data available on what had happened with previous public investments in such funds.

The people who he would have to answer, do not ask.

@ David O’Donnell 

A plunge in services exports resulting from for example Google being forced to book its UK sales there, would in practical terms for Ireland have little impact as it gains little from the bookings.

@ All

The Irish Times: Timidity in turbulent economic times

Dan O’Brien wrote in The Irish Times on Friday: “We have a long history of sidelining those who dissent from the consensus in order to close down debate on important issues.”

True and I did write as per above that his fellow editors share with their counterparts in decision making roles in both the private and public sectors, a conservatism that is inimical to the change which is needed in these turbulent times.

Sotto voce: The honest answer to the question as to why silence – – from ministers; Oireachtas; universities and other vested interests (!!) and the traditional media – – was the response to the failure of an investment of €23bn (inflation-adjusted) in a decade to meet the target for Ireland to be recognised as a “world class knowledge economy” by 2013, would reveal why Ireland stumbled from a property miracle to a phantom exports miracle, to a delusional knowledge economy on the back of foreign firms doing little research, and in the process landed on its face, without one credible jobs engine.

Ireland is like a company with too many products that is spread too thinly in too many markets.

When the situation gets more stark, there will be no silver bullet: the
actual Irish individual consumption per capita today is comparable with Italy’s. It’s longterm sustainable level may well be lower.

What is the sustainable cost structure? Why does the land rezoning system remain unreformed give the bubble experience?

A quarter century ago, limited language skills were seen as a problem that merited addressing. Hassle with teacher unions and the inflow of a large number of American multinationals took the pressure off.

Despite the single currency the poor indigenous performance continues in the European mainland.

An EU survey of more than 16,000 small and medium size companies (SMEs, < 250 employees) found that in Estonia, 23% of companies generated turnover from exports, Slovenia: 21%, Finland: 19%, Denmark: 17% and Ireland 11%. The proportion of SME revenue generated from exports in 2005 was Belgium: 15%, Estonia: 12%, Slovenia: 11%, Iceland: 10% and Ireland: 4.2%.

Enterprise Ireland said in 2009 that the markets, Germany, France, Benelux, Italy and Spain, collectively represent a GDP 3.9 times the size of the UK, yet the non-food exports by clients companies of the agency for these countries, was 40% of that of the UK.

The focus of public policy on exports has produced poor returns while the domestic market remains in a parlous state; the participation in Irish apprenticeship schemes is the worst in Western Europe.

It’s striking that Tesco and Dunnes Stores together employ about 30,000 people.

In Famine times, people in West Cork who lived a few miles from inland shores that were well stocked with shoals of herring and mackerel, died of starvation. Today, farmers in West Cork are more likely to shop at the local Tesco than grow produce themselves.

It’s also striking how important the agriculture and horticulture sectors are for the Netherlands – – the world’s second largest exporter of agri-food products, after the USA. The total value of Dutch agricultural exports was €75.4bn in 2012 compared with €9.02 bn (Bord Bia 2012) in Ireland, including drink.

Ireland’s output of potatoes is 5% of the Dutch level and turnover of the Dutch machinery for food processing sector is €2.3bn, of which 80% is exported.

They have had a tradition in the sectors but what tradition had poverty-stricken South Korea in world class manufacturing in the 1960s?

Ireland imports half a billion euros worth of fruit and vegetables annually and mushrooms are the only product with a significant value in exports in this sector.

There are few young farmers in Ireland and many older farmers get welfare for watching the grass grow…less than 10% of Irish farmland is used for crops compared with 56% in the Netherlands (the total land area is comparable with Munster’s.)

The development of farm markets is a very positive thing but artisan food production should be encouraged; the French system of giving priority to young farmers in land sales should be looked at and councils should establish permanent all-weather market outlets where startups could have stands at low rent.

The first step to salvation is to acknowledge the current reality and challenging outlook…and stop believing in fairytales!!

@ paul quigley, michael hennigan:


the first time in my life I write it this way : – )

@Michael Hennigan

A few questions.

On apprenticeships, given that the industrial component of Ireland’s economy is small and getting smaller, why exactly would young people choose to take them? So they can emigrate to Germany? Do you think apprentice metalworkers will generate a demand for metalworking? Germany has an excellent system but its key driver is demand for apprentices.

On agriculture, do you think that Ireland’s climate might anything to do with our agricultural output? (The Netherlands. vs Ireland) The Netherlands has about 16% more hours of sunshine and average daily highs of ~3oC more than Ireland in the peak growing months – Ireland has a worse climate for most crops than most of continental Europe and given the required inputs of fuel and fertilizer it might be an area of competition we are wise to avoid. (Of course if Ireland had its own currency import substitution would be more practical)

Have you read Guns, Germs and Steel? Everyone should.

Your beef with Information Technology (the “Knowledge Economy”) is simply incomprehensible, it is one of the few areas where Ireland is not at a disadvantage to its global competitors (because of our climate, location and language).

You understand that Ireland’s poor performance at foreign languages is substantially because we already speak the second most spoken global language? (every time someone blames Irish for our lack of need to speak German I groan)

Finally, you did realize, when reading Dan O’Brien’s article, that it contained a series of reactionary dog whistles (immigration, the evils of the Good Friday Agreement, I swear he mentioned climate change in the first draft) under the cover of having a developed a concern with low pay? Possibly O’Briens most disingenuous article ever.

Ireland is like a company with too many products that is spread too thinly in too many markets.

Absolutely. Now what, given the destructive constraints of EMU, should we be focusing on?

Software seems reasonable (the shortage of programmers and engineers in the US is as much to do with the misery of the US working experience as anything else), green power looks like a good area since it also serves a national interest. It all sounds rather like what we are doing.

@gerinmo indeed very little insight
“Employee salary deferrals into a 403(b) plan are made before income tax is paid and allowed to grow tax-deferred until the money is taxed as income when withdrawn from the plan.”

And on the other hand:

Merkel Maligned: IMF Board Attacks Euro Crisis Management
By Markus Dettmer and Christian Reiermann

The EU’s bailout of Cyprus has elicited unusually frank and vehement criticism from the finance experts grouped in the IMF’s Executive Board. Their damning indictment at an IMF meeting in May reflects global skepticism, especially in emerging economies, about the euro zone’s crisis management.

@ DoD

“Because he has refused to listen to criticism for far too long and seems determined to push ahead regardless, writes a columnist.”

Very oriental, that sort of attititude . Would never happen in the Holy Roman Empire.


Kemal Ataturk is alive and well!

I note that Angela is still referrin to the ‘sovereign debt’ crisis! So there was no ‘financial system’ crisis. All_Ireland spin as you are wont to put it … and Enda is hurlin for May_O.

@Shay Begorrah.
You are being simplistic and polemical. You say the key driver for restoration of long lost apprenticeships in machining, toolmaking, mechanical design, electronic circuit design etc etc is demand for such apprentices. While our national systems subsidise training and CPD for twice as many medical graduates as the state can assimilate, and we try and dismantle the shambles of obsolete and inefficient training in construction trades that resulted from the State being allowed to take over vocational training.
You may not be aware of the fact that many engineering services and skills have either vanished from Ireland or taken refuge in specialist niches typically serving a small coterie of US MNC’s and are no longer able or interested in serving the needs of small indigenous engineering enterprises of the sort that power Germany. This is a major challenge for engineering businesses that wish to locate design and manufacturing activities in Ireland rather than rely on increasingly expensive Asian sources and differentiate themselves from the box-shifting activity that is the Irish norm.
There is no single best starting point in trying to grow the latter types of enterprises – the task must be attacked on many fronts simultaneously. I am convinced that broadening the vocational training system beyond construction, welding and media skills and into light engineering is one such ‘front’ and is also a means to help reconnect Irish nationals with practical creative skills (e.g. design) that are valued in Ireland and almost everywhere, and are essential if an engineering sector is to regrow.
There are many other ‘fronts’ that also need attention in the struggle to rebuild sustainable indigenous business, not necessarily by the state. The language issue is a real impediment and is one of a number of reasons why the recent crop of FDI web and financial services operations recruit so many non-residents to come work in Ireland. The diverse nationalities on display at lunchtimes at East Wall business park in Dublin, home to Yahoo and a number of other large employers is a sight to behold. Irish kids in state schools (uniquely in Western Europe I believe) have no exposure to foreign languages (except Irish) during the primary cycle. We persist in using perhaps 25% of precious contact time teaching them Irish, religious dogma and patriotic songs.
I am unconvinced by the merits of state-planned enterprise focal points, whether software/gaming (competing with India), cleantech (a huge and diverse area), medical devices/pharma (dominated by the US and with little commercially-relevant achievement to show in two decades of trying) or nanotech (another diverse collection of technologies and markets most entirely lacking in Ireland). Citizens are better deciding these things themselves. I think it is better to provide citizens with quality opportunities in Ireland to develop common foundation skills and languages relevant to all sorts of technology-based business (better vocational training and apprenticeships), then to help them to undertake CPD in bigger countries who can provide the quality learning experiences and challenges that Ireland cannot, and stay connected with them and ease their path back to Ireland for those that are interested in that.
You seem to feel that criticism of the “Knoweldge Economy” strategy is incomprehensible. The huge edifice of third level graduate and postgraduate training apparatus grown from a combination of Mr Feeney’s philanthropy and public funding has conflated the teaching of basic professional skills with the many constituent parts of enterprise; business research, technology and product development, IP creation and capture, management development etc. Within the EU this approach seems unique to Ireland. Without wishing to be remotely critical of universities or ‘ninth level Ireland’ which has evolved and grown its teaching and research businesses admirably, it is a stretch to believe that groups of early to mid-career technologists and engineers with limited or no industry experience, attracted into an academic setting on short term contracts and led by academic PI’s, are a credible substitute for the services of businesspeople; management, technology and design consultancies; test houses and engineering services businesses and real entrepreneurs. Suffice it to say that the commercial and tax farming results of this policy to date speak for themselves.
In many similar discussions about enterprise development the ‘crowding out’ effect of state agencies on enterprise is ignored. In an environment as small as Ireland this effect can be very large. I am inclined to believe that the dearth of indigenous business with significant internal RDI capability reflects two things: the disruptive effect of a decade-long FIRE and construction bubble and an explosive growth in state-managed and financed research organisations with preferential access to development capital.
Other EU countries see enterprise as predominantly the role of private industry rather than the state, and policies aligned with this viewpoint seem to result in a carpet of healthy indigenous enterprises. With the right environment, it seems reasonable to believe that Ireland would be no different.

1. flood

We are going to have a real flood here. The last “century flood” we had in 2002, and the prognosis is, that we come at least within 0.4 m of that, probably much closer. Then the cars were floating in my street 4 m above the ground. Hopefully the pumps work this time. Parts of Dresden are already on emergency alert, the army is mobilized, some idiots are resisting evacuation orders and must be forced.

2. Dirt
Eureka, Tony, I was actually not talking about carbon (dioxide) and Global warming, but about dirt, soot, particulate matter. A problem you lucky Irish don’t have. This was 25 years ago a huge problem here, probably took one year of the life expectation of the people. To give you some impression

Today we are talking about less than 5% of that. Eastern Germany was poor, they had to fire the local lignite, or brown coal as we say, and they couldn’t afford the sulfur and soot filters from the west.

3. Shay

Why does most of my tomatoes, cucumber,salad, all year round come from Holland , Germany, and not from Spain? Same for Canada / Mexico.

Because sunshine / temperature does not really matter much anymore. If you grow the stuff in greenhouses, you saturate the humus with fertilizer and then need only a little more, and what you actually need is generous amounts of fresh water, of which you should have plenty in Ireland.

What I don’t understand is your hopes in Software. Ireland will not write things like MS Office and a lot of SW I know is written in close contact with customers. Doing this over the phone, one can do from India as well.

@Tony Owens

Let me start at the end.

In many similar discussions about enterprise development the ‘crowding out’ effect of state agencies on enterprise is ignored.

Sadly, no.

In terms of access to capital “crowding out” should only become an issue when an economy is close to full output, which it aint. Oddly Paul Krugman mentioned this earlier in the month – I guess it is the current “five minute hate” in right libertarian land.

This is not just Krugman by the way, “crowding out” is one of those things that is never a problem except when it is still not a serious problem (like too much fun).

I am unconvinced by the merits of state-planned enterprise focal points

Well, that settles it.

Seriously, that is a perfectly fine political position but it is not a presentation of the evidence and after the global financial crisis I think most people would like an answer on economic policy that encompassed more than “Leave it to the market.”. We did after all leave it to the market, that is why we are here.

Other EU countries see enterprise as predominantly the role of private industry rather than the state, and policies aligned with this viewpoint seem to result in a carpet of healthy indigenous enterprises. With the right environment, it seems reasonable to believe that Ireland would be no different.

Other EU countries? Ireland is not Cuba, our level of public sector employment is the European average and much, much lower than other more successful small countries (Denmark, Sweden, Finland). These are the numbers from 2008 (imagine the numbers now).

This is genuinely confusing stuff Mr Owens. Ireland should already an easy easy place for entrepreneurship (low taxes, low corporation taxes, wage deflation). Is the private sector waiting in Galt’s Gulch for a signal (the appearance of the confidence fairy maybe?) before they spring into action and rescue us? How is government enterprise policy stopping private enterprise from working its magic?

I should have quoted the following paragraph by Tony Owens above.

Other EU countries see enterprise as predominantly the role of private industry rather than the state, and policies aligned with this viewpoint seem to result in a carpet of healthy indigenous enterprises. With the right environment, it seems reasonable to believe that Ireland would be no different.


Glasshouses, energy, and hydroponics and one can grow practically anything. This is where Die Nederlands leads …

Feasible here IF natural gas available …

@Francis re Dresden:

Good luck over there! Looks like the peak water level should happen tonight or tomorrow morning. Good to see ordinary citizens pitching in to prep flood defences.

@ shay

‘ Ireland should already an easy easy place for entrepreneurship (low taxes, low corporation taxes, wage deflation).’

Really ? US businesses are traditionally funded by equity, whereas Euro businesses grow with the help of investment bankers. Try getting an unsecured loan now, if you are not in some state-sponsored scheme.

Irish people have traditionally preferred to invest in property, and have elected governments which protect that investment by way of various tax breaks. That has always been seen as the safe, prudent thing to do. The old landlord model dies hard.

Many otherwise viable Irish SMEs are going to the wall because of their owner’s busted property investments. Irish banks are bust because of the same property disease. They always preferred to lend their funds on deposit in London to investing in Irish business, unless there was property as collateral.
If only they had been so prudent when they borrowed from the wholesale money markets.

Things haven’t changed that much, though, it seems to me. Most successful Irish start-ups cash out after a few years, to buy property maybe. That’s the reason why the state has had to step in and subsidise in the manner described by Tony Owens.

As Tony points out, the third level sector does real good business, but its an education business, and its product is global-standard grads for the global employment market. As with the FDI sector, the linkages to the domestic economy are not so obvious. Any time we try to employ the grads at home, we bust the government finances.

The state is promoting the Knowledge Economy firstly for the specific benefit of the tertiary sector, and secondly because it has no better ideas about how to grow business in Ireland. If individuals are not prepared to take ‘risky’ equity stakes, as in the US, the thing cannot ever get off the ground. The evidence is that we are not yet so prepared.

There is ‘crowding out’, but it’s an Irish variety. Many of our entrepreneurs are in the public service, or in the service of state-funded institutions. They are mostly grantepreneurs and fixers, very sharp at investing other folks money, or investing in something state-backed that they know they can sell on.

If we could reduce some of the most barefaced rent -seeking and croneyism, there might be some chance that markets could develop.

@Paul Quigley

Lets see what we can sort of agree on here.

Firstly “crowding out” is just not a thing. SMEs inability to access credit has nothing to do with competing with the state for funds and everything to do with the fear that economic contraction is going to increase the amount of bad debt banks have to cope with, a position private investors share. I also do not buy that all our potentially entrepreneurial talent is in the moderately sized public sector but also that these same crafty public sector types can not understand entrepreneurship. (being honest I am more of an entrepeneurial state person anyway).

Secondly we do have a serious problem with property, thanks to NAMA and the various bailouts the state is invested, in multiple senses, in propping up property prices (or at least in not allowing losses to be crystallised). This is a market distortion that is really screwing us up and it has some degree of popular support because of the prevalence of property “investment” in the middle and upper classes and the European elite position on financial capitalism (no contagion thank you, we have an election).

Thirdly because of EMU (or the lack of a Eurozone level bank resolution regime) we can not deal with the property crash associated bank crisis in the normal way – EMU as is is a weight around our neck.

EMU, global financial crisis and Ireland’s fetish for property and PD solutions (Boston or Berlin? Why not the worst of both worlds?) got us into trouble but what is stopping us getting out is degenerate Eurozone fiscal and monetary policy.

I just want Mary Mcleese to run for President again so she can play Return of the Mack on the campaign trail

@ Shay Begorrah 

Somewhere in between a farmer buying imported vegetables in a Tesco shop in Bandon and the Netherlands, the size of Munster, being the second biggest agri-foods exporter in the world, there maybe some lesson to learn. People opine about Iceland’s recovery. It’s own resources are a key factor.

Ditto for the formal work-experience training systems in Europe.

For young people who are not enthused about academic learning, a skill can make a huge difference – even if he or she has to emigrate for a time.

As for Paul Quigley’s point about ‘crowding out,’ it is very evident in the attention of ministers.

US firm job announcements and research grants/ related issues are what they seem to focus on.

Tony Owens provides a excellent contribution based on his high tech sector experience.

R&D is important in many economic sectors and Carbery, which opened as Carbery Milk Products in Ballineen, 10 miles west of Bandon in the 1960s is a very good example. At the same time the first factory to open in Bandon in 40 years, began operations.

Carbery was a joint venture between Express Foods of the UK and 4 West Cork co-ops (they acquired full control in 1992). It began making cheese and has extended to food ingredients.

It now has 3 R&D centres – one in Ballineen and one each in the UK and US.

The R&D is very important to it as it focuses on heath and sports-related food and drinks.

It continues to be a big buyer of milk in West Cork.

In contrast, a spinoff from university research with potential is likely to make the founders wealthy and initial funders, but when one is usually acquired by a bigger US firm, there is little payback for the Irish economy.

Can Dublin be seriously viewed as the ‘Internet capital of Europe’ when most of the firms are foreign ones, and they may be just hosting sales operations?

Public research should be funded but it shouldn’t get the lion’s share of enterprise funding.

Why is there so little said on outcomes?

The floods in Germany

Where’s Prof Tol to tell us there is nothing going on?

Re the sad state of domestic industry compared to the Netherlands, we need some kind of catalyst to change the dynamic. Go back to the pre Famine era and the English were pointing out how disorganised the Irish peasants were compared to the industrious farmers of Belgium. There were of course some serious systemic issues mixed in there but the disparities continue.

Fintan O’Toole in one of his recent books made a good point about the focus of the middle classes on medicine, law and pharmacy. The country is not mentally ready for a joined up industrial policy.

Continental punters are screaming out for quality “bio” food where the margins are incredible – Ireland should really be on the ball.

@ Tony Owens

I agree with Al! Exceptionally well put contribution and clearly on the basis of detailed knowledge.

However, all is not lost!

As in the case of the Netherlands and, indeed, countries in general, the basis of their success lies – almost invariably – in some comparative advantage – which can be something as ephemeral as the level of education – and with a long history.

As to the problem of “grantepreneurs”, one of the benefits of running out of money is that priorities have to be set. The question is whether they will be.

@Michael Hennigan

I agree with most of your points but I am afraid no one leaves the thread without admitting that crowding out is not Ireland’d problem, not in any commonly understood sense.

As for Paul Quigley’s point about ‘crowding out,’ it is very evident in the attention of ministers.

There may be a case that the distribution of government resources on promoting enterprises is badly thought out but this would have the opposite effect to “crowding out” as the profitable areas would be left to the dynamic and thrusting heroes of the private sector to exploit.

Crowding out in the sense that Tony Owens used it is a laissez faire speech tic that prevents people asking the question whether Ireland’s lack of domestic enterprise is a national character flaw or a sign that a small country on the edge of Europe with no real industrial base should not trust its industrial policy to a combination of chance and greed.

“ one leaves the thread without admitting that crowding out is not Ireland’d problem, not in any commonly understood sense.”

OK Shay.

I’ll preface my remarks by saying I don’t understand “right libertarian land”. FWIW personally I am apolitical. I’m just a simple businessman.

On “Crowding Out”:
I re-read “Interrogating Irish Policies” by Bill Kingston, pp 47. I met Bill in TCD in 2008 and his public policy research and that of his colleagues was fascinating.

I agree with you that crowding effects are sometimes worse at times when economies are operating at maximum output – but it depends on how the term “crowding” is understood.

Here are some Irish examples of what I mean by the term:
1. The bubble-era focus on property plays and rapid growth of the FIRE sector sucked cash and cognitive capacity away from less spectacular but otherwise sustainable (and ‘knowledge-based’) enterprises, many of them in the engineering and/or manufacturing sector. The state appears to have watched this happen, while some (myself included, God help me) applauded the ‘shift to high value services’. Anyhow, many of those enterprises are gone now. The infrastructure for inventive product engineering in Ireland will probably never recover. I wouldn’t presume to blame the state, or the firms themselves for this outcome. I simply feel we should have known our economy was being hollowed out and made a monoculture, and that wiser heads than mine should have drawn attention to the fact.

2. The state’s enterprise policy is still governed as far as I know by Forfas’s 2006 Strategy for Science Technology and Innovation. (, based on their earlier report “Building Ireland’s Knowledge Economy”. (
This is the ‘knowledge economy’ blueprint, involving four broad thematic areas for state-funded RDI focus. The implication is that out-of-scope enterprise struggles to get supported. Given the substantial commercial irrelevance of much nanotech and biotech research to Irish companies, it is unclear to me at least how precisely the huge investment in these particular areas was intended to be recovered by the state. Had the budget been spent on ‘industry-led’ applied technology development instead (this is beginning to happen) I wonder whether dissemination and commercialisation activities would have recovered more value? Who can say? If a tiny portion had been assigned to NSAI to reduce the high costs of Agrement certification of novel building products would that have boosted indigenous construction product utilisation and improved the energy efficiency of Irish housing stock? Who knows…

3. When the Irish version of the Dutch Innovation Voucher scheme was introduced (a non match-funded grant of 5k euros to SME’s for RDI support) all RDI service providers were excluded from the scheme except academic ones. Innovation, technology and business research voucher schemes have been springing up all around the globe. So far as I know only Ireland limits the scheme to academic ‘knowledge providers’.

4. Patent output from Irish academic R&D performers is dominated by medical and food science invention but little engineering and technology. My own independent research of the blossoming patent portfolios of publicly-funded Irish research institutions over the period 1980 to mid-2012 shows approx. 1,950 patent families (i.e., inventions), mainly focused on four areas:
• Biotechnology/microbiology/molecular biology
• Genetic science/biomedicine
• Medical device technology
• Photonics
Reviewing these portfolios one is struck by the absence of contemporary engineering hot spots:
• Wireless telecoms
• Cloud computing topics
• Renewable and energy‐harvesting technology
• Materials and coatings technology
• Microelectronic devices and sensors
My research is early-stage and conclusions tentative, but it appears that there is little evidence that these portfolios have much commercial relevance to or impact on Irish business outside the nutraceuticals area. Citation analysis of the patent families appears to support this. Again, one is left wondering whether better targeting of inventive R&D into hot spots more relevant to Irish SME’s (now beginning to happen) would have been a more productive use of public money?

So when I stated that I am unconvinced by the merits of state-planned enterprise focal points, I had these private insights in mind. Speaking as an SME owner and innovator, I have never personally been consulted by any policymaker about how the state could help me build more successful business, capable of generating larger tax flows and creating more employment. I suspect that very few SME promoters have had that experience.

@Tony Owens

Thank you for the explanation, I will try and get my head around it.

1. flood
2. „crowding out“

1. flood

Just thanks for the words by Tony, seafoid. Measurements exceeded tonight the worst estimates of half a day earlier. It looks like that this will be manageable, but we still don’t have an estimate on peak flood, not happening before Thursday, and how ugly this will be, we will not know before Sunday, the earliest, before the flood has hopefully receded by 0.5 m, and we know if the defenses hold. I took time off and patrolled 2 times my wider (3 km) perimeters for help needed, and it looks OK.

2. „crowding out“

I think this is a very important point, worth to discuss more, but I see the words as somewhat misleading, especially when people can’t believe that “crowding out” happens at 15/ 20% unemployment. My thoughts pretty similar to Tony, and are more along the lines of a global market, and that your Irish enterprises have to compete in it. And as long as you do not have some genial ideas, that goes very much by prices and income. And private employee wages have then align to the income of the business owner, and public wages lower by the relative risk, and low income services relative to that.

Before 1990 we also believed a lot more in government driven “technology push” than “market pull”.

But tonight I would produce only incoherent, alienating stuff.

@ tony

You are too modest. No ‘simple businessman’ worries about the productive use of public money. The reality is that you are demonstrating a lot more social responsibility than those who supposedly represent the public interest. A credit to our nation if I may say so. 
Much state-sponsored tech investment is like the property bubble. Great buildings in the middle of nowhere. I took the slow bus from Galway to Dublin yesterday. It’s like the Stations of the Cross (no offence) of mal-investment.

Your outlook meshes very well with Richard Fedigan’s ideas about fostering the ability to dance in the global technical space. He sees the marketing opportunities, and you can see the potential production space.

In the way, we have the plodders and the fixers, the gatekeepers and the placeholders, the short-termists and the pensionistas, who wouldn’t recognise an original idea if slapped them in the face. Not a note in their heads.

What we seem to have is the politicisation of the R&D process, and its identification with the fate of our third level institutions. The state tail wagging the market dog.

Absent the development of a healthy, productive economy, the high tech academic sector is ultimately an export machine. Chuck Feeney’s cheap funds for academia have probably been, like the low interest rates in the euro, a barrier to change, and a subsidy to a failing status quo.

Emigration is, of course, one of the traditional Stations of the Cross. God bless the work, and never say never

Paul I may have misgivings about public enterprise and science policy but I have a nuanced view about the nature of the people who designed and operate the system we have. We are all gods children.

With luck the academic research industry can be weaned off state funding while it learns how to win far more EU Horizon 2020 funding, reducing the cost burden to the state, providing a genuine market-led mission, while offering transformative trans-EU learning and career opportunities for Irish researchers.

The de-facto bias towards academic entrepreneurs vs indigenous SME’s needs to end however. I only found out today the back-story behind the cash crunch which precipitated the liquidation of Wavebob, one of the two significant Irish startups in the ocean energy field. Tragi-comic stuff.

An example of a durable firm: Carl Elsener III, grandson of, Carl Elsener, the inventor of the Swiss army knife, died aged 90, on Tuesday.

Carl IV now runs the firm.

From a cutlery workshop in 1884 to Victorinox, the largest cutlery producer in Europe, employ close to 2,000 people, 900 of them at its headquarters in Ibach, Switzerland. The company produces 60,000 Swiss army knives every day.

Comments are closed.