Monday 18 December 2017

Top tycoons say 'Yes' to Euro treaty

It's a yes vote, but by no means a resounding one from Ireland's business leaders, writes Roisin Burke

Unions, politicians and interest groups might be locked in debate ahead of Ireland's referendum on the EU fiscal treaty on May 31, but most of the senior industry figures we polled were unwavering in their view: it's got to be a Yes vote for stability and recovery.

So, in our vox pop, it's a landslide in the treaty's favour. The question is, will the voting public be as convinced on polling day?

Only time will tell.

Barry Maloney,

Balderton Capital

The founder of the VC firm backing Betfair and Wonga is a less than effusive fiscal treaty supporter.

"I would be a reluctant Yes," he told the Sunday Independent. "Reluctant because this treaty is doing nothing to solve the significant issues that continue to face Europe and the euro, issues of constant austerity and no growth.

"Also I think that Ireland would be better served to have delayed the vote. I see very little advantage to having this vote so early from an Irish perspective," Maloney concluded.

Louise Phelan, Vice President Global Operations

EMEA, PayPal

The boss of the world's biggest online payments systems company is resolute, it's got to be a Yes.

"All of us, whether as individuals, businesses, or the Government, must live within our means," she said.

"The stability treaty is about putting our house in order so that future governments act responsibly in managing the country's finances. It is about ensuring we have strong rules in place to manage our finances, that we remove the uncertainty from our own economy.

"I believe it is strategically important for our country, for business, and for each of us as individuals that a Yes vote is realised on May 31."

Peter O'Neill, Irish chief of IBM

O'Neill is also the Ireland head of computer multinational IBM, but he spoke to us in his capacity as head of the American Chamber of Commerce Ireland.

"A Yes vote is a vital step on the road to recovery, providing above all else, stability," he said. "Stability in terms of the nation's finances, of Ireland's ongoing role as a committed member of the eurozone and in terms of our commitment to following a defined path to recovery.

"This stability is a prerequisite for global corporations making strategic investment decisions and will help protect Ireland's reputation as the preferred gateway to the European market for overseas investors.

"The 600 US companies in Ireland provide employment to 100,000 people here, and so far this year have created 3,500 new jobs. A Yes vote in the upcoming referendum would help to retain and grow this strong investment, in turn assisting Ireland return to growth."

John Boyle, Boyle Sports

The owner of the €1bn plus betting empire is hedging his bets in the run-up to voting.

"I would have to say I don't know whether a Yes or a No vote would be good for Ireland's businesses and economy," Boyle said.

"I hope, whatever the outcome in relation to the EU treaty, that it has a positive effect on both our economy and country. We have always maintained that whatever can help keep Irish people in employment can only be a positive thing."

Cyril McGuire,


The Trintech founder and seasoned investor endorses a Yes as a must to keep investor faith in Ireland.

"Investment by business is all about confidence," he said. "Irish-owned and in particular foreign-owned businesses require confidence in Ireland before they commit to significant new investment which in turn will create new jobs.

"A key foundation block to building this confidence is voting Yes in favour of the forthcoming fiscal treaty as it will provide the fiscal structure, financial discipline and access to competitive funding via the ESM which will enable Ireland to continue its recovery and rebuild its economy both in terms of growth and competitiveness," he added.

John Moloney, Glanbia

The future of food exports needs a Yes vote, according to the €1.8bn dairy business boss.

"From an agri-food industry perspective, membership of the EU has been hugely beneficial to Ireland, both in the context of access to the huge European market of 400 million consumers and through the Common Agricultural Policy support for Irish farming," he said.

"Quota abolition post-2015 presents a unique expansion opportunity for the Irish dairy sector and in this context it is critical we have a stable currency base to maximise our competitive position as we further develop export markets.

"While the stability treaty will not resolve all the country's financial problems, Glanbia recognises that it is essential to remain at the heart of Europe in working towards a satisfactory outcome for the country's future, and for the development of the Common Agricultural Policy.

"Glanbia therefore supports the Yes vote on the fiscal compact as a means of restoring the credibility of the euro, which is a key element in moving the EU out of recession."

Gerald Lawless, executive chairman, Jumeirah Group

Lawless built up one of the biggest luxury hotel interests in the world. Though based in Dubai, he advises the Global Irish Economic Forum and stays connected with matters at home.

"I'm a great believer in the European Union and Ireland's place in it," he said. "They need us and we need them. I would be hopeful that there will be a Yes vote, it's very, very important for Ireland's future."

Julie O'Neill, boss of Gilead Sciences.

" Unquestionably a Yes vote is best for Irish business, the economy and the country as a whole," the Irish head of the Nasdaq-listed pharma multinational said.

"A yes vote is about taking back control of our economic future. It will provide businesses with the confidence to invest, grow and create jobs and it will ensure we have absolute certainty about the future funding of the State.

"The Treaty will not solve all of our current difficulties, but it is an important part of the solution. Voting Yes will assist Irish business to grow the economy and drive Ireland's recovery," she said.

John Mullins, Group CEO , Bord Gais

"These are difficult times for Ireland and the frustration of people who are worried about the future of the country needs to be understood, as does the temptation to lash out," utilities boss Mullins said.

"The real question is, does the treaty serve our purpose as a nation? The answer for me is a resounding yes -- we in Ireland, along with our euro partners, are working to create a stable economic environment now, and for the future. Stability is essential to progress and growth. The commitment in the treaty to sensible fiscal behaviour -- keeping government income and expenditure in reasonable balance -- is a proposition that the vast majority of people will accept without too much reservation," the Bord Gais boss said.

"But we need to realise the impact that formally making that commitment will have -- it will help to stabilise economic conditions in the EU and that, in turn, will begin to create confidence in our economy. It is vital that we build confidence in Ireland among the international business community. Confidence is the foundation on which we can grow new business and investment in this country.

"The consequences of a vote against the fiscal treaty worry me deeply. It's not just a matter of access to the Stability Fund, should we need it in 2014. As someone running a State company that trades every day on the international commodity markets, I am really concerned that a rejection of the fiscal treaty will have an immediate effect on the country's credit rating and that this will directly result in higher prices for commodities in Ireland and will hit consumers quite hard," Mullins warned.

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