Saturday 20 January 2018

Shady behaviour is turning our brand toxic

Peter Flanagan

Peter Flanagan

IF you thought the controversy over Ireland's low tax regime was a short-term problem that would blow over, think again.

The fact that Accenture – the world's biggest consulting firm – has flagged the potential issues around "criticism and negative publicity" from being incorporated in Ireland shows there is now a tangible business risk associated with being based here.

Just to add in to the mix, a survey published yesterday showed Google's brand has plunged in the last year on the back of controversy around its own tax affairs.

The search giant's reputation has tumbled, according to a report from M&C Saatchi's branding agency.

Google was named the fifth-most-desirable brand by Britons in 2012, but new figures due to be published next week reveal it has fallen out of the top 20.

It was the worst performing media brand in Britain – a direct result of the very public scolding it has received from UK politicians over its use of Ireland to legally avoid corporation tax there.

Another report earlier this week showed Ireland's international reputation had improved over the past year, but there is now a real sense that our international brand is turning toxic.

Rightly or wrongly, as Accenture's warning shows, Ireland is now becoming firmly associated with tax avoidance and more shady behaviour in general.

The Government has rightly pushed back against this idea, and IDA boss Barry O'Leary was in the US this week vigorously defending the country in international media.

Unfortunately, mud sticks, especially at a time of austerity when it is in the interests of political leaders to find a straw man they can blame for their own economic woes.

Foreign firms are vital for the Irish economy – we know that – but even with our "pro-business environment" and "young, highly educated population" Ireland isn't vital for foreign firms.

The fact is there are countries queueing up to take the investment we have.

The IDA in particular has done an admirable job getting the Irish message out.

We can only hope company CEOs in their corner offices in New York and beyond are paying attention.

Irish Independent

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