Kevin Myers: We need to learn nothing from anyone, especially about sausages
NAAS is my nearest largish town, so naturally I rejoice that the Kerry Group is going to create 1,300 jobs there. But even the best news can be destroyed by stupidity: what bone-headed nonsense might follow in an area where misgovernment of some kind has been a feature for the past half decade?
Some 50pc of the retail outlets in Naas are now shuttered. The once legendary Superquinn is gone. Restaurants open, struggle and too often fold: this in a town which David McWilliams called the jewelled buckle in the gold belt around Leinster.
Now it is more like a brass knuckleduster across the nose of the adventurous and the enterprising.
Bad planning has certainly played its part in Naas's tragedy -- by the town council, by Kildare County Council and by An Bord Pleanala.
The decision to build a huge shopping centre barely a mile outside the town, as a rival hub but with vast amounts of free parking, could only have one outcome. How did any decision-maker seriously believe that Naas, even good times, could compete with the magnetic pull of the largest Tesco in Ireland, plus a string of other shops, so neatly situated nearby?
The experience across the Continent has shown that shopping centres adjoining towns kill them stone dead; and having had that lesson to benefit from, what did the planning authorities do but repeat the blunders that had already laid waste French towns. Ah, but here in Ireland, we need to learn nothing from anyone!
The most expensively glitzy buildings in all of Kildare are not the headquarters of Intel or Microsoft or any of the companies that generate tax euros for State, but are the Naas headquarters of local government, which of course soak up all those tax euros.
It is no personal criticism of the many employees in those headquarters to say that they live in an entirely different world from the shop and restaurant owners. Their jobs and their pensions are secure, whereas neither is for those in the private sector, whose taxes helped both build the council's palace, and
fund the pensions of council employees. The private sector must of course create its own pension funds.
Yes, an old refrain, but a stark reality which simply cannot be allowed to continue. Why should the Kerry Group's 1,300 employees live in an entirely different economic world from the county council employees alongside them? There should be a symbiotic relationship between the two, but there won't be, and can't be, not while public service unions continue to control the Government, but in the private sector, workers are laid off whenever their employers go to the wall.
For the Lord giveth and taketh: one day, we get 1,300 jobs in the food industry, and the next, we lose 200 food-jobs with the closure of Olhausen -- one of our best sausage-makers, which is saying a great deal, for our pig-meat really is first-class. Erin go boar.
Isay what follows in the nicest, kindest possible way, but I simply don't understand why we don't sell vastly more sausages cross-channel. Most British sausages still taste as if they are the product of two world wars, the Great Cholera outbreak of 1832, and the Lesbian Sowist Movement, which caused thousands of she-pigs to seek consolation in one another's trotters, and piglet production to cease. They are apparently made of gore-clotted sawdust mixed with the ground gristle of the oxen that hauled Stephenson's original Rocket from his workshop to the Stockton-Darlington railway, after which they were left to die in a deserted coal mine near Grimsby -- from murrain, foot-and-mouth, sepsis, gangrene, botulism and loneliness.
Frankly, if I were a British supermarket chain, I'd abandon any further attempt to make my own sausages, and instead contact the Olhausen sausage-receivers, and order a hundred tonnes of best Irish bangers.
Because Michael Fassbender isn't the only purveyor of quality German-Irish sausage, you know. Olhausen -- and Haffner's -- sausages could well seem exotic to British tastes, a sort of gastronomic cross between Flatley and frankfurter: Riverwurst, if you like. Hiberno-Teutonic sausages are unfailingly punctual, yet talk volubly to complete strangers, cheerfully asking them whether their granny came from Munster or Münster.
We've got over 67 million people living alongside us. Let Kerry Foods lead the way as we refocus on what we do best: raising wonderful beef, butter, cheeses, lamb, pork, rashers and sausages. And what cheese was the inspirational star of the recent BBC Radio Four food programme about how the British might learn how to make first-class cheeses? Cashel Blue, of course.