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Celtic's demise not end of story

CELTIC Bookmakers has gone into receivership with the loss of more than 200 jobs and its owner, Ivan Yates, is liable for more than €5m in personal guarantees. Although the country's financial crash has caused bigger casualties, this one is particularly shocking.

Mr Yates is a prominent public figure, but one of a different kind from the bankers and developers of whose activities we hear so much. He first made his name as a Fine Gael deputy for Wexford, and was once spoken of as a possible future Taoiseach. He went on to forge two new careers, as a broadcaster and a bookmaker. The first will surely continue to thrive, but the second has come to a sad end.

Like its Tiger namesake, Celtic flourished in an age of optimism, then ran into the stone wall of recession and financial collapse. At its peak it owned almost 50 shops. In 2006 it made a profit of €4m and was valued at €30m. When the tide turned, revenues fell by 50pc in three years and the company lost €1.5m in a single year.

Almost to the very end, Mr Yates struggled to save the company despite the personal risk involved. But he was up against two basic facts of the new era.

Yesterday he pointed to the decline in the sector generally. Its revenue has declined by up to €1bn a year. It has suffered severely from what he called "an almost destruction" of discretionary spending in this age of austerity.

There is, however, a second factor. Online gambling has become a huge industry, eating into the takings of the traditional shops. It is obviously here to stay, notwithstanding the courage and persistence of such as Mr Yates. This phenomenon, and its consequences, are signs of the times.

That fact casts a shadow over the future of the employees, the biggest losers in the collapse of Celtic. Their employer hopes that 100 jobs can be saved, but this may be an optimistic reckoning.

He himself is not the only businessman to have fought against the odds and finally found them too high. Many have succumbed, though not spectacularly, in similar circumstances. But many others have carried on, imbued by the same spirit of enterprise. Like the nation itself, they need only a touch of good fortune -- for example, to hit on a favourable trend -- to ensure the survival of their businesses. Celtic's end is not the end of the story.

Irish Independent