Monday 19 August 2019

Double Apple-Danish leaves a sour taste

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In the wake of the EU ruling that Apple must pay up to €13bn in unpaid taxes to the Republic, Luca Maestri, the tech giant's chief financial officer, said: "We have an outstanding relationship over the years with the Irish Government and we are very committed to Ireland." The firm, which first set up a base here in 1980, is our biggest employer with close to 6,000 staff.

Commitments need to work both ways. When planning for its €850m data centre in Athenry, Co Galway, was given the green light, the news could hardly have been more welcome west of the Shannon. That should have been enough. But thanks to planning objections and delays, not a brick was laid. At the same time, a similar centre got the go-ahead in Denmark, it is up and running and that country now looks likely to benefit from the objections. Athenry's loss will be Denmark's gain. This double 'Apple Danish' should serve as a lesson.

Delays in the provision of critical infrastructure or the provision of vital jobs is resulting in a concentration of work on the east coast. The ease with which judicial reviews and appeals all the way to the Supreme Court can be mounted after planning has been granted sends out all the wrong signals from a country so heavily dependent on foreign direct investment. Last year, there were 68,000 full-time employees working in IDA-backed companies in the information, communication, and computer science sectors. Their presence has made Ireland the biggest exporter in the world of computer services.

It would be foolhardy in a global marketplace to imagine such investment can be taken for granted.

If we are to maintain rural Ireland then we have to provide jobs, and that means saying yes instead of putting up walls. A thousand years ago, Plutarch argued: "It is a thing of no great difficulty to raise objections…nay, it is a very easy matter; but to produce a better in its place is a work extremely troublesome."

One final push could still see us over the line

It may have been appropriated by Jack's Army during Italia '90, but the phrase "give it a lash" really belonged to Mick Doyle, who continued to see the stars when the face of Irish rugby was more often ground into the mud of defeat.

His titanium-like belief was rewarded in 1985 when we won the Triple Crown. That there were deficiencies in our bid to host the 2023 Rugby World Cup is irrefutable. Lessons hopefully will be learned, the most important one of which is not to give up until the final whistle.

And that last shrill blast will not take place until the 15th of the month. True, World Rugby has recommended that South Africa be allotted the honours, but that is not the end. Those who understand such things say that Ireland must summon the strength like a seasoned prop all-out on his feet for one final push.

The prize may still be in sight, for the same experts believe that it will be nigh on impossible for any side to secure the simple majority of 20 votes after the first ballot.

In the event that the ruck collapses, all bets will be off and it will be a case of bite, boot and b*llock.

With our backs on the deck, the hope would be that we can call on old friends from the home nations for support. If that doesn't work, make new ones.

There are almost as many vagaries as there are phantom breezes between the posts at Lansdowne Road.

Money does talk though, and if our €120m bid fell down because we were a bit light in the wallet this should be looked at. Showcasing the fourth biggest sporting event in the world will pay dividends.

Irish Independent

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