Dan O'Brien: 'The backstop demand could end up bringing about that which it was designed to prevent'
How hard you push those you bargain with is central to the art of persuasion and negotiation. Twenty-five years ago this week one of the...
How hard you push those you bargain with is central to the art of persuasion and negotiation. Twenty-five years ago this week one of the...
Brexit is bad in many respects. One of the downsides is that following its many twists and turns takes up a great deal of time. The...
Tempting as it may be to discuss recent Brexit developments, the wisdom of the backstop and what will happen next March 29, these matters may be better left until next week.
We are what we consume. Such a materialistic view of the world will not be shared by most people, nor is it shared by this writer. But how...
Has the democratic tide turned in the western world? Will the forces of extremism come to power in ever more countries? Is Europe heading back...
What is the future of foreign direct investment? This a crucial question for Ireland's prosperity, because a central pillar of the country's economic model is the attraction of globalised foreign companies.
The US has not invaded another country since Donald Trump won the White House. The American economy has not slumped as a result of the acute political uncertainty generated by an erratic and unpredictable leader (on the contrary, it is booming). America remains a democracy - last week's elections were not cancelled, postponed or rigged by agents of the state as happens in countries...
"The worst possible outcome of Brexit for Ireland would be the UK crashing out of the EU without a deal next March." These were the first words of former Taoiseach John Bruton in these pages yesterday.
The first duty of anyone who opposes tribalism is to call out their own side when it engages in tribalism. Because members of the English and unionist tribes have been guilty of serious and dangerous acts of tribalism towards 'us' in relation to Brexit does not mean that their words and deeds should be matched.
Last Friday's presidential election and constitutional referendum have together consumed the attention of the political system, the media and those interested in political affairs over many weeks. More heat than light was generated. Is it time to consider doing what many other countries do on both votes?
Humiliation is among the most dangerous feelings. When it becomes a factor in conflicts, reason takes a back seat. People will sacrifice a lot to avoid being humiliated. Some more than others.
Last week the latest figures on both national income and national wealth were published. They show an economy in generally good health, but one that continues to carry too much debt weight.
This Saturday marks the 10th anniversary of the collapse of Lehman Brothers bank and the beginning of what came to be known as the Great Recession.
Every business needs three things: people; a physical place for its people to work; and money. These three inputs - labour, land and capital - are known in the economics jargon as the 'factors of...
This month marks the 10th anniversary of the most significant event of the 21st Century so far, both for Ireland and for the western world. Its implications will be pondered for decades to...
The taxman is hiring. Between now and next March, the Revenue Commissioners plan to recruit 200 additional people to cope with the Border issues that Brexit will create. Staff numbers will rise by another 400 later. News reports this week suggest that more than 3,000 people have applied for these jobs.
The economy is in a sweet spot. It's still lean after the shake-out of recession years and it is benefiting from benign international conditions. Despite all the uncertainties out there, the latest growth figures from the UK and the US are robust, while a soft patch in the euro area is probably just that, and not a sign of incipient recession.
It may be a little early to pen a review of the year, but it can be said with certainty, even at this juncture, that 2018 has been another good year for the Irish economy. Despite the extreme uncertainties that have been generated by Brexit, Donald Trump's trade conflicts and the coming to power of a Trumpian government in one of our currency area's biggest economies (Italy), near...
What will happen on March 29, 2019? After yet another tumultuous week in the Brexit saga, that is ultimately the big question.
'Get over it.' 'Move on.' 'Look to the future.'
There is surely no country anywhere in the world in which tax on company profits is discussed more than it is in Ireland. The rate of corporation tax; its legions of international critics, from French presidents to leftist activists; the amounts of it that is paid into the state's coffers each year; and the reasons those revenues might dry up are just some of the issues that are constantly discussed.
It is not often that the British media pays attention to Irish foreign policy decisions. It is even rarer for an Irish foreign policy decision to get more coverage in Britain than in Ireland. That is exactly what happened last week.
The boom is back. The good times are rolling again. Ireland is the fastest growing economy in Europe: this year, last year, and, according to some predictions, next year. One hears this a lot, with the latter point repeated frequently by ministers.
Discussion of Brexit focuses much more on exports, which are generated by producers, than imports, which are consumed by individuals as end-products and by businesses as inputs. As the risk of a no-deal Brexit rises more attention will be focused on potential supply disruptions - to both exports and imports.
In Britain, the average public sector worker earns £524 (€592) a week, according to the most recent figures from that country's Office of National Statistics. That was less than 1pc above the pay of the average British private sector worker.
For decades there was no significant change to the tax system of the United States. Then, last December, the Congress passed a comprehensive and wide-reaching package, pushed by the most polarising president in living memory. The law - known as the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) - radically overhauled the US tax system. The mammoth TCJA has had corporate executives,...
August's slower pace allows more time for reading and reflection. I've been reading and reflecting on Donald Trump's America in preparation for a discussion tomorrow with Sean Spicer, former White House press secretary and holder of numerous roles in the Republican Party since the 1990s.
Most readers of these pages have an interest in politics. Most readers will also know a thing or two about the politics of big countries that are important to Ireland - Britain, the US and, more recently, Germany.
'Global trade recorded its highest growth rate in six years in 2017, both in volume and value terms." That was the happy opening line of the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) analysis of recent trends in cross-border commerce in its flagship annual trade publication launched last week.
How great is Ireland's tax burden? Last week this column compared this country with the rest of Europe. Across the EU, governments raised revenues worth 45pc of the bloc's economy in 2016, according to Eurostat. In Ireland, the figure was 42pc, as calculated by the new official measure of the economy which strips out the distortionary effects of multinational activity.
'Ireland is a low- tax economy." This statement is frequently made, both at home and abroad. It is made because the amount of cash the State takes in is indeed lower than all other peer countries relative to the size of the economy, as it is most commonly measured.
'Almost irrespective of the external interest rate environment, we still expect Ireland's annual interest bill to fall towards €5bn in the near term, from €6.1bn in 2017 and a peak of €7.5bn in 2014." Thus spoke the man who manages the public debt pile, Conor O'Kelly.
It was a deeply depressing week. Ireland's two most important partner countries - Britain and America - are becoming sources of insecurity rather than sources of security. The implications are many and grave.
Many areas of public and private life involve trade-offs. How cross-border commerce happens is a topical example.
Mid-year it is a good moment to take stock. With the Irish economy in rude health, what of the wider European economy upon which Ireland is so dependent?
The long, slow, grinding process of presenting Brexiteers with the trade-offs Britain faces as it leaves the EU has ground out another success. Last Friday night, the British government signalled it was moving closer to being willing to remain something akin to a de facto member of the EU after it leaves next March. As of yesterday afternoon, none of the pro-Brexit members of cabinet had...
Angela Merkel once said that if the euro fails, then the entire EU project would fail. She was right about that. She was wrong when she said something similar about dealing with migration last week. Europe can, and is, dealing with the challenges of inward migration. It is not, as all too frequently claimed, an "existential" threat to the continent's political structures.
Ireland is the biggest tax haven in the world. That was the claim made by two foreign academics in recent days. They say that globalised companies here and elsewhere around the world are dodging taxes in mind-boggling amounts.
Economy-wide wage growth is picking up. This has many implications. It also raises important questions.
Ireland is a very open economy dependent on three major markets: the euro area, the US and the UK (in that order). All three now pose big risks.
Tourism is one of the country's most important industries. It is big, geographically widespread and growing rapidly. How has it been performing recently and, as the summer peak season approaches, what are its prospects in the short term and over the longer term?
I spent the second half of last week in the Latvian capital at a think-in organised by the European People's Party, the political grouping of European centre-right parties. Their "European Ideas Network" brought together MEPs from that party and a range of non-political analysts to ponder topical matters.
Import taxes on Brazilian beef and New Zealand butter will be the same in Ireland and Britain on January 1, 2021 as they were the day before. They will not diverge, if they ever diverge, for some time after that date. This may not seem to be significant at first glance, but in the context of a hard border appearing on this island in the years ahead, it is potentially very important.
Foreign direct investment drives the Irish economy. As exports tend to be where the real value is added in a small economy, the fact that foreign companies account for up to 90pc of all the goods and services that are sold out of this country shows how central they are. Although some do not like to hear it, the hard truth is that this economy would be a backwater without the foreign...
Is there "a material risk" that the value of your home will fall? The country's top central banker warned as much last week. As Philip Lane also happens to be an internationally respected economist, his words carry weight. Those same words led to a frisson of fear running down the national spine.
The reunification of this island has moved up the agenda. Brexit has made the holding of a border poll more likely in the medium term. More northern nationalists, who voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, favour a change in the status quo. At the margins, some internationalist-minded unionists may become less attached to the union with Britain.
The numbers are in. The 2017 public finances data for all countries in the EU were published last week. Thirteen of 28 members of the bloc were back in the black. As the chart shows, they included the usual fiscally responsible suspects in northern Europe: Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.
When it comes to how incomes are spread between the richest and poorest, Ireland is almost identical to Sweden, a famously egalitarian country. That is what new figures from the European Union's statistics agency showed last week.
Alcohol and drugs are consumed and enjoyed by many, if not most, adults. The former is more widely used because it is legal.
There have been bigger gains in employment over the past 18 months than in the first 75 years of this State's existence. That stark fact says more about Ireland's worst-in-Europe record on jobs in the 20th Century than it does about the (very good) recent record on employment creation.
The Good Friday Agreement, signed 20 years ago last week, was a remarkable achievement in many ways. The many people who worked so hard on it fully deserve the recognition they have received over the past week.
One of the lessons learnt from the crash of a decade ago was the need in the political-administrative system for more rigorous thinking about the risks the country faces. In recent years, an annual risk report has been drawn up by the government. This year's report is being prepared now. Here are four risks that are overstated and four that need more attention.
If the Government paid millions of euro more than it should have to a construction company for a piece of infrastructure, questions would rightly be asked about its use of taxpayers' money. If it paid one legal firm more for a job than the lower price offered by another firm, there would be good reason to ask why the higher price was paid.
In exactly one year from now there may be no flights between Ireland and Britain. As the 21st anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement approaches, the Border on this island could be in turmoil as the Government scrambles to meet its commitments to maintaining what will have become overnight an EU external border.
Newspapers are published on a daily or weekly basis. Imagine if they were published only once every 50 years and that today's paper contained the most significant news since 1968. What stories would be included?
Economics is called the dismal science. There is nothing dismal about the performance of the Irish economy right now. The same could be said of the economies of Europe and the US, with which we do so much trade.
Last week's raft of data on the economy was almost flawlessly good. The three most important sets of quarterly data - on jobs, GDP and the balance of international payments - were published on Wednesday and Thursday.
This column tries to avoid the subject of Brexit. There have been many twists and turns in the saga. There are many more to come. Most of what has happened, and most of what will happen, is noise. Filtering out what is important is not easy because there is so much noise.
In anticipation of the publication of the Government's new planning and investment strategies, this column last week made the point that the importance of such plans tends to be overstated.
For some time this column has been making the point that frequently made claims about ever more precariousness in the workplace are baseless. Despite the absence of evidence, articles and documentaries abound stating that job security is evaporating.
In an age of so much readily available information, it is astounding so many people believe things that are completely untrue.
In a little over two years, the number of people living in the Republic will hit five million. While most rich countries are grappling with the many challenges posed by falling or stagnant populations, Ireland has the happier, if no less daunting challenge of planning for more people. Comparatively high birth rates and immigration rates explain Ireland's strong demographics.
Business and consumer confidence across Europe is almost uniformly high. In some cases it is at record levels. Last week's first estimate of euro-area GDP for the final quarter, and the year as a whole, confirmed the durability of the upswing.
Conversations with continentals these days invariably include the topic of the taxing of multinational companies. For some people in some European countries it is almost an obsession.
Bad economic times cause politics to sour and people to give their votes to parties offering simplistic or illiberal solutions to society's ills. This is a commonly held view now.
Fifteen months ago, a milestone was reached in the history of the Irish economy. In the final months of 2016, the number of jobs in the technology sector overtook employment in agriculture for the first time.
The tectonic plates of European politics are shifting. Will they settle, or will the pressures causing them to shift end up changing the continent's political landscape?
Last week, the most important indicator on the economy was published. The latest quarterly slew of jobs market data was of particular significance. That was the case for number of reasons.
'Ireland is the fastest growing economy in Europe." How many times has this been said by government politicians over the past few years? More than anyone could count would be my guess.
Peter Sutherland died a week ago. It is for obituary writers and future biographers to pen a full assessment of his achievements and his contribution to national and international life. This column is not an attempt to do that. It is, rather, a personal reflection on some aspects of his life and character; what my encounters with him said about how powerful people operate; and, more generally, about how the world works.
The year has hardly begun and corporation tax is already in the news. One of the usual suspects in large-scale tax avoidance - Google - was reported last week to have kept €16bn in global earnings out of the jurisdiction of any country to avoid tax. Irish-registered companies were allegedly involved.
How the fruits of economic growth are shared is always a hot topic. In recent years it has become even hotter: in Ireland, in the western world, and globally.
Angry venting is a vice of our age. Social media has given cranks and ranters a platform to do in public what they once did in private, or attempted to do at the end of a bar before being told where to go by those trying to enjoy a quiet drink. Much of the comment is shrill and unmeasured: the intemperate care little about facts and evidence.
On days such as these, when most people are starting to relax into their Christmas break, quality of life issues are to fore. But they are also increasingly recognised as of importance for businesses. Happy employees are more productive. They are easier to deal with than unhappy and disgruntled ones too.
In this newspaper 51 weeks ago, my New Year's Day wish list included nine hopes for 2017. With just a week to go before the end of the year, today is as good a day as any to assess which of them have been fulfilled.
'How are Irish exports doing?' I was asked this question by a foreign journalist recently. With lots of focus on many aspects of the domestic economy lately, which has resulted in reduced dependence on exports to drive growth, I realised I had not checked the export data in some time. As a small open economy whose prosperity ultimately depends on foreign trade, export performance is always...
Road, railways, reservoirs and pylons are in plain sight. The hard infrastructure of the modern world is visible to all. The soft infrastructure is invisible to most. Laws, regulations and treaties underpin how countries and the world work.
Ireland's strategic objective in the Brexit fiasco is to keep Britain as tightly locked into the European economic and legal order as possible. This is a vital national interest. Achieving it was always going to be one of the greatest foreign policy challenges this State has ever faced. It was made so much harder last January when Theresa May, the British prime minister, chose to interpret the Brexit referendum as a vote to leave the EU's customs union and single market.
Is the Irish Government overplaying its hand in the Brexit talks? That question has arisen a number of times over the course of Leo Varadkar's premiership and in particular over the past 10 days. The consequences of doing so, in a worst-case scenario, would be to leave Ireland vulnerable in Brussels, alienate even the more moderate elements in London and end up with all the downsides of a hard...
How have all things related to Brexit affected the UK economy and how will that economy evolve in the run-up to Brexit in March 2019? These questions have fallen victim to the deepening partisanship that has taken hold across the water. Since the referendum to leave the EU in June of last year, many normally balanced individuals and organisations appear to have had their analytical capacities impaired by their feelings on the issue.
Mussolini came to power in 1922 and gave Italy its first extended period of stability since unification 50 years earlier. Hitler came to power in 1933 and dragged Germany out of the Great Depression.
This Wednesday marks the first anniversary of the greatest electoral shock in recent times. Donald Trump, a non-politician, celebrity candidate, was elected president of the most powerful country on earth. Hardly a day has passed that he has not been in the news. Last week was no exception.
We are out of the woods. Crash and crisis are distant memories. The good times are rolling. It is back to politics as usual. Broadcast journalists have returned to asking politicians why they are not spending more on every problem that arises.
Irish banks, collectively and on average, are much more profitable than banks across the rest of the euro area. That has been the case for four years. These facts are not as widely known as they should be.
A good instinct and capacity to assess risks and opportunities is one of the most important abilities a person can have. That is as true in personal life as it is in business, and many other fields besides.
I moved from Rome to Madrid in the 1990s. I didn't expect a huge change - Italy and Spain are both big southern European countries with Latin cultures and languages. Along with many other similarities, both have well-known rivalries between their two biggest, similar-sized cities.
Over the next week there will be a lot of talk about how budgetary rules - both EU and national - prevent the Government from doing this and doing that. Let's start this pre-Budget column by setting out some facts.
The "global war for talent" and similar descriptions are the stuff of management literature cliché. But there is no doubt that having a big talent pool to fish in is important for employers.
The tectonic plates of European politics have shifted more since 2010 than in the previous two decades. With Democratic Europe's three biggest and most influential countries having held general elections over the past six months, a changed landscape is emerging. What are the implications for Europe and Irish interests?
The man who has had as much sway over the Irish economy as Paschal Donohoe and Michael Noonan over the past half decade spoke in Ireland for the first time last week. Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, has more influence over the interest rate on your mortgage than anyone else. During his time at the helm in Frankfurt, two Eurozone countries - Cyprus and Greece - have had their entire banking systems shuttered for weeks as a result of disputes with the institution he leads.
The construction sector is booming and demand for new property is being met. That statement refers to the commercial property sector. It does not apply to the housing side of the industry, which is malfunctioning badly. That, in turn, is creating difficulties and distress for a growing share of the population.
There has been quite a bit of talk of late about the economy overheating. The 'upside risk' of too much growth has been getting more attention than the 'downside risk' of too little. In my view, the risks for the economy are still heavily weighted to the downside, with Brexit, bubbly financial markets and coming increases in interest rates all capable of derailing Ireland's recovery.
The most important question for Irish democracy is the democratisation of Sinn Fein. Where that party is on the path from the position it was in two decades ago, when it was a profoundly undemocratic party in multiple respects, is becoming an ever more important question.
The holidays are over for most. It's back to the daily grind for many. The next 12 weeks will be the busiest stretch of the year for many people.
How much are people earning, what sort of pay rises are they getting and what do recent salary developments mean for the wider economy and individual industries?
While every happening in Washington DC is reported on in great detail in the media, far too little attention is being paid to Berlin. Germany is entering the final straight of its general election campaign. That country is the most powerful constituent part of a quasi-federation of which Ireland forms a part. What happens in Germany matters for every man, woman and child in this country.
A recent conversation with a Wall Streeter who is worried about bad things happening in financial markets got me thinking about bubbles and, more particularly, how to measure them. By coincidence the conversation took place almost a decade to the day since the first rumblings of the financial meltdown took place.
Half-a-billion euro is a lot of money. That is how much the Department of Finance estimates a six-year-old tax break for the hospitality sector costs annually. The de-facto subsidy is likely to have cost close to €3bn to date.
By the summer of 2007 it was increasingly clear that the Irish property frenzy was not going to end with a soft landing. The big question was how hard the landing would be. Then, exactly a decade ago, came the first rumblings of the international financial crisis, which was to erupt explosively 13 months later with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. By the time that happened, the Irish economy was already deep in recession.
How does society balance the rights of old women to sleep safely in their beds and the rights of hardcore career criminals? Is it fair that an innocent person's life is ended violently because another person, who has already committed dozens of violent crimes, has been given yet another chance?
The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. So goes the old saying. It is actually well wide of the mark, according to the taxman. A recent study by the Revenue Commissioners showed that almost four out of five people who were the lowest earners in 2005 had moved off the bottom rung of the ladder a decade later. Movement among the top tenth of earners was not as great, but still considerable - almost three out of five of those on the top rung in 2005 had slipped down by 2014.
Every year thousands of companies are born and thousands die. The process of creative destruction in all economies makes this inevitable, and in many ways healthy.
The slowing down of the news cycle around this time of year is often called the silly season. The media in high summer can sometimes be silly. But the break can also be an opportunity for mid-year stocktaking, and a chance to peer through the haze of events to see what is really important. As the summer wind-down kicks in and we enter the second half of the year, here are my five big takeaways from 2017 so far, and what they mean for the rest of the year and beyond.
Ireland is Europe's new Rotterdam. For centuries the Dutch port has been a commercial hub with a vast hinterland spreading deep into Continental Europe.
'What is going on?" the editor of this newspaper asked with more than a hint of irritation. "You bloody economists are all saying that the economy is powering ahead, but people aren't feeling it," he harrumphed.
The suggestion that Ireland should follow Britain out of the EU - "Irexit" - got quite some attention last week. Ray Bassett, a former diplomat, argued in a 42-page document published in London that Ireland should actively explore leaving the EU. His central contention is that the UK is more important to Ireland than the EU. In his judgement, choosing Britain over Europe is the best option for Ireland and its people.
Ireland's entrepreneurial roots are short and shallow. Contrary to the story that we usually tell ourselves, and one that officialdom loves to spout, the history of Irish business successes is a slim volume. Things are certainly improving, but there are still too few home-grown, internationally competitive companies. An acknowledgement that too many young people aspire to the professions, rather than business, and that too many choose immigration over entrepreneurialism, would be a useful starting point in focusing more on the problem.
On moving home after having spent almost all of my adult life abroad, two things surprised me about Ireland. The first was how careful Irish people are to avoid confrontation and causing offence to others, particularly in professional settings. The second was an all-pervasive legalism and deference to the lawyerly class.
Over recent days, the Taoiseach and other European leaders have signalled to Britain that the door is still open to staying in the EU if Brexit is abandoned.
The structure of the economy and how it is evolving concerns everyone in business. Few, if any, sources of information can beat the five yearly census for giving detailed granular information on those matters.
When a new leader takes office, there is always a sense of optimism that he or she can bring about change and betterment. That is all the more so in the case of a young leader.
Political outcomes that almost nobody predicted have become more common in western countries. And Britain has been particularly unpredictable.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been in Asia and Australia and have had lots of interesting meetings and conversations. Here are some issues raised which may be of relevance to an Irish business readership.
Garda reform and Brexit have been two of the biggest challenges facing the current Government. The contrasting ways in which they have been handled speak volumes about the political system - both its strengths and its weaknesses. They also illustrate how constrained the next Taoiseach will be in his freedom of manoeuvre.
The average person in Ireland is worth the princely sum of €137,000. What's more, people are getting wealthier at quite a clip, according to the Central Bank's latest figures released last week.