By Harry Keaney
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern is fed up with those who criticize Ireland’s economic success story.
"Let us stop being dictated to by people who just want to be negative," Ahern declared last weekend.
Meanwhile, the president, Mary McAleese, is concerned about the challenges posed to Irish society by the new-found wealth. "Will we allow the barriers which separate the chosen and the marginalized to become every more impermeable?" the president asked. "Or will we seize this chance to widen the circle of opportunity to realize the full potential of this generation, as no previous generation was able to do?"
Ahern, speaking at an Irish Management Institute conference in Killarney, Co. Kerry, said there were some people who were upset if the news wasn’t bad. He said every time a new industry came, the critics said it might be the last, and every time taxes were cut, they believed the country might be blown. Such people, Ahern said, always seemed to think the cup was half empty.
Rounding on critics of Ireland’s economic success, Ahern added: "Blinkered by orthodoxy, they still cannot understand how the Irish, of all people, have managed to get it right and are so certain that it cannot continue.
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"We are not blowing up a bubble here in Ireland which will burst in our faces. What we are doing is unleashing the long held back potential of our own people at home and abroad to transform radically our economic destiny and to build a new economy and society."
However, how society adapts to that new economy was what was on President McAleese’s mind when she addressed a multi-denominational prayer meeting in Dun Laoghaire last weekend.
Irish society, she said, was full of "hermetically sealed circles . . . little groups of friends and acquaintances chatting comfortably" and seemingly accessible only to those already known. She said no such circle was more impermeable "than that which divides those who share the benefits of Ireland’s prosperity from those who watch helplessly and empty-handed from the sidelines."
The Irish Business Organization of New York will hold its annual golf outing on June 15 at New Jersey National Golf Club. For information on the course, log onto www.njngolfclub.com.
The cost is $150 per person and this includes lunch, golf, golf cart, range balls, prizes and dinner.
Lunch and registration will start at 11 a.m.
Volunteers are needed.
Details, call 1 (877) IBO-3200.
Aer Lingus changes
Aer Lingus may have a new chief executive by June at the latest and the Irish airline may go public in October, according to the Irish business magazine Business & Finance. "The company is very anxious that the IPO takes place as early as October," a source told the business weekly, adding, however, that "there are a lot of major hurdles still to be cleared."
Out in time
Enterprise Ireland, the Irish government’s trade and technology board, certainly can’t be faulted for its timing. The agency sold a third of its 5.5 percent stake, 350,000 shares, in Iona Technologies when the shares peaked last month. Investors subsequently moved out of technology shares, even before the market tumbled on Friday last. Enterprise Ireland made £27 million from the sale.
Enterprise Ireland was one of the original backers of Iona. An Enterprise Ireland spokesman said: "Our policy when a company gets to a certain scale is to withdraw gradually. It makes sense and the money realized goes back for reinvestment in start-ups which are high risk and have difficulty getting conventional venture capital."
Enterprise Ireland also has stakes in a number of other Irish software and pharmaceutical companies.
With building contractors eager to reap the rewards of Ireland’s economic boom, the lives of construction workers are being put at risk, a leading trade unionist has warned.
Eric Fleming told the Irish Independent that the huge volume of building work created by the thriving economy had resulted in the tightening of deadlines.
"Deadly deadlines are being set, jobs are being cut from 10 weeks to six," he said. "And unless corners are cut, these deadlines cannot be met. This is putting the lives of building workers at risk. Contractors are conducting themselves like cowboys."
Among the dangers: make-shift scaffolding erected to save time; dangerous rubbish strewn around; inadequate lighting on sites and trenches being dug without braces put in place to prevent collapsing.
Fleming said two men were killed last year because they dug a trench and did not put any braces in it. They were trying to get in and out as quickly as possible but it collapsed before they could get out.”