By Harry Keaney
These days, Wall Street Journal writers just can’t praise Ireland enough, it seems. Some months ago, the Journal published lengthy articles on Ireland’s promotion of supply side economics and the country’s extremely attractive corporate tax structure.
Last week, in an article headlined "Irish Economy Creates a Pot of Gold," the Journal was at it again. "Every year, more than 100,000 Irish nationals and their relatives return home for the Christmas," the article began. "This year, a number of those will probably decide to stay. For the first time, the nation that watched generations leave its shores for better opportunities in America and elsewhere has become a net immigrant country.
"Evidence of the New Ireland is everywhere," declared the Journal, going on to paint a glowing picture of the Celtic Tiger economy.
Irish Central Bank Governor Maurice O’Connell told the Journal that the euro will play to Ireland’s strengths by introducing more competition. "We sink or swim on our competitiveness,’ O’Connell said.
"Predictions of a Celtic Tiger bust — given wide circulation in London — are premature. . . . It seems likely that envious faces on the continent will remain green for a while yet. Irish green," the Journal article concluded.
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Glittering P.R. coup
Waterford Crystal has certainly scored a major public relations coup with the announcement that a new Times Square New Year’s Eve ball, designed and crafted by Waterford Crystal, will make its debut next year as the centerpiece of an event which will be called "Time Square 2000, the Global Celebration at the Crossroads of the World."
Waterford’s Crystal’s involvement with the new New Year millennium celebrations in New York mean that the prestigious Waterford Crystal name will be broadcast around the globe in a concentrated blast of massive exposure — and at the exact moment there will be the audience to receive it.
The developers of the proposed Irish national conference center are to seek planning permission from Dublin Corporation for the first phase of a £1 billion scheme, including the tallest group of buildings ever contemplated in Ireland, the Irish Times reported. A glazed office tower more than twice the height of Liberty Hall would form the centerpiece of the proposed development. The overall scheme, which would provide a total of 6 million square feet of space, is earmarked for a 50-acre site at North Wall and Spencer Dock, where the Royal Canal enters the Liffey. The site, a freight depot, is owned by CIE.
The Irish cabinet has approved legislation to curb abuses of Irish-registered non-resident companies. One of the legislation’s primary features will be to limit the number of Irish directorships that can be held by any individual at any one time to 25. Additional directorships will have to be approved by the registrar of companies.
There has been concern in Ireland that an estimated 40,000 Irish-registered non-resident companies are being operated for the benefit of individuals involved in fraud, money laundering and other illegal activities. A number of the companies have been established to appear as if they were operating as part of Dublin’s international financial services center.
Meanwhile, amid continuing controversy over the use of bogus non-resident accounts by Irish citizens to evade tax, the Finance Bill, which gives effect to the budget, is expected to grant additional powers to the revenue commissioners to investigate non-resident accounts.
Hoteliers, restaurateurs and publicans made up a third of the 27 people listed in Ireland as having made tax settlements for the period July 1 to Sept. 30 of this year. The total amount involved was £957,316. A separate list of persons fined for failing to lodge income tax returns for the same period lists 170 cases and fines totaling £160,650.
It’s the classic struggle between badly needed jobs and protecting the environment. The Masonite timber-processing plant in County Leitrim has been warned by Ireland’s environmental protection agency that it is in breach of its pollution-control licence relating to emissions of formaldehyde. Production at Masonite, the largest industrial plant in the state, is running at only 50 percent of capacity, and a second production line is due to open soon. The company will not be able to start the second line until formaldehyde emissions are brought within the limits set down in the licence issued to it by the EPA.
Ireland’s central bank, the country’s equivalent of the U.S. Federal reserve, is stepping up pressure for restraint in wage increases, warning that excessive pay rises could lead to job losses through falling profit margins and competitiveness. The bank’s assistant director general, Dr. Michael Casey, also expressed concern about the continuing rise in house prices, saying there was anecdotal evidence that it was inhibiting the return of some workers and pushing up wage demands.