“The best-laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men / Gang aft agley (go often askew )” - Robert Burns said these words 250 years ago and he was right! Sean O’Casey said about 70 years ago - “The whole world’s in a terrible state of chassis”; both statements were true.
It is hard to get words to explain exactly what a flux the whole world is in following the result of the Brexit Referendum. The result was so unexpected. I wasn’t the only one who wrote cheerfully last week that we figured that the outcome would be for the UK to stay in Europe.
Foolishly, I stayed up all night on Thursday and could not believe when at 5am the returning officer in Manchester gave the result. I had seen it drip away during the early morning but still thought the huge ‘stay’ vote in London would have swung the issue, but it was not enough.
Well done to Northern Ireland and to Scotland who returned resounding ‘remain’ votes. The effects in Ireland in time will be huge – the exchange rate, the tourism trade, the export trade, and most of all education.
The people who voted strongest to remain were the young people who saw quite clearly the fine effect of being a member of Europe was having on their present education structures and on their future after they left college. Erasmus, apprenticeships, research – in these and so many other ways the young people in the UK benefited from the UK being part of Europe.
There was a full debate in the Dáil last Monday and the speakers from all sides, with one or two exceptions, did their country proud. The reality will emerge after a few months but it is already clear to many in the agri/food industry that we are in for very difficult times.
Older people in Britain voted to leave. Having gained, themselves, for so long from being European, it seemed they now wanted to pull up the ladder behind them and so deny the young people the happier financial outcomes.
Following the Brexit Vote, David Cameron immediately resigned. He had no other option but he too did it with a sense of decency and destiny. Now the wolves are gathering around Jeremy Corbyn’s door saying that he did not do enough publicly in favour of the remain vote, so the political landscape in the UK has changed mightily.
That is no reason for us all here to think that the political landscape should change here. I do not want to repeat what I said last week, but we are better off in this perilous time to stay calm and cool and work mightily, the political classes and the civil servants, to bring about an equitable and fair solution for Ireland.
We should not let our 12.5 per cent Corporation Tax be touched – that is the bedrock on which many of our overseas jobs are based and we should guard it with our lives.
In the height of the financial maelstrom in late 2010/2011, Brian Lenihan was under huge pressure from France and Germany as part of the Troika deal to drop the 12.5 per cent Corporation Tax, but he stuck to his guns and kept it intact for Ireland. The same should happen now.
We have always been, despite some misgivings, strong Europeans, and I feel the best road for us to go now is to continue to be dedicated Irish and European citizens.
Do you know what NED means? I did not know either until I saw NED in all its glory on TV last Monday night. NED is the National Economic Dialogue, where the Government has gathered together the great and the good to discuss the economic way forward and the varying financial parameters which now will have to guide us.
NED, in other words, is the national partnership social dialogue which Bertie Ahern set up all those years ago and which gave us great measures of industrial peace and well-being all around. I wish NED well but it will have a far more difficult path to travel in these more perilous economic times than ever the previous social dialogue had to tread.
Then we had Michael Noonan last week explaining to all of us that he was setting up a ‘Rainy Day Fund’. I immediately thought back to Charlie McCreevy’s Pension Reserve Fund – the same thing with another name.
The Rainy Day Fund could come into play earlier than Michael Noonan thinks, though he has said that the upcoming budget and the financial arrangements for that will not be affected by the Brexit vote, but that future budgets will have to be scrutinised far more keenly.
Putting Brexit, NED, and the Rainy Day Fund to one side, we had, I believe, a marvellous soccer performance to admire last weekend. The week before we had the wonderful Italian result which really fired up the Irish team, and then on Sunday we had Ireland versus the host nation, France.
You will all have your own opinion on how they played. I thought they played with grace and courage, and with such valour that I could not but be proud. A team as brave as that accompanied by thousands of supporters who represented soccer, the Irish team, and the country so well. We have a full right, even though we lost, to be utterly proud of ourselves.
The rugby outcome was not as delirious. We lost the senior team out in South Africa, even though they played brilliantly. Then we had the U20 rugby last Saturday night in Manchester in the UK. I have a particular interest in this team because Price Waterhouse Cooper, the company of which my son is in charge, has sponsored the U20 rugby team for the last four years, and now intend to sponsor it for the next four years. They played well but the UK had the upper hand from the very beginning.
A bright light on the sports horizon last weekend was that Westmeath beat Kildare, gaining themselves a place in the Leinster final.
Talk to you all next week.
In the meantime, go safely.
Slán go fóill,