This Easter weekend Ireland will look back to 1916 and to events that have shaped our modern history. It's a useful opportunity to reflect on how far we have come, on the challenges we still face, but also to look forward.
The election was unfortunately, but perhaps understandably, dominated by all that is wrong with the country. The reality, thankfully, provides more ground for optimism. Ireland has the potential to grow at 3-4% every year over the medium-term, to be among the most prosperous regions of Europe, and have a quality of life and a standard of living to match. If current demographic trends continue, in less than fifty years the island of Ireland will have a population of 10 million. Such a vision is there for the taking, but we need to think big and long-term.
Ibec's high-profile nationwide election campaign set out clearly the ambition and priorities of business. We talked to the political parties and politicians across the country. This work continues. In recent days, we have been in direct contact with all the relevant government departments, ensuring that the concerns and ambition of business are reflected in the work of a new government from day one (see: www.ibec.ie/ambition). We have also been quick to argue publically and privately against any short-term fixes that may seem politically expedient. Important progress towards developing a modern, adequately funded water infrastructure should not be jettisoned in any political deal.
On the industrial relations front, it looks like we could be facing into a period of greater industrial unrest. While pay expectations have understandably heightened over recent times, a range of new pay claims go far beyond what is realistic and affordable. The Luas dispute is a case in point, but others are coming down the line. Ibec has been working behind the scenes and in the media to bring some much-needed realism to the debate and the resolution process. Work is also needed at an enterprise level to manage expectations. There can be no return to bubble-economy wage inflation or spiralling relativity pay claims. This is an Ibec priority.
A British departure from the EU and a further, significant devaluation of sterling could quickly add to the pressure on a wide-range of businesses trading with the UK. This is in addition to the countless other risks that are likely to arise in any negotiated exit. The referendum on Thursday June 23 could have profound implications for Europe and Ireland. Ibec is working closely with the CBI in London and Belfast to support the business campaign for the UK to remain and this week I've been travelling the country with the UK ambassador Dominick Chilcott to brief business on these efforts. I'll be in touch again over the coming weeks to update you on this work and future plans.
Despite the domestic political hiatus, Ibec is busy. We are working on the immediate challenges facing your business, but we are keen to also look further into the future and ensure other do the same. The Easter weekend is an opportunity to take stock and plan ahead. Enjoy the break.
Wednesday, 23 March 2016