Archive for the ‘Ireland’ Category

The St.Patrick’s Day lost opportunity

March 16, 2017

St.Patrick's DAy

Can you imagine getting off the plane today, 16th March visiting Ireland for the first time. It’s the eve of St.Patrick’s Day, the iconic Irish festival and I wonder what are your expectations?

You have heard all about it, you have seen some footage on the TV, you know about the Irish dignitaries visiting foreign lands pressing the flesh and exchanging gifts of the shamrock. You know about the Irish celebrations all over the world on this special day where the Irish (and so many who would love to be Irish!) celebrate their Irishness. You have heard about Ireland, the friendly, beautiful country that is famous for the warm welcome, the craic and of course the pubs with that iconic drink, Guinness.

You must be excited..

I’ve just parked the car, grabbed a coffee and walked to the office and I’ve tried to put myself in the shoes of this visitor – what do they see, what do they experience, what are they thinking?

Except for the window of the Tourist Office you really wouldn’t even know that there was a festival. That poor tourist must be a little confused!

I haven’t come to town to see the parade for donkey’s years (even though I do hear its got a lot better) and I haven’t considered it either this year either despite our office being on the route with a perfect view. Outside of the parade is there anything else that would bring me to town to celebrate my Irishness? I know there are some activities planned around the city for the weekend but the occasion just hasn’t crept inside my skin, it doesn’t connect with me.

Palio

Twice a year in Siena (start and end of the summer) in Tuscany there is a festival called the Palio of ‘Palio di Siena‘ which is basically a local festival that runs for a week each time that culminates in a bare back horse race in the Piazzo del Campo at the centre of the town.

Palio

Every man, woman and child comes out and celebrates. They sing, they parade behind their horses and at night they eat and drink together.

The Guardian refer to it “It’s not a horse race, it’s a way of life” and they talk about it being an “embodiment of civic pride”.

We have been there about six times as I am totally seduced by this special feeling of being connected and part of a community spirit, a coming together.

Everytime I go there I wish and long for something in Ireland that can bring out the same spirit and feeling of community, pride and connectedness –  St.Patrick’s Day should be that day but for some reason it falls short.

St.Patrick’s Day is one of our greatest assets and it should be the most special day in all of our calendars. Every man, woman and child, let’s celebrate together!

How can we make that happen?

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service national agency that offers Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

The speeding fine and the wrong address?

February 18, 2017

garda-camera

The first I knew I had been caught speeding coming out of Dublin last year was when Dee called me.

A Garda had knocked on the door of our house with a Court Summons – she was working from home that Tuesday.

He remarked that “you are never at home” as this was his fourth time calling!

Dee called me immediately as according to the summons I was due in Naas Courthouse the following Thursday week. Not only had I been caught doing 113 in a 100 stretch of the motorway leaving Dublin but I had also neglected to pay the resulting fine!

There was obviously an error as I had never even received the speeding fine.

I called the phone number for An Garda Síochána that was on the summons and as expected I was put through to some call centre.

I explained to the woman on the phone that I was more than happy to pay my fine but I had never received the notice so a court appearance should not be necessary.

Do you not send a follow up reminder, like one would get with a phone bill or any other bill?” I asked her.

No, we send one fine notice by regular post and if you don’t pay we automatically start a court process” she explained.

This is totally crazy, how can you rely on regular post with something so serious? I pay my bills, I was one of the stupid idiots who actually paid their water charges! Who can I talk to?

I was quickly given the usual “there is nothing I can do” line and was told to ring the court. I asked her if a lot of people ring with the same issue and she admitted it is a regular occurrence.

Change the stupid process maybe?!!

postman

I tried calling the court phone number she gave me and failed miserably to get past their answering machine – I guessed that would have been another pointless round of “there is nothing I can do” so I gave up.

A quick call to my solicitor confirmed that this bullshit system is what it is and the best advice was to attend at 10:30 as indicated.

Brilliant…a trip to Naas on a busy workday is all I needed!

I changed around my week so that I could make my court date. I left Cork early for Naas on the Thursday. I hoped the whole thing would be done quickly so I could make a meeting in Dublin in the afternoon. I told my client I might be delayed and quite frankly I was embarrassed about the whole court thing so I didn’t mention why.

As expected the court was a hive of activity with every sort hanging around, with many huddled in corners chatting to their solicitors.

The court clerk directed me to the lists on the wall. I was number 51 on the list in Court 1. I asked her if there was any chance that I would be gone by lunchtime. She expected I would be.

I made my way into the packed courtroom and found myself a space to sit on one of the many wooden benches. There was a very mixed crowd in the room including a bunch of tough looking lads in tracksuits near the front of the court.

The Judge got into the flow of his day with breakneck speed processing case after case.

The names were called and as each person approached the bench he shouted “Hearing date” at them.

That was the prompt to admit to the charge in question or look for a case date. It was clear that 90% of the cases were speeding fines and he flew through them one after another.

59 in a 50 – “sorry Judge, I was on holidays and missed the deadline for paying” – case dismissed!

146 in a 120 – “guilty” – “that’s a 300 euro fine. You have 6 months to pay

There was an interruption to the speeding fines to deal with one of the tough looking young lads that was in the court. It was hard to hear the conversation between the Judge and the barrister but it resulted in a hearing date and the young lad was led out of the court in handcuffs. It looked like he was quite used to this environment.

An older woman’s name was called and she shuffled to the top of the room on her bad legs “Hearing date” …”I have two already” was her response. She thought he said “hearing aid“. The whole court room giggled as well as the judge.

She received a fine.

Another poor old man who clearly needed a hearing aid tried to explain that he had paid his fine but it got lost in the post. “Case dismissed

The man was told he didn’t have to pay his fine.

Was I missing something – why not pay the fine?

Eventually my name was called and I made my way to the top of the courtroom. “Hearing date?

I accept the speeding charge but I never received the fine, your honour” I explained.

Do you want a hearing date?” he repeated.

I repeated what I said and he asked me again about a hearing date.

I’m happy to pay a fine but I didn’t receive a notice

The Judge looked at me and paused and asked carefully if I had taken legal advice and I explained that my advice was that I should attend. He gave me a look.

I was clearly missing something.

He offered to swear me into evidence at the end of the court sitting as a way to resolve this. I explained to him that I just needed to get to Dublin and was okay with paying a fine.

150 euros fine” and then he said the strangest thing “did you ever hear the expression ‘never look a gift horse in the mouth’?

Was he saying I could have got away without paying a fine – surely not?

As I walked out of the court, anxious to make my appointment in Dublin, a guy grabbed my arm and enlightened me.

You just cost yourself extra penalty points. It’s all or nothing, he was giving you a way out!

It’s all or nothing – the judge can’t insist on you paying a fine and waive the second part, which is the extra penalty for not paying. This stupid system is costing the country as the judge must dismiss the case and waive the speeding fine or else charge you in full!

Damn – I messed up.

While I was totally frustrated at this point I had to be happy with my decision to get out of there and make my client meeting.

This system is totally crazy – one fine by regular post that never reached me, no reminders, four house calls by a busy Garda, a court wasting valuable time and resources and I wasted a whole day including the cost of travel.

I guarantee 100% that if you drove through the M50 auto toll heading to Dublin airport and you did not pay your toll fee then they would track you down with notices, reminders and further notices.

The following day I read how the government agency, Tusla sent a written apology to the Garda whistleblower, Maurice McCabe because of their fiasco with the false sex accusations. Ironically the whistle blowing was about members of the Gardaí squashing speeding fines.

Their apology went to the wrong address!

There is a of time being wasted by An Garda Siochána and the courts because of really poor systems that results in ordinary folk being dragged unfairly to court on nonsense charges..come on!!

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications, a full service agencu that offers Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

The Brexit Scary Monster

January 21, 2017

Old Man drinking a pint by Robert Devereux

Jack walked through the door of his local in the small village in North Cork and made his way slowly with his head down to “his” bar stool.

Alright Jack” asks Mary the bartender who without even asking takes a glass and starts pulling a pint of Guinness. In her 20 years serving Jack he only once asked for a different drink. That was a hot whiskey about 10 years ago when he had a heavy cold!

Jack was unusually quiet and the normal happy go lucky, joke a minute guy was not the person sitting at the bar today.

Jack, are you alright?” Mary probes as she places the creamy pint in front of him.

I’m ok Mary, I’m ok” and the tone of his response didn’t convince her for a second.

He studied his pint and stroked the side of the glass as he always does, before that first taste and he took his first big gulp of the night.

Jack, what’s wrong?” Mary asked

After a big sigh and another gulp of his pint, Jack opened up “I wasn’t sure if I was going to come for a pint tonight. Things are bad

But Jack you always come for a pint, what’s up?

They say it’s going to be a hard Brexit, everyone is saying it. The newspapers, the radio and even Fr. John after mass this morning was talking about it. A hard Brexit is really bad news for all of us.

..he pauses for air and finishes his pint.

I was listening to those two this morning on the radio, Shane Coleman and Colette Fiztwhatever her name is, and they were interviewing some businessman. He was telling them that the whole Brexit thing could actually be good for us, but they told him. It’s bad for us, really bad

Without asking, Mary grabs a glass and starts to fill another pint but Jack gestures to her that he doesn’t want it.

And to cap it all Theresa May is going to trigger Article 50 in March. There will be no more pints for me, I tell ya

Mary grabbed the glass again and started filling another pint.

Jack, do you even know what Article 50 is? This pint is on the house and will you do me a big favour?

What Mary?

Will you ever cheer up and stop listening to those gobshites talking negative day in day out and enjoy your pint

Thanks Mary, I’ll do that”.

He is smiling now, enjoying his pint “Did you hear the one about Donald Trump and his Mexican golf caddy in Doonbeg?” 

No Jack. What about Donald Trump and the Mexican golf caddy? 

The Mexican caddy told him that if he kept losing balls like that he should think about building the wall here instead

She smiled and hoped the next one would be better but at least Jack was back!

While Mary and Jack are fictitious characters I can imagine conversations like this all over the country. I read and hear the negativity about Brexit everywhere and the truth is we really have no idea how it will play out for Ireland.

What I do know for sure is that if we are not careful we will talk ourselves into another recession.

Mary..another pint please and have one yourself

The wonderful image of the man drinking a pint is by artist Robert Devereux (http://robertdevereux.blogspot.ie/2015/06/old-irish-man-drinking-guinness-oil.html)

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR and Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

4.5% APR on a new BMW and the ‘Rough Sleepers’ team

November 21, 2016

Rough Sleepers - Dublin Simon

I was tired and cranky on this bitterly cold Monday morning.

Bert, one of our four legged ones woke at 1 am thinking it was “get up time” and made sure that we knew all about it so we had a lousy nights sleep.

The heat was on but it didn’t really feel like it as we got ready for work. I checked my iPhone for any relevant updates and I jumped in the shower allowing the hot water to wake me up.

We had the radio on as we got ready and I listened to the news items on Newstalk including Donald Trump and Hamilton, the on-going saga of strikes and the adverts came on.

Order your 171 BMW now and enjoy an APR of 4.5%

The new Five Series BMW is due out early in the new year – hmmm, I wonder what will that be like?

I jumped on my exercise bike in the cold spare room and even though I wasn’t really in the mood I peddled like hell for 20 minutes, while I watched a documentary about the musician Moby. I stared out the window at the frost on the ground and on the top of the cars including my darling, 161 car as I peddled and peddled…phew, 20 minutes went slower than usual but I got there!

The painful getting ready for work process continued as I pulled out a shirt to iron – I hate ironing, but it has to be done.

Before heading to work we wrapped up and walked both Honey and Bert around the housing estate. I made an angry gesture to the car driver who felt he had the right of way as he swung right into us as we crossed over the entrance to one of the housing estates – jerk! I wanted to chase after him and give him a bit of my mind … (that would really get my day started well!)

We walked carefully avoiding the icy patches on the footpaths and with both hands numb we eventually got back home. I let the engine in the car running so it wouldn’t be cold when we sat into it.

We fed the dogs and put them outside, feeling really guilty as it was so cold. We opened the door to the shed so they would have a place to snuggle up if they felt like it.

Just as we were heading out the door I spotted the fantastic book, ‘Looking at the Stars’ that Martina Bergin from Dublin Simon gave me last week.

looking-at-the-stars-dublin-simon

Martina heads up the ‘Rough Sleepers’ team at Dublin Simon who basically look after those who are literally sleeping rough in Dublin. I thought about all of the rough sleepers and the homeless last night and how cold they must have felt. Can you imagine?

I quickly read one of the fantastic pieces in the book, written by a person who simply went by the name ‘Donal’ which put my ‘rough night’ into perspective.

I hope the office is warm today…it’s easy to forget how lucky we are.

Say hello to the Rough Sleepers when you pass them today – they had a very rough night.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion who offer Strategic Communications, Marketing, PR, Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

No “Protest Pressure” for the Homeless

October 30, 2016

Jonathan Corrie, Homeless man in Dublin

The Luas drivers and their Union knew it – go on strike, Dublin is upside down, the owners are losing money and keep it up for long enough and the pressure will make the other side buckle.

Win!

The teachers and their Union have just started the same process – go on strike, parents all over the country are upside down and keep it up long enough and the pressure will make the government buckle and they will get what they want.

Win!

The Gardaí and their Union will do the unthinkable and start the same process – go on strike, communities all over the country will not be safe. Keep it up for long enough and they will certainly get what they want.

Win!

The thing with all three of these professions is that they have a lever, a big pressure point that can be used to force what they want – If we do this they won’t like it so we can force a win.

What do you do if you are homeless?

There are more of you homeless every single day and every night. There is no “Union” and no obvious pressure point that can help you to force real change. Jonathan Corrie, a homeless man passed away near Leinster House in Dublin a few years back and as unfortunate as that was it managed to create “a stir” for about 10 minutes.

There are more and more bodies in sleeping bags and under cardboard and gradually they are more and more visible on our Irish streets. Today there will be a few more homeless than yesterday and tomorrow there will be more again – while it’s a huge problem there is no big “lever” that these poor people can use so there is no opportunity to apply any pressure to try to force a solution.

If this was a problem that affected enough of us there would be a solution , until then…

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR, Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

In Dublin’s “not so fair” city

September 25, 2016

Smithfield Dublin

We were just after leaving a really successful client event in the Smithfield area of inner city Dublin, just north of the River Liffey.

I love this quirky, eclectic area of Dublin with a mix of old and new, the large cobbled stone plaza, new apartment blocks and old houses surrounded by coffee shops, little stores, the old Jameson distillery with a buzz of young and old including plenty of ‘cool’ hipsters making this area their own.

On this occasion it was nearly 8pm on a dark dreary night and the heavens had opened. A taxi was nowhere to be seen so we made our way in the pouring rain to the Luas stop (part of the much used Red Line, which would have come all the way from Tallaght with a stop at Heuston Train station).

There seemed to be an edge to the atmosphere as we waited for the tram to arrive. A woman was asking us as well as others if we had “two tens“. You could see she wanted people to open their wallets or purses.

Sorry, we don’t” Deirdre responded politely. “That’s alright love” she replied.

After about 5 minutes the tram arrived and we embarked with many others as well as the woman who had been asking for change.

On the tram we were standing next to a middle aged guy wearing an old black tracksuit with runners that had seen better days and a laptop case slung over his shoulder.

Three lads in tracksuits (they weren’t on the way to or from the gym!) were making a racket and they started exchanging banter with the guy in the black tracksuit – it was hard to figure out if they were spoiling for a fight or just messing but you knew inctinctively not to make eye contact with any of them.

During their banter there was plenty of “colourful language” being used as well as statements about “getting a syringe and doing ya“. They were now shouting down the carriage at another group of young girls who were shouting back at them.

At this stage we were feeling very uncomfortable as I am sure were the others including some visitors to Dublin with their suitcases who would more than likely have boarded at the train station.

The three lads in tracksuits jumped off at the next stop along with the woman who had been looking to change money leaving the guy in the black tracksuit, who at this stage was talking loudly to himself.

The Spire, Dublin

Eventually we were glad to get off the tram at Abbey Street just off O’Connell Street – as we stepped off the tram a man and two women, all soaked to the skin passed us by. The woman who may have been in her forties was like a woman possessed with her dead hair, pale face, mad eyes and missing teeth. She was shouting and roaring at everyone she passed by as well as those with her.

The man with her who was wearing a green tracksuit top and jeans, was pushing a tiny, quite old kids bicycle. Deirdre winced as he accidentally walloped the bicycle pedal off her leg as be brushed past her – he didn’t even notice.

Keeping our heads down we kept moving but then noticed the toothless woman had bumped into another weather beaten  woman with a hard face. Life had been hard for her, I’m sure. They clearly knew each other and now the other woman was crying and shouting something we couldn’t quite understand.

Lets get out of here quick we were thinking…

We passed them, pushed onto O’Connell Street and made our way as quick as possible towards O’Connell Bridge. Once you got to the other side of the river you could see and feel that it was a much safer area. We noticed that at no point along the way did we see anything resembling a police presence.

Dublin, our very popular capital city is a fantastic place but it has a dark, dangerous anti social edge to it in many central locations that are sadly witnessed by many visitors as well as natives.

While we can curse and detest these ‘louts’ for tainting our beloved capital we should first wonder how these desperately troubled and deprived people have ended up behaving and living like this and then begin to figure out the huge job of breaking these awful cycles of misery.

While the economy continues to improve we must figure out how we can leverage this opportunity and make our capital a safe and enjoyable place for everyone to work, live and visit.

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion Communications who offer Marketing, PR, Graphic Design services from our offices in Dublin and Cork, Ireland

 

 

 

 

Housing is the vital first step to progress

November 30, 2015

Dublin Docklands

Before we do anything we have to focus on the housing opportunity. Nothing else will work properly without attending to this key issue first.

I attended a really interesting session hosted by the Dublin Chamber of Commerce to discuss the Draft Dublin City Development Plan. There was a big attendance by the top property companies in Dublin as well as other key stakeholders.

There was a presentation by John O’Hara, Acting City Planner of the Dublin City Council. He carefully outlined the areas around Dublin that have been specifically earmarked for development.

The big message from his presentation is that there is a huge demand for residential accommodation and the challenge for the city is to deliver this with the limited space that is available as quick as possible.

There is also big demand for quality office space – however without places for people to live extra offices will only cause problems.

Dublin City Plan image

John Moran, Managing Director of Jones Lane LaSalle (JLL) presented their medium term outlook on the property market in Dublin.

The highlights of this presentation were big demand for office and residential property matched with insufficient supply and a rising hotel market with 85% occupancy, one of the highest in Europe. Being practical about it (and it will be very unpopular to say) maybe its a good thing that the Web Summit will be in Portugal next year? – we won’t have the hotel capacity otherwise!

Quite tellingly we heard about two FDI projects that Dublin lost to overseas locations due to lack of sufficient office space. While this was a loss (the people in the audience were concerned when we heard this) would we have been able to provide accommodation to the workers needed in these companies ?

He also spoke about rising rents putting pressure on employees. This is simple – the employee looks for a raise because their rent has been increased by €200 per month – their problem becomes the employers problem and this wage increase (its takes a lot more than €200 to put an extra €200 in a persons pay packet) will be passed onto the customer and before you know it we are uncompetitive all over again.

How did we get back to this place so quickly?

Brendan Foster of Grant Thornton took us through a very interesting case study for a proposed National Concert Hall Quarter, which would deliver considerable much needed city centre office and residential space.

Crwods

A few things struck me about the session:

Are we not talking?

I was really surprised at the discussion in the room – it struck me that these vested interests had to be brought together by the Chamber for these important conversations to take place. Surely these vital conversations should be happening for more than just 60 minutes? This is very worrying – joined up thinking is required to tackle such a huge issue and a Draft Development Plan for our capital should have much bigger input.

Business first

We all tend to think first about business, attracting more of it, making sure that quality office space is available – both for the big multinationals and the smaller indigenous start ups and service providers.

I could feel the frustration in the room when John O’Hara spent so much time talking about accommodation – we wanted to talk about business, BUT…

Housing is the most important issue that we have to get right very quickly – without this nothing else will happen!

It is clear that Dublin is seriously ‘overcooked‘ and there are serious issues with the supply of social housing, private and accommodation for rental.

If we don’t first sort out the housing challenge quickly in Dublin we should forget about attracting foreign direct investment and encouraging indigenous growth (I hate making that statement) in the city as it will cause further overheating, which we are not able to handle.

Huge Opportunity

The housing challenge in its own right is a huge economic opportunity, which we need to do everything to grasp and facilitate as a huge priority, right now if we want to progress.

Lets start building ..

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR, Marketing and Graphic Design, who conduct brand workshops for clients from our offices in Dublin and Cork

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway budget – Yes Please!

October 10, 2015

Michael Noonan - Budget

I’m listening to the commentary and the opinions about the upcoming budget.

Already the accusations are flying that Fine Gael/Labour will be trying to ‘buy’ the next election by making this a giveaway budget – putting smiles on voters faces and all of the different vested interests is a terrible thing?

I’m reading the Irish Examiner and DKM Economic Consultants are questioning the need for the government to pump significant sums into the economy this budget.

Their chairman Brendan Dowling has stated “As market conditions improve and the recovery takes hold, one may question the need for additional fiscal expansion in the upcoming budget

The Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI) are making the same noises: “expansionary budgets could inflate the economy“.

This bunch went even further and requested in their latest report that “the government reverse its plan for €1.5bn of spending and tax cuts“. The report author stated “the increase in the pace of economic growth reinforces the case for a neutral budget this year” and “a reduction in personal taxation is not required for growth in household consumption

Guys … you have got to be kidding me?

The stats show our economy is growing at 6% but surely this is from quite a low base. Personal consumption is starting to grow not because of a huge increase in incomes but because confidence is returning and people are not petrified of spending.

In the last few years big chunks have been taken from all of our pay packets and we deserve to start getting some of this back as things improve – we have to start enjoying the fruits of our labour once again.

Ann Cahill has written a fantastic article in the same issue about how “Workers are ‘left behind’ in Recovery” – this is a fact based article based on the Eurostat report.

Please look at the unemployment figures – we have one of the highest numbers of long term unemployed in the European Union. Take a look at the issues we have with homelessness.

Take one look at the empty shops in our villages, towns and cities and wonder why is this the case? Thankfully there is some progress here and we are starting to see new places opening but there is still a huge way to go.

I welcome with open arms any increase in spending and reductions in taxes – let it come into our pockets and let us enjoy spending it and let us carefully get back to a much better country than the one we have right now.

Giveaway budget.. Yes Please! 

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR, Marketing and Graphic Design, with offices in Dublin and Cork

 

Promoting Cork in London and Leadership

September 26, 2015

Cork - BgOnLife

We were delighted to have won the tender with Cork City Council to support them with the sponsorship of and participation in the FDI Forum in London, which was run by the Financial Times.

For me it was a great opportunity as we had been a key part of the work on the Cork Brand Marketing team, which involved literally all of the Cork stakeholders who wanted to market Cork with one consistent voice. This forum was the first expression of this work where we were able to use findings and language from the Cork brand book that we helped to develop.

#BigOnLife

With all marketing you need to do your very best to deliver a clear message that helps you to stand out in some way. From our work it was clear that Cork is very attractive for business as it works Economically, there is a strong, well educated Talent Pool, it has an abundance of great things to see and do (locals and tourist offering) and the Quality of Life is second to none in our fantastic region.

This is a ‘perfect mix for business and personal success‘ with a special emphasis on the person. You can achieve your career and business goals in Cork and at the same time enjoy a fantastic quality of life. This for us was the extra special, stand out ingredient that Cork has to offer and even though our region is relatively ‘small‘ we have quality of life in abundance.

If you were to use a tagline to highlight this most special characteristic about the Cork region then ‘Big On Life‘ might just be it!

Brochures and other marketing materials had to be prepared and printed so it was first time we could give our ‘Big On Life‘ message a test run.

FDI Forum - London

London

A strong contingent left for London including senior people from Cork City Council, Cork Chamber, Cork Airport, Developers, and significant businesses all with the intention of flying the flag for Cork and attracting foreign direct investment to our special place.

Cork Chamber organised a dinner in London to bring this team together and to invite some key members of the Cork business community in London (the IIBN network) as well as officials from the IDA.

Cork Chamber president Barrie O’Connell made sure that everyone introduced themselves to the group and then quite cleverly sparked off a conversation about Cork by asking a few people to speak on a topic. This generated a huge and very fascinating ‘Cork‘ conversation about a wide range of topics and issues and helped for all of us to hear different perspectives and to learn.

Michelle Conaghan of the IDA gave us an insight about how they work and their challenges and how competitive the market is. She spoke about the importance of sector clusters, which is important for a talent pool but she also mentioned that the ‘life‘ package is important.

We learnt from the Irish guys working in London about how expensive it is and how global businesses must look at other locations.

Donal Sullivan of Tyco spoke about evolution. Years ago they reduced their numbers in Cork for cost reasons but now the nature of their work is different so Cork is relevant again. He is on a huge recruitment drive and he says the talent pool in Cork and Munster is great but most interesting is the ease of getting people to relocate from Dublin.

The Cork operation is the best performing one globally from a staff retention point of view – I wonder why?!

Cork Chamber president Barrie O’Connell spoke about tax advantages nearly being gone and it is the other factors that must now come into play to attract investment to Cork.

Cork Chamber CEO Conor Healy spoke about the need for ‘ambassadors‘ who will spread the word about Cork and that we should focus on the positives with Cork Airport, the good news and the potential. He is right.

Niall Sheehan, Head of Property from Dairygold who have a huge office development about to start in Cork spoke about the compelling facts about Cork and that we should be more confident about the strength of our offer.

Roger Hobkinson (the adopted Corkman!) from Colliers International who led the Cork Brand Marketing project spoke glowingly about participating in activities such as the FDI forum as a vehicle to promote Cork and bring the brand book to life. He also spoke about the importance of urban locations as being key when promoting a region.

Jonathan Grey (who is very excited as he has bought a house in Cork) of the IIBN who is working and living in London spoke of competition for FDI from regions in Scotland, England and Wales. The new London flights to Cork will be an advantage. He coined a fantastic phrase “you can live in Cork and do business with the world” – I love it!

We heard from John Cleary of JCD about the key messages that he uses when he is attracting American IT companies to Ireland. Lower cost is a big advantage in Cork but quality of life means that staff retention rates can be a lot higher, which is another big selling point. From his conversations connectivity to the U.S. is a big deal so the recent announcements about Cork Airport are very welcomed. He also stated the obvious about Ireland – “people will look at Dublin first”. Cork is a very viable and compelling alternative.

Theo Cullinane of BAM (a Cork sports star with some unique achievements as we discovered!) also spoke enthusiastically about the super quick work they are doing at One Albert Quay for JCD. This will be an office development with the best specification in the country, which is what new companies are looking for.

Pat Ledwidge from Cork City Council who led the participation in the FDI Forum spoke about how Cork, now has “product to sell” so it must gear up its marketing efforts abroad.

Ann Doherty, Chief Executive of Cork City Council emphasised the cost advantages of Cork as well as the quality of life aspects.

Of course I had to get my few words in..

Dublin is a fantastic city with lots of advantages but it is heating up and it is starting to get quite costly. Cork presents a different and very compelling offer “The Cork offer makes the Ireland offer a lot stronger“.

The engaging conversation bounced from one side of the table to the other with each person talking enthusiastically about our ‘favourite place‘ until the restaurant staff politely gestured that it was getting late … it was past midnight!

Goodie Bags

Reader ..bear with me for a few minutes as I talk about goodie bags – this is leading somewhere!

We wanted to leave delegates at the FDI  forum with something different than the usual flyers and brochures. We decided that we would place a ‘Cork – Big On Life‘ box in each of the delegate packs instead of the normal so they would remember us!

We had handmade sweets from Cork, postcards and a few other little bits and pieces all to go in our ‘Cork Big On Life box‘. While this was a great idea it did however mean ‘Big on Hassle‘  as the boxes had to be assembled in London (no short cuts I’m afraid!) and filled.

Elmarie McCarthy from Cork City Council selflessly took responsibility for this monumental task along with everything else that she had to coordinate and her bedroom became a mini production line in the early hours of the morning (there was no access to the conference venue beforehand).

After the meal and the networking the Cork team that were staying in the same hotel took responsibility and pitched in and assembled and filled these boxes until 1:30 am. Well done to Ann Doherty, Pat Ledwidge, Conor Healy and Barrie O’Connell for jumping in, simply because a job had to be done.

The next morning there was a repeat performance – the Cork ‘Big On Life’ boxes weren’t going to magic their way into the delegate packs in the short window of time that was available before the event started  – there was no standing on ceremony and our leaders took responsibility once again, got to the venue early, jumped in once again and quickly did the job that was needed. I did help along with Roger from Colliers.

The FDI Forum

This was a fascinating day with a huge array of speakers and panelists as well as fantastic networking opportunity. Cork were there in force joined by Denis Collins of Smarter Dynamics, Kevin Cullinane of Cork Airport, Malcolm Allan from Place Matters (our destination branding guru who was fantastic to work with on the Cork Marketing project) and Doug Howlett from Munster Rugby all chatting to delegates and spreading the word.

Delegates

Cork was there proudly promoting ourselves along with other places such as Essex, Tblisi, Cyprus, Jersey, Melbourne, Lousiana, Singapore and Qatar.

I had an interesting chat with a delegation from Essex – they have a team of five people working for them proactively in the marketplace seeking opportunities as well as a Marketing/PR team supporting the communications of their message. They take a sector by sector approach and have identified four different ones to target. Promotion of your region is now sophisticated, big business and if we want these opportunities to come to Cork we need to gear up.

Ann Doherty - Chief Executive Cork City Council

Ann Doherty represented Cork superbly on a fascinating panel discussion and I am convinced that she must have worked in sales at some point because she didn’t let one opportunity to slip by to highlight what we have to offer here!

A lot of tired and weary Cork folk made there way to Heathrow airport to take the last flight home. 20 minutes after landing I was at home and I reflected on our little excursion (our airport is so incredibly fast and convenient).

As a proud Corkman I was privileged to have been part of this work and if this FDI community hadn’t heard of Cork before they certainly did now. Cork did itself proud in London and all of our various stakeholders need to do much more of this together. Individually we are all ambassadors for Cork and familiarising ourselves with our Cork brand book is a great starting point to stay on message with what our region has to offer.

The most impressive aspect of the London trip for me was the huge sense of pride and togetherness demonstrated by everyone, including our leaders and that willingness to take responsibility and do what was needed.

Cork .. #BigOnLife

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR, Marketing and Graphic Design, with offices in Dublin and Cork

 

Cork Merger – A poor process has us all scrapping

September 19, 2015

Free-State

When we worked on the Cork Marketing Project I was so proud and excited that all of the stakeholders were working so well together and that we made great progress towards our collective goal of attracting people and investment to Cork.

So many people told me this level of co-operation just wouldn’t happen in Cork and I genuinely didn’t believe them – I had faith!

Now I am deeply saddened to read in The Irish Examiner this morning about all of the opposing views and in particular today the bitter war of words between the Cork Chamber and the Cork Business Association as well as local politicians.

The Cork Chamber are “all for the merger” quoting the benefits of greater capacity and a unified voice and the Cork Business Association are against it declaring that you cannot ignore the strong advice that came through in the minority report by the two UCC members who were on the committee charged with making the recommendations in the first place!

Guys …this is really lousy for Cork!

I have my own strong opinions about what should be done but at this stage I don’t really care about my opinions or anyone else’s because I feel the process which was adopted with such monumental consequences for so many of us Corkonians was not fit for the huge purpose that it was intended for.

I have gone out of my way this week to find out more by talking to many of the people involved and everyone has deep rooted opinions, lots of suspicions and theories, very opposing views and I am definitely not seeing anything in place that will sort out this awful situation in the near future.

Personally I can’t believe the insubstantial make up of the CLRG committee (it lacks sufficient expertise), the research undertaken can be challenged too easily (I don’t believe the committee had sufficient time or resources to do this properly), there seems to have been very little ‘real‘ consultation and I can see issues with the recommendations as I understand them (Read my blog post – Cork Merger Drama).

Most significantly the minority report prepared by Prof Keogh and Dr. Theresa Reidy (effectively 50% of the committee excluding the Chairman) totally undermines the whole process and cannot be ignored. I believe this was sufficient grounds for not publishing the recommendations until their concerns were properly dealt with.

Even worse my understanding is that there is no mechanism in place to take the recommendations from the report (maybe there is huge merit in many of them?) and evaluate them robustly by people with the appropriate expertise, assessing the benefits and potential downfalls of each. In particular this assessment must deal with all of the valid concerns and issues raised by the various stakeholders in Cork who for many years have been representing our many and varied interests.

Their opinions, experience and expertise are too valuable to ignore.

If the process was robust with all aspects and arguments considered and with all parties brought along then we might start to get some understanding and agreement and only then, move positively into the future.

The last aspect is dealing with those directly affected, namely the many employees in Cork City and County Councils who also deserve a very robust process, which they can understand and believe in.

I don’t think for one moment that this will be all plain sailing or that we will end up with agreement on all sides but as with any change programme it should at least be both transparent and robust and it must bring people along carefully.

Hand Grenade

To summarise what has happened is that a poorly thought out grenade has been thrown into Cork by the Minister and his team, the pin has been removed far too quickly and we are the ones who will suffer as a result.

This process has already done huge damage to Cork and it has the potential to do even more if corrective action is not taken quickly.

My request to all of us including our Cork Politicians and our representative organisations is:

For the love of Cork can we please stop squabbling and instead focus on reversing this awful process with something robust that we can all believe in and one that will let us together move powerfully into the future”

We can’t afford to get left behind ..

Greg Canty 

Greg Canty is a Partner of Fuzion PR, Marketing and Graphic Design, with offices in Cork and Dublin