I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Getting an Edge

Getting an Edge

Frank Allen
The Irish Edge: How Enterprises Compete on Authenticity and Place, by Finbarr D Bradley and James J Kennelly, Orpen Press, 174 pp, €15, ISBN: 978-1909518-001 Ireland’s limited success in developing indigenous firms that compete on a world stage is a question that has vexed policy-makers, academics and ordinary citizens, concerned about where their families will find worthwhile employment. The Telesis Report made headlines in 1982 when international consultants retained by the government challenged what they perceived as Ireland’s over-dependence on highly mobile multinational corporations. Telesis believed that competition for a diminishing pool of mobile investment would grow more intense and as “no country has succeeded in developing high levels of industrial income without developing a strong indigenous sector”, the focus of Ireland’s industrial development policy should be to select a limited number of large new companies and concentrate resources to build capability in technology, marketing and finance for these selected firms and their suppliers. Telesis’s focus on “picking winners” needs to be understood in a context of national economies where large-scale enterprises accounted for high proportions of investment and employment, either directly or indirectly. The Telesis Report reviewed the achievements of Ireland’s industrial policy based largely on policy decisions made during the Whitaker-Lemass reforms of 1952-1958, which ended an era of protectionism and opened the economy to foreign investment. Indeed policy-makers at each stage of Ireland’s economic development, dating back to Arthur Griffith, have approached the question of how indigenous industry could be strengthened from varying economic and policy perspectives. This question takes on greater urgency during periods of high unemployment and economic recession. Finbarr Bradley and James Kennelly do not claim to have developed an industrial development policy for Ireland in The Irish Edge: How Enterprises Compete on Authenticity and Place. However, their “tales” of successful entrepreneurship in areas such as food, tourism, craft and media, all have a unifying theme ‑ that business ventures based on a harmony between the entrepreneur’s world view and his or her immediate environment are likely to be sustainable for the long-term. It may not have been exactly what Telesis had in mind but the decision in 1983 by Mairín Uí Lionaird and Eithne Uí Shiadhail of Cúil Aodha to establish an artisan jam company using family recipes and gooseberries from neighbours’ gardens has led to the very successful Folláin food company, which is a mainstay of their local economy in West Cork. The…

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