Meat plant's scandal must not become national scar
The Silvercrest meat controversy could not come at a worse time for Ireland. International scepticism and doubts about the integrity of food produce could deal a blow that would be a major setback for such an important revenue source for domestic and export income.
We are fortunate that our stock internationally is impressively high given our unprecedented economic problems. Taoiseach Enda Kenny is extremely adept at putting our case and promoting our cause in Europe and the United States overseas. He is generally liked and respected and our presidency of the EU offers him and his Cabinet members a prized platform to network. Such “positioning” cannot be quantified in monetary terms, nor indeed can the cover of Time magazine.
“Ireland has shown stoic resolve and is admired for it in much of Europe,” says Philip Stephens, associate editor and chief political commentator at the Financial Times. “If it wants a model for the periphery, Germany would do well to give it more support with an easing of the terms of its bank debt,” he adds.
Commendation indeed from a newspaper that in 2010 declared the late Brian Lenihan to be the worst minister for finance in Europe. Meanwhile, Suma Chakrabarti, president of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, cited Ireland as a good example to countries in eastern Europe of how to manage an economy.
Too much at stake
Whatever it takes, Ireland must not lose its coveted status as a country dealing with its problems. There is too much at stake for the country’s “customers” – buyers of our products and services, and foreign direct investors. That one of the largest food retailers in the world collapses an agreement with one of Ireland’s biggest food producers, declaring that “the breach of trust is simply too great”, sends Ireland Inc a very strong message.
This country’s success in wooing and winning some of the biggest names in the technology and pharmaceutical sectors was secured over many decades by the unstinting efforts of the Industrial Development Authority, one of the finest State-controlled investment agencies in the world.
Ireland’s reputation as a location for foreign direct investment is second to none. But it has taken many decades to get to where we are.
Of course, our economic problems cannot be underestimated. It is possible the loss of confidence of a generation could surpass the longevity of the fiscal pain. Do we see ourselves as down and almost out while the rest of the world sees us in strong recovery mode?
The controversy over the use of horsemeat in beef products is far from over. Ireland must not become its biggest loser.
* James Morrissey is a communications consultant and former journalist