‘Hard to overstate the incompetence’: The best business quotes of 2021

The most memorable utterances of the year on bitcoin, climate action and more

Nocturnal activities

"What traditionally happens in a nightclub will continue to happen in a nightclub." – Taoiseach Micheál Martin has good news for nightlife fans as restrictions are lifted, only briefly as it turns out, in October.

"We are at lastminute.com again, 11th hour decision-making again, marching this sector to the top of the hill, to march them back down again." – Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald reflects a certain frustration among businesses in June after the Government says the time isn't right to reopen indoor hospitality.

"We nominate ourselves to be a mandatory quarantine disco hotel." – Concert and clubbing venue The Academy Dublin, which changes the signage above its Abbey Street door every week, has a light bulb moment in April.

Leadership issues

"People in the UK recognise that the government there are idiots. You wouldn't rely on [Boris] Johnson or Grant Shapps, or Dominic Raab who can't add or subtract – would you want your journey dependent on the intervention of those idiots? The answer is no." – Michael O'Leary, speaking in December, says the UK is suffering from "piss-poor political leadership" and, what's more, everyone knows it.


"Hard to overstate the incompetence and lack of foresight here." – Patrick Coveney, brother of Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney and then the chief executive of food group Greencore, reacts on Twitter to April's troubled introduction of mandatory hotel quarantine.

"A mistake should be called a mistake and, above all, it should be corrected, preferably in good time." – Angela Merkel, then chancellor of Germany, reverses a much-criticised plan for a strict Easter lockdown, saying the mistake is "mine alone" and asking all citizens to forgive her.

Miscellaneous outlays

"I personally think that bitcoin is worthless." – JPMorgan Chase boss Jamie Dimon speaks his anti-crypto mind in October, but adds that its wealth management clients are "adults" who can access cryptocurrencies through the bank if they like.

"Mr Algeo, tear down those balls."– Fine Gael TD Bernard Durkan, calling for an audit of the Lotto in November, urges Premier Lotteries Ireland chief executive Andrew Algeo to drop the two balls added to the "unwinnable" draw in 2015.

"Holy f***" – Mike Winkelmann, aka US artist Beeple, responds after his digital collage Everydays: the First 5000 Days is sold in March by auction house Christie's as a non-fungible token (NFT) for a record $69 million (€61 million).

Property ethics

"The Government cannot be trusted. Instead of helping young people trying to buy a home, it prefers to help the vultures seeking to profiteer on their misery." – Social Democrats joint leader Róisín Shortall invokes the "V" word after it emerges in July that bulk-buyers of houses will be exempt from a higher stamp duty charge if they lease them to local authorities.

"It's as though you were selling your house, the auctioneer pretended to be trying to get the best price for you but was actually the buyer himself."– Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has an analogy in March for the bond scandal that led to Davy being fined €4.1 million by the Central Bank.

"A city centre without businesses is just bricks." – Gwen Layden, landlord of the family-owned George's Street Arcade, explains in March why it would be "immoral" to charge tenants rent they cannot afford during Covid-19 lockdowns.

Banking on trust

"The truth is, trust levels among the Irish public are not where they need to be." – Irish Banking Culture Board chief executive Marion Kelly reacts to a survey showing Irish customers' trust in the banking system is dramatically lower than in other countries.

"The survey indicates that banks have missed an opportunity to make a positive difference during the pandemic." – Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe speaking on the results of the same survey.

"Our investigation identified the numerous opportunities that UBID (Ulster Bank Ireland DAC) had to do right by its customers and the efforts that UBID went to in order to evade its obligations to these customers." – Central Bank director of enforcement Seána Cunningham as the regulator fines the bank a record €37.8 million over its failing in the tracker mortgage scandal.

Facebook friends

"They may be changing the world, but that doesn't mean they run it." – Australian prime minister Scott Morrison is angry as well as disappointed with Facebook (since renamed Meta) after it "unfriends" Australia in February by cutting off news feeds – temporarily taking down essential services' pages with them.

"I genuinely believe that there are a million, or maybe 10 million lives on the line in the next 20 years and, compared to that, nothing really feels like a real consequence." – Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen outlines in November how her actions to expose the company's "moral bankruptcy" have been driven by the belief that its behaviour could cost lives.

"Everybody hears [Mark] Zuckerberg every week apologising, but it's all sh**e." – Denis O'Brien doesn't seem especially enamoured with the Mark Zuckerberg apology tour, suggesting at a student webinar in February that Facebook needs to be "reined in".

Communication difficulties

"I know the level of uncertainty is escalating and naturally you are frustrated at the lack of clarity." – Jane Howard, Ulster Bank's chief executive in the Republic, tells its 2,800 staff in February that "no decision has been taken" on its future. The bank confirms its withdrawal from the Republic the next morning.

"This is a friend of mine who definitely had a bad occurrence – and he has to deal with that, and he's dealing with that as we go forward." – Ursula Burns comments in July on Declan Kelly's resignation from Teneo as the public relations company goes forward with the former Xerox chief as its new chairwoman.

"We do not communicate from one leader to another on these issues by tweets and letters that we make public." – French president Emmanuel Macron loses patience after the British prime minister Boris Johnson tweets a letter calling on the French to take back migrants who cross the English Channel.

Climate gut-wrenches

"There is a deficit of credibility and a surplus of confusion over emissions reductions and net-zero targets, with different meanings and different metrics." – UN secretary-general António Guterres doesn't sound too impressed by corporate net-zero pledges.

"We shouldn't let that gut-wrenching amendment at the very last minute distract from that bigger picture." – Green Party leader Eamon Ryan says the last-minute watering down of political commitments at Cop26 – to "phase down" rather than "phase out" fossil fuels – doesn't cancel the "real momentum" achieved by the Glasgow agreement.

"Let us be honest, we have been here before. There has been 25 Cops before t his one." – Climate activist Vanessa Nakate knows humanity won't be saved by mere promises.

"If every country in the world, if every person in the world, had the same per capita emissions as we have had historically here, the world would already have warmed to 3 degrees." – Hannah Daly, lecturer in sustainable energy at University College Cork says Ireland as a developed nation needs to show more leadership in phasing out fossil fuels.

"The forecast growth of data centres clearly represents a challenge to Ireland's emissions targets." – Ireland's Climate Action Plan.

"We have set ourselves out as a technology hub. An integral part of that ecosystem is the availability of data centres." – IDA Ireland chief executive Martin Shanahan reacts to the threat of power blackouts and potential curbs on new data centres.

Taxing times

"We are now in a ludicrous situation where the French finance minister is offering greater clarity on the Government's current position in these negotiations than the Government itself." – Sinn Féin finance spokesman Pearse Doherty keeps up with OECD tax negotiations through the French grapevine.

"There are 140 countries involved in this process and many have had to make compromise." – Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe explains why Ireland signed up to the OECD corporate tax reform, pushing the minimum rate for large companies up to 15 per cent.

"The carbon tax is part of the climate change agenda and while it is not popular to do things like that, it is the right thing to do for the future of younger generations in this country." – Taoiseach Micheál Martin responding to calls to cut carbon taxes as energy prices rise.

Sporting behaviours

"You know what the motivation is – it's greed." – Sky Sports pundit and former Manchester United player Gary Neville doesn't hold back in April when top English clubs try (and fail) to join a closed "elite" competition called the European Super League.

"Currently more than 80 per cent of people want the Olympics to be postponed or cancelled. Who and on what authority is it being forced through?" – Telecoms billionaire Masayoshi Son, chief executive of SoftBank, questions in May why the International Olympic Committee (IOC) is pushing ahead with the Tokyo games despite Japanese opposition.

"There are too many times in our world today, when we get into issues like this, that we let business, politics, money dictate what's right and what's wrong." – Steve Simon, chief executive of the Women's Tennis Association, tells CNN in November that the organisation is prepared to pull out of China following the censorship and disappearance of former doubles one Peng Shuai. The WTA then made good on the threat.

Final frontiers

"I think both of us will wish each other well. It really doesn't matter if one of us goes a few days before the other." – Richard Branson plays down his decision to board a test flight of Virgin Galactic's VSS Unity in July about a week ahead of Jeff Bezos's scheduled trip via his Blue Origin vehicle New Shepard.

"I just want to say I reinvented electric cars, and I'm sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you think I was also going to be a chill, normal dude?" – The world's richest man, Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk, attempts to explain everything he's ever said and done while appearing in May as guest host of US comedy sketch series Saturday Night Live.

"Your brother just took you to space. What are you giving him for Christmas?" – NBC business correspondent Stephanie Ruhle asks Mark Bezos how he's going to repay the favour of sub-orbital space flight to big brother Jeff, the man who has everything – including his own intriguingly shaped rocket.