IN 1962 Tony O’Reilly, head of the Irish Dairy Board, had an idea that would help transform Ireland’s economy. He wanted to create a premium brand for Irish butter to break into the growing British market. The new product, named Kerrygold and backed with a large marketing budget, was sold in half-pound packs in a parchment wrapping so shoppers could inspect the butter’s quality. Its success was an inspiration to other exporters and changed perceptions of Irish business.
Half a century on, the Irish economy has been transformed into a global trading hub. Some 90% of its exports are shipped by multinational companies. Many of these are American giants such as Intel, a chipmaker, and Pfizer, a drugs firm. But some are home-grown food firms, such as Kerry Group. Observers speak of a dual economy: a “modern” capital-intensive part, powered by foreign direct investment (FDI), usually from America; and a “traditional” jobs-intensive food business, which still looks to the British market. The prospect of Brexit is pulling these two parts of the economy in opposing directions.
For decades Ireland has appealed to foreign companies as a low-tax,…Continue reading