Buy Irish…. Why?

This is a slightly odd one to write…. no reason in particular… You see I’ve listened for the last eon at politicians make the headlines wagging their fingers at the opposition, the tribunals and all the other crapola thats made the headlines regarding the economy. And I’ve had it up to my ears…. Not saying they dont know anything but in the context of boxing this element of the post aside…. [this answer courtesy gerard cunningham]

How many politicians have ever been self employed …?

I mean that in the context of  ‘not whilst they are a politician’ or prior to becoming one….? The alternate point I make is that when I went to inspirational Trim 2025 gig [read it and come back….] I heard Mr McWilliams speak that if you want something done in this country YOU do it. And without mis-quoting his words the point was not to be waiting for governments or anyone else for that matter to act. Simply put, just get on with the programme….

How many parents [or politicians] do that nowadays…. ?

But there is another side to this and with it comes the entire cross border/ shop as local as possible arguement. To this I have never done what one would call ‘cross border shopping’. As a child, my Dad, when he gave us our pocket money would incentivise the buying of Irish to the point that if we brought our 10 pence worth of sweets back with Irish wrappers we’d get half that amount back again until the money worth was of decimal value…

My theory is quite simple…. [courtesy islandbridge.com]

The environmental consequences of all this are predictably daft. Never mind the landfill-clogging effect of all that plastic, water imports also clock up significant air miles. Ireland gets Perrier from France, while France, which also has a perfectly good supply, imports Ballygowan from Ireland.

I am more than aware that living in a smal village like Ballyboughal that if I buy local… and more of us do…. and someone gets a little overtime they may require a babysitter if they go for that drink together… the guy in the bar may get a little overtime and buy that extra something in the shop etc… and the babysitter might go to the pub for a drink…. now if [stick with me…] those products are Irish made then surely the knock on effect is a little more national rather than local…?

What have I really done to help….?

So if I am looking to get people to spend their extra cash on getting their gardens done …..go to your restaurant …purchase a new bicyle or whatever your employment may be…. surely one can only look in the mirror and ask what have I really done….? shouldn’t I try to buy more or only Irish ?

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The example may well be that I only have so much money to spend etc… But as an example and very recently I was looking for furniture. 6 kitchen chairs to be exact. I called the guys I know in Ballymun Rediscovery Centre. With Ikea just across the road… and Ballymun literally just up the road from me… I paid €30 for the 6 fully restored, recycled and reupholstered chairs. The table, as a by the way, I got from my sister as – which a by the way she bought [where it was made] in Waterford. I doubt one can get better value than that…. yet people still assume and buy imported in some variation [?]

On a side note it is well documented that I borrowed the tools for my first job when I set out on my own 10 years ago this year, with no money in my pocket and a rented front bedroom. Also I have also never received a government grant in any format. I also don’t get paid [in any format] when it snows…. I do however work damn hard when it is possible. That said this isn’t particularly about me… it just may avoid that arguement of income versus buying ‘abroad’. I’ll finish up with this quote from the Petits filous blog

According to the Love Irish Food research, the importance of buying Irish is well recognised by consumers with 86% stating they agree or strongly agree that buying Irish products will help the Irish economy recover by protecting Irish jobs. 72% of those surveyed in the ‘Loyalty to Irish Brands’ study by Bord Bia buy or tend to buy what they know or consider to be Irish brands.

What do you think….?

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19 replies
  1. James Comiskey
    James Comiskey says:

    We do need to look after ‘our own’, especially in the times that we find ourselves in. I do make a conscious effort to buy Irish, but should we be looking closer at who the supplier’s of product’s are?
    Farming which is something that is close to my heart, and I need to be careful what I say because I am far from an expert on farming. But if we take the example of a dairy farmer, they never seem to get a fair crack of the whip. One minute milk prices seem to be up and next they seem to be down. I imagine that the price of milk is driven by supply and demand along with other factors. However is there something more to fluctuating milk prices. As someone starting out in business, I would consider that it is very important to treat your suppliers fairly. As far as I can see the some milk processor’s in Ireland do not seem to be treating their suppliers fairly. I may be wrong on this and please correct me if I am.
    This brings me onto the whole cross border shopping debate. (I am a patriotic Irish man by the way, even though I do give out about government sometimes!) A milk processors in the north recently placed adds looking for southern milk suppliers. Now if this supplier is offering a fair price to our dairy farmer’s, then surely we should be buying this milk from the northern supplier.
    The whole cross border thing annoys me a little bit as well. My brother, his wife and two son’s, (my nephews) live outside of Belfast. I started playing rugby with Cavan, and being in Ulster we played mostly against northern clubs. When I cross the border I’m nearly afraid to buy a sandwich in case someone’s looses a job in the south because of me! But my brother grew up with me in the south so how am I affecting him and his family by not buying that sandwich? And what about the lad’s I played rugby against, some of whom may go on to represent Ireland…… I’m a bit confused…
    There is no doubt about it, business is being affected by people crossing the border. However I think we need a wider debate, we need to look at all the issue’s surrounding this closer. And I don’t hear anyone giving out about people buying cheap goods using the internet from abroad!

  2. Dena
    Dena says:

    I totally agree that buying Irish wherever possible has to be the best option – both on a local level and then ultimately on a national one. However, we have to take into account the practicalities of it. While I’m sure that most people want to buy Irish and ultimately do what’s best for the nation & its economy, there’s a definite sense of having to look after one’s own first.

    As much as we would all love to support only Irish brands, it’s not always that easy. Like it or not there is very often a marked difference in the retail price of everyday products between here & north of the border, which only becomes more noticeable when spending considerable amounts of money, e.g. on tech products or furniture etc.

    So yes, while the majority of people would prefer to buy Irish, this inevitably has to take a back seat when being financially sensible. As levels of disposable income decrease, it becomes more of a challenge to stretch what we have as far as we can and compromises have to be made. It’s a double edged blade though – can’t afford to buy Irish, yet we know that by not doing so we’re damaging the economy. Catch #22 really.

    Until the underlying costs of operating are addressed we’re not going to really see any significant fall in prices, to bring us anywhere close to being in line with UK prices. Either that or we need Sterling to bounce back, as the favourable exchange rate has only compounded the issue over the last year.

    Kudos to you for sticking to it though. I hope you can rally the troops in Ballyboughal & beyond. Fab chairs too btw! 🙂

  3. Philip
    Philip says:

    Oh…this is a tricky subject indeed.

    I would differentiate between irish retailers and irish products and services. Retailers and their associated middlemen just do massive markups. I am delighted the internet and the north is available to short circuit these types. I could go on about cars, booze etc. Unless the retailers are adding local value and giving good comparitive value when you add in travel and postage, they should be avoided like the plague and put on a blog blacklist.

    This car scrappage scheme makes me vomit. As well as being the most anti- environmental policy you could imagine (one new car generates 40 tonnes of CO2 – more than it would save in its lifetime), it destroys the skillful indigineous car maintenance industry and funnels money out of the economy at a rate of knots. On the topic of car scrappage…what if you bought yourself a made in Ireland wind turbine (5-6kw average output on a breezy day) and an Electric vehicle (100km per charge) all in for 30K and with scrappage…nets in at 25-27 (including VAT) – now there’s stimulation which also has a payback of about 3 years and I am not including heating the water in your domestic tank and keeping the lights on…and CO2 negative as well… Anyway, this is far too advanced and shocking an idea…

    The other day, someone gave me their broken Sony PS3. I figure I’ll get it repaired for around 60-70 Euro. Bit of a saving from 300 and 60% of that to an Irish repair company.

    Oh yes…it’s not just food and drink we do here. We have a very technically aware population. Lets start switching it on. You do not have to trown things away and by our practice with it, we start improving and making stuff that really suits us…not the US way or the UK way.

    Dream on?

  4. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    @james
    as far as I am aware milk prices are ‘commanded’ by the retailers… again I am open to correction here. regarding internet cross border/ international shopping…. yes that is a whole new can of worms but I will say on specifically the cross border gig that it isn’t always cheaper although [helped by the media] it is perceived as so.

    @dena
    i was just about to disagree re the furniture until I read your closing line 😉 but as I said to James the media has a lot to answer for re the perception of ‘everything’ is cheaper. Last week RTE had a piece on the 6 o’ clock news re buying online from the UK – whilst BBC news had a piece on a superstore in Birmingham interviewing the manager where he told of the top 5 selling items…. our state broadcaster [whos wages we pay] doesn’t really help matters at all. fair point re the currency. But still one must do what one should do.

    @philip
    in short we have elected extremely useless politicians to deal with issues such as em… the logic you have suggested who obviously percieve COP15/ the environment a road block.
    Regard doing it our way – I will say Trim 2025 was a case of pure inspiration in favour of and something I hope David Mc Williams will preach [scream it big man! ] from the pulpit – as I mentioned in the post… Once again the sooner we stop ‘hoping’ our elected representatives will pull the finger out and do it ourselves the better.

    Shop local, Irish and rock on 😉
    beir bua
    peter

  5. James Keleher
    James Keleher says:

    Used to see ‘buy Irish’ campaigns here in Boston Irish organisations. Current economics, buy goods from the homeland, here or there is important. Here in the US, goods seem to be imports mostly except for perishables. Ireland must have a tough time too, being part of the EU, export/import wise.

  6. Pat FitzGerald
    Pat FitzGerald says:

    I agree mostly with your sentiments Peter but I come to it not from consumption side but production side. However realities of life are about Where possible products should be and encouraged to be produced locally for local consumption. Elements of this production should be where possible sourced as local as possible but to ensure diversity and value for consumer the consumer should be the final decision maker. I think however this ethic needs to be carefully developed in the best interest of the consumer. We saw in the last boom nationality is no barrier to geed, overcharging and complacent disinterest in the care of the consumers budget. Many strata of society contributed to a crazy rise in prices not just politicians. I couldn’t survive in my business based on local sales and we export to many countries and glad of their willingness to buy our young plants. I am satisfied ethically that we are niche specialists doing something unique and we ship large numbers using almost half price transport back loads for distribution to continental Europe. The story of trade distribution is a complex one and if we want to go into it we need to be up front and honest about it along with being pragmatic and analytical. We can’t grow oranges in Ireland do we stop eating oranges as after all they are non essential? It isnt practical to buy mass numbers of fresh oranges squeeze them here and sell the low price juice in supermarkets. The transport that brings these in requires filling going back out. We fill empty space back to Holland with high value exports that brings cut flowers and other plants just not grown in Ireland. So to be honest if the argument for buying local is that it helps the environment then I would prefer to see more facts and data backing up this fact than being told I must do it. Some things are no brainers like potatoes, carrots cabbage etc other things like clothing, exotic fruits, out of season items I would be happier to see governments exerting pressure on bio fuels and non destructive means of propelling vehicles than depriving a farmer in South of Spain of a living. Europe is one country in my perspective and local is a mindset based in strict co-relation with the product or service provided. Its too complex to be sure having one mantra is not in itself doing harm.

  7. Dena
    Dena says:

    @Peter I wasn’t saying that I necessarily agree with the notion of making concessions, just that it’s the attitudes of most people imo. I agree, there is a perception that “across the border” is a magical land where all sorts of money can be saved. I referenced furniture and tech products as they are higher value items & this is where the real savings can be made. Otherwise, it’s negligible in my experience.

    @Pat I agree with the vast majority of your comment, particularly the environmental elements. However the notion that Europe is one country doesn’t work for me? Perhaps in some ways, but sadly when it comes to economic survival, despite the ECB, it doesn’t seem to work that way really. Every country, and individual economy, for itself to a large degree. The issue of buying local & supporting local businesses goes beyond environment. I like Peter’s notion of starting small also, as I don’t think we can tackle this issue from the top down – pay local babysitter while you go to a local restaurant who uses local produce and so on… Be lovely to see it snowball (no weather pun intended) from there 🙂

  8. murray
    murray says:

    I’m conflicted about buying Irish and buying in Ireland.

    On one hand I value (and try to support) my local butcher and wine shop etc. and would not be happy to see them out of business. On the other, it can be hard to justify making some purchases locally when they can be obtained so much cheaper up the north, or on the internet.

    The volume of shopping that has been done across the border has been drain on our economy and has hit jobs and business, but it has also provided motivation for movement on prices which ultimately benefits us all.

    If we had all done our patriotic! duty and kept our euros in Ireland then this stimulus to tighten margins on the part of Irish retailers just wouldn’t have kicked in.

    The government could start by:
    :: Forcing supermarkets to publish accounts that breakdown their Irish profits.
    :: Allowing the sale of generic drugs.
    :: Forcing dentists and doctors to publish their rates.
    :: Drop the vat rate on dining out like France – providing a much needed kick to our food industry.

    Finally, I’m inclined to say feck the car industry. Why do we all need new cars. Modern cars will run for decades if properly maintained. (While I’m at it let’s change the ridiculous year-based car reg system.)

  9. valueireland
    valueireland says:

    As highlighted by some commenters above, there is an interesting conflict between knowing the benefit of buying Irish and the ability to do so because of cost.

    One wonders whether there would be a certain premium percentage on price that people are willing to pay, knowing that in the long run that the country as a whole will benefit?

    Or whether personal wellbeing dictates that people would rather have that premium percentage in their pockets?

    Almost the same dilemma that certain public servants face when “invited” to take a pay cut in the interests of the country.

    Such public servants are ridiculed when they don’t take the pay cuts, quite possibly by some of the same people who will, for example, shop up north becuase it’s cheaper (perceived to be at least, as per Peters comment).

  10. Philip
    Philip says:

    Most interesting take on this ValueIreland. The conflict in my opinion is perhaps based on poor information. For example with regard to shopping up north, there is the cost of travel, the waste of a day which is never really factored in a 220km round trip costs 50-60 euro in fuel, tolls, and wear and tear to your car and you have yet to add in food and drink to a cafe etc. cos you are away so long. So 200 Euro shop in the North turns into 300 Euro plus stress and overeating.

    That said, I am not a supporter of us paying a patriot premium because we pay our taxes anyway. What is more important is that we should be attractive for other reasons to the objective 3rd party – i.e. the German or Dutchman who unfortunately are finding latter day Ireland to be a boring tourist spot – Enter Ronan Keat with Magic – see today’s IT 8/1/2010. I believe Ireland’s value proposition has been misplaced. Why is scotland seen as cheaper and more interesting? Is it the Taggart/ Rebus influence? or just damned laziness on our part.

    As for our Public Servants…let’s be very careful to note that the mjority of them are low paid and many are temps. Yeah we can give out about the health service (5th best outcome in Euro Zone by the way) and the Education system…but I blame the man in the street – yes, You and I…us paddies.. for not being angry and assertive enough and voting on personality rather than on policy/national issues. The constituencies are very divided and so it is hard to deploy solid long term strategy in the face of local short-termism. Fundamentally, buying irish is really down to what we believe Irish to be really. We are in desperate need of that template and it has to “feel” honest and realistic.

    We are getting there. I hope!

  11. James Comiskey
    James Comiskey says:

    With regards to who set’s the price of milk; I would say the consumer does. But the processor and retailer are not going to sell their product below what it costs to buy it. So why does the farmer have to sell their product below what it costs to produce it? Ultimately it is the consumer who pay’s the price in the end but we need to think more about the consequences of our purchase’s. I thought the example of a northern processor buying milk from a southern dairy farmer would be a good one to show that we need to look at the wider issue’s.
    The media are not entirely wrong on the prices. I’m not sure about the price of food, but I cross the border a couple of times a year, not to shop but to visit my northern family! However I have to confess I buy most of my clothes in the north and there are massive differences. I recently bought a brand name pair of trainer’s for £10 that could cost anything up to €100 in the south. With regards to alcohol I brought my brother and his friends from the north on a night out in Dublin when I lived there. It was actually a bit embarrassing in the off-licence when they saw the price of alcohol. It seems as if they actually thought they were getting mugged. However the price of alcohol does seem to be on more of a par in recent times on both sides of the border.
    I think we all have a duty of care to think more about these issue’s, but at the same time there is no point in getting ripped off because it’s our patriotic duty. My value’s may be a bit messed up, but in Cork where I live, I prefer to pay a little bit extra when it comes to food. I buy my food from the smaller butcher’s and green grocers rather than the big retailers. This is food that is produced here in Ireland. However a vast majority of the clothes that are available here come from abroad. And at least when I buy my clothes I’m spending my money on the island rather than going on shopping trips to New York. By the way, I thought Philip made an excellent point about the car scrappage scheme.
    I’ll give another example, although it’s not about crossing the border. I may be repeating what Pat wrote, but it raises the question; what is local anymore? When I first moved to Cork I had to get the timing belt changed on my van. In order to get a cast iron guarantee for this work I needed to use a registered dealership. So I rang the various dealership’s in Cork to get quotes. The van was nine years old and it would have cost more to get the timing belt fitted than the van was worth. Then I rang a dealership (same make) in Cavan and they could not believe the prices I was quoted in Cork. I saved €300 even with the cost of the diesel by bring the van to Cavan. I’m living in Cork but I hail from Cavan. But why should I hand over that extra money just for the privilage of living in the area. I pay enough in rent as it is!
    If my new business takes off I hope to source all my materials within the locality of where I carry out the work. My only worry is that some retailers may use this as an excuse to bump up their prices. One other thing; my business will not take off if everyone adopts a strict shop local attitude. I’m getting enquiries from Cavan, Cork and Dublin, and I’ll take any other work that is available! Being in the same business as yourself Peter I am more than aware of the competition out there. The landscape industry is fairly full, if not over flowing with operator’s. As I will be a new entrant to the industry, and because of the state of the economy, I cant afford to operate in one particular area.

  12. Peter Donegan MI Hort
    Peter Donegan MI Hort says:

    @james keleher
    wonder if the amount of irish exports to the US has in/ decreased since joining the EU…?

    @pat
    you may not depend on the ‘local’ market… but surely one cannot disagree that the irish landscape industry *is* dependant on irish money… ?

    @dena
    I hear you… 😉 but as I said and it seems you agree – maybe it’s about high time we looked in the mirror as individuals and pointed the finger at ourselves… stand up and be counted so to speak.

    @murray
    I agree with you til the point of ‘what the government could do…’ and thats where as I said in the post – I’m pretty p**sed off with them full stop. and no FG changeover is gonna make it all it all better. fact. As I said if there were more of you and your local wineshop/ butcher etc… we’d all be fine. I would also point to philips first comment re the car industry and what ‘our’ government should do.

    @vauleireland
    re civil servants…. no offence but bullshit! fact. I’m self employed. Its snow as far as the eye can see and I shop as local as I can…. c’mon inspire me here brother. You invented the hashtag #buyirish ….? or at least introduced me to it.

    @philip
    i hope we are getting there too…. but i feel people should be aware then when jobs are lost – that they should also realise the millions that flow out of this country was ours… and for as you describe – not necessarily saving, but more a perception of – we may just be as great a player as the government we elected.

    @james
    whats happened re the milk is the supermarket has cut out the middle man and is buying direct from the grower producer – in time [if it hasn’t happened already] the veg and fruit we will bought direct and packed by the supermarket – again no middle man.
    Regarding the runners – jees thats a one off c’mon!!
    As re business – hope it all goes according to plan and fair play if outside business comes in… the point I make is like Murray commented below – wouldn’t it be a shame to see your local butcher/ wine shop or in my/ your case local landscape company go wallop….

    go raibh míle maith agaibh
    beir bua
    peter

  13. James Comiskey
    James Comiskey says:

    Thank’s Peter! If I get into Bloom this year and see you there I’ll show you a pair of £25 shoes!
    The runner’s aren’t a one off, I sware! I have an outlet place about five minutes from my brothers I head to each time I’m up there. I never spend more than £25 on shoe’s, jeans, trousers, shirts or anything else. And it’s all designer stuff! But as for everything else I do shop local. You are dead right, no one wants to see any business go to the wall, especially the smaller local business. We do need to support them, but within reason.

  14. valueireland
    valueireland says:

    @Philip – I can’t argue with your take on poor information – I do believe there is a certain level of false economy going on for many of those who go shopping up north. However, it may in some ways be balanced out by the volumes of goods purchased on any single trip up north (though I’m inclined to think that a certain proportion of bulk purchases on such shopping expeditions will end up being wasted, thereby reducing any benefits).

    When I referred to public servants, I did refer to those who were “invited” to take a pay cut, rather than any of those lower paid ones who were forced to take pay cuts.

    @Peter – I don’t really understand what part of my comment you’re calling “bullshit” on, but let me try to elaborate further where I’m coming from.

    I can publically and otherwise call for everyone to “buy Irish”, however, for a number of reasons, various different elements of our society will probably not listen.

    You, and I, may do our best to buy locally and to buy Irish, but we do so because we see clearly where we benefit directly from it. Our livelihoods and careers will be better for the fact that we support other Irish businesses. And as I mentioned, because we see this benefit, we may be willing to incur the sometimes “Irish premium” on pricing of Irish sold and Irish manufactured items.

    Bringing this down to fundamental basics, it’s in our own self interest to buy Irish.

    Look at a lower paid civil servant – a lower paid anyone – or someone supported by the social welfare system, their own self interest is not especially served by their spending a little more in making the effort to buy Irish. This even applies to a higher civil servant who refuses to take a voluntary pay cut.

    When it comes to fundamental basics, these types of groups of people are not likely to see any benefit in buying Irish – their jobs and livelihoods (or social welfare benefits) don’t depend on them buying Irish – whether they do or not (and even if all Irish manufacturing was to go bust tomorrow morning), these peoples personal situations would not change. They would still be on the same money they’re on today.

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