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Archive for June 10th, 2012

Here is a car. In fact, it’s quite a special car. It’s the Duesenberg Simone, a one-off car produced in 1938/9 by the American car manufacturer Duesenberg. Duesenberg was like the American Rolls Royce in the 1920s and 1930s, producing luxury cars that would cost over €1m in today’s money, but has since disappeared as a manufacturer. In 1938 it was commissioned by the French cosmetics and perfume magnate Guy De La Roche to design a car for his lover, Simone. And in 1939 the one-off car was finished and delivered toFranceon the eve of the Nazi invasion of that country. The fate of the car and the two Americans who delivered it is not known. There is a film in there someplace.

Ireland never had a totally indigenous car industry but we did have a substantial Ford plant in Cork for decades in the last century until it was closed in 1984. We don’t make cars any more, unlike the Swedes, Poles, British, French, Germans, Italians, Belgians, Dutch, Czechs, Spanish, Finns, Danes and others in Europe.

Wouldn’t it be great if Ireland could produce a car?

Here is a gun. In fact, it’s quite a special gun. It’s the Daewoo K11, a gun which is designed to fire two projectiles, conventional high-calibre rifle bullets and the magazine at the back fires high explosive air-burst projectiles. Not just that, but the device on top of the gun allows the operator to “tell” the air-burst projectiles where to explode, and when they do explode, they kill anything within 5 metres. So if this gun existed in WW1, it would have rendered trenches useless, because the operator could “tell” the air-burst rounds where to explode and you would explode them just over a trench and kill all the Johnnies within 5 metres. The K11 costs just over €10,000 and has at least one Western competitor. See how the rest of the world is advancing?

Ireland doesn’t have an indigenous arms industry, though apparently we do make bits for a few American/British companies. Mind you we are a neutral country with armed forces which number just under 10,000. But so is Switzerland, home to many arms manufacturers.

Wouldn’t it be great if Ireland could produce a gun?

 

Here is a mobile phone. In fact, it’s quite a special mobile phone in that it is designed to facilitate secure text messaging. Canada doesn’t have much of a presence on the global stage for manufactured product, but here in RIM’s Blackberry, it is a world leader.

Wouldn’t it be great if Ireland could produce a mobile phone?

During the week, the Central Statistics Office released its Industrial Production and Turnover report for April 2012, which provides a sense of what Ireland is making today.- of the €30bn of annual “Value Added” production, €5bn is in food, €13bn in chemicals and pharmaceuticals, €4bn is computer, electronic, optical and electrical equipment, €2bn in “other manufacturing”, €1bn in paper products and €5bn spread across a whole range, from clothing to uncategorised machinery. There is no breakdown by indigenous enterprise and Multi National Company (MNC) but the understanding is the majority of non-food production is ultimately controlled by MNCs.

So what is Ireland’s industrial policy and how do we plan to establish industries that are commonplace amongst our partners in Europe? And how do the industrial policies of the political parties stack up against each other? What plans, there are none. Of course you could argue that industry should be left entirely to free market entrepreneurs who can start business on a small scale – after all, old man Bart Beretta originally made his shotguns in his home workshop five hundred years ago – but if Ireland is to establish major industries, it will need joined up thinking that integrates education, enterprise and initial state support. And there is no sign of these policies being developed at all by political parties who still innocently think that most jobs are created by building roads and attracting yet more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) –  both construction and FDI are important, but isn’t it curious that indigenous industry is being totally ignored?

Of course, establishing major industries from scratch is a tall order, but it might be that Ireland can take a more modest approach initially. What about joint ventures with other manufacturers. Surely the Chinese or Indians are looking for European manufacturing bases? And speaking of Indians this is a rich Indian who also happens to be Ireland’s richest man, Pallonji Mistry.

The source of 82-year old Pal’s wealth? Tata motor vehicles in India. Might Ireland’s richest man consider an expansion of his family’s business to a location which would allow it avoid EU import tariffs? As one of Pal’s fellow countrymen once said in a different context, “that would be a splendid idea”

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny is reputedly a fan of the US president John F Kennedy – for his inspiration rather than his boudoir antics – and President Kennedy famously told the American people in 1961 that it was his aim to put a man on the moon by the end of that decade. Would it be beyond the ambition ofIreland to have a car industry or indeed any other major manufacturing industry by the end of this decade, or will we still be sitting around on our asses waiting for the next Yank company to be swayed by our low corporate tax rate to set up an office here?

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