Have you seen the ideas that made it to the last five in the Your Country Your Call competition?
Let me remind you what that was. Martin McAleese, the presidential spouse, had a notion to invite innovative proposals that might create jobs and get Ireland back on track.
As the YCYC website puts it, The competition is designed to find two major proposals that, when implemented, will transform our economy – or significant elements of it – by creating jobs and opportunity.
The categories for the competition are
- Communications and technology,
- Design, engineering and manufacturing ,
- Education and the arts,
- Energy and environment,
- Food and agriculture,
- Health, sport and nutrition and of course
So. What bright ideas made it through from the thousands of entrants worldwide?
You might remember Brody Sweeney, the sandwich sultan. The bap baron. The panini potentate. Brody was the driving force behind O’Brien’s sandwich bars, a chain of franchised outlets that sold sandwiches and coffee to hungry office-workers. Brody’s idea is to create an all-Ireland superbrand, to market food and tourism, North and South, but he seems to be overlooking something fundamental. The Irish brand is screwed. We’re perceived the world over as grasping, corrupt crooks, and that perception wasn’t helped by the grossly overpriced, and very ordinary, fare sold by the likes of Sweeney’s own sandwich shops.
Brody needs to get back to basics and forget about slick marketing campaigns. The world doesn’t believe our bullshit any more. If he was serious about marketing an Irish brand, Brody would do well to start at the beginning, by tackling the greed at the heart of Irish business culture, and in particular the food and tourist industries that see visitors as marks to be fleeced.
Neil Leyden, a screen writer and digital media consultant, has been pushing his idea of an international content services centre for a while now, and even persuaded Minister Eamon Ryan to support it, which admittedly isn’t hard if you include the sort of phrases that make Eamon break into a sweat of excitement. Smart economy. Global Media Hub. Essentially, Leyden wants to set up a clearing-house for digital rights — a sort of bank, if you’ll excuse the expression, and he seems to have snared the YCYC judges by saying that his Irish Content Industry Association would drive the development of a cultural and creative quarter. Translated into English, this means a snappy new office area for Dublin, with more wine bars and a few jobs for Leyden’s friends.
It isn’t immediately clear why Ireland would be better able to provide such a service than, for example, anywhere else in the world.
Gordan Hyland’s proposal isn’t a million miles removed from Neil Leyden’s. He wants to create a financial securities market based on intellectual property. This description of the idea is everywhere, but I don’t know if it originated with Mr Hyland: The proposal deals with positioning Ireland centrally in the knowledge economy by setting up an intellectual property services centre anchored around an IP-based exchange.
Right then.. Another brokerage company. Another intellectual-property protection racket. Exactly what we need. Maybe he could have a word with Neil Leyden and they could go into business together. Save a few bob on the set-up costs.
Peter Kavanagh, an electrical engineer, wants to install photovoltaic panels on the sites of existing wind-farms. This will take advantage of the equipment already there and the grid connections. Good idea. He could also put them on the roofs of power stations and on every public building in the country, but I’m afraid it’s another Eamon Ryan-tickler like smart-economy bicycles. It ain’t gonna stop the current economic collapse, nor produce huge numbers of jobs, and the PV cells cells have a payback period of, how long? Three lifetimes? PV is just not economic but that’s engineers for you: do what they know, and ignore the bigger picture.
I’d give a prize to the last pair of geniuses, Cianán Clancy and Colm Mac Fhlannachadha, for the most impenetrable waffle in the competition. In fact, I’m tempted to send this to the Campaign for Plain English.
The Data Island Strategy will build a world-beating entrepreneurial and innovation ecosystem around digital services aimed at positioning Ireland at the forefront of its associated spin-off industries.
The sheer pomposity of it is worthy of the late Brian Lenihan Snr, or perhaps even Charlie Haughey. Translated into English, it means, we’ll do great stuff, and everything will be great and we’ll do it by magic, even though the country is broke and everyone knows we Irtish are an incompetent crowd of scammers. Look over there!
It’s the sort of meaningless horseshit that landed Ireland in its current predicament and yet somehow, inexplicably, the YCYC comittee think it has the potential to get us out of the hole.
I’d remind you that these are the best five ideas from thousands. God knows what was rejected.
Now, lest you accuse me of negativity, and point out that it’s easy to criticise, let me give you my positive suggestion.
It isn’t based on marketing, positioning, flim-flammery, three-card-trickery or trying to persuade the world that we’re honest when the world knows full well what a bunch of gobshites we are. It isn’t based on wishful thinking, it doesn’t use the sort of nonsense phrases like world-beating that for years we relied on to delude ourselves.
It’s simple. I suggest investing in ethics.
I suggest re-educating our entire population, from the youngest pre-schooler to the grimmest old businessman, and including the public service and politicians, explaining precisely what integrity means. I suggest teaching our entire population that marketing, promotion, sales, PR and international glad-handing are of no use whatsoever if the thing you’re trying to sell has no substance.
If we don’t take this seriously, we’re doomed to repeat the current economic disaster over and over again, each generation with its own Bertie Ahern, its own Seanie Fitzpatrick, its own Fingers Fingleton, and all the other assorted, integrity-free panhandlers and parasites who have soiled the reputation of this country and sold us down the Swanee for their own, ignorant, self-serving enrichment.
Forget about Eamon Ryan’s smart economy.
Let’s put all our effort into creating the Honest Economy.