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Ireland unveils 15-bln-euro austerity plan to secure bailout

In Uncategorized on November 25, 2010 at 5:20 am

DUBLIN, Nov 25, 2010 (AFP) – Ireland unveiled a 15-billion-euro austerity package Wednesday required to unlock an international bailout, slashing public sector pay and pensions but refusing to raise corporation tax.

With the eyes of Europe on his debt-ridden nation, Prime Minister Brian Cowen said his four-year package of cuts and tax increases would restore shattered confidence, calling it a signpost on the road to recovery.

A women looks at works of art for sale from the Bank of Ireland auction in the Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin, on November 24, 2010. AFP

“We can and we will pull through this as we have in the past,” Cowen told a news conference.

“We are a smart, resilient, proud people and we are going to come through this challenge because we love our country.”

The 20-billion-dollar plan, to be followed by a budget on December 7, is an essential step towards Ireland receiving a bailout of up to 85 billion euros (114 billion dollars) from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund.

The aim is to slash the public deficit to below three percent of gross domestic product, in line with EU rules, after it ballooned to 32 percent of GDP this year.

Among the key points of the package, sales tax will be raised to 23 percent from 21 percent by 2014, but the 12.5-percent corporation tax rate — a key attraction for foreign companies to invest in Ireland — will be maintained.

The government said it expected unemployment to be brought below 10 percent by 2014, from its current level of over 13 percent.

The minimum wage will be cut by one euro to 7.65 euros an hour, but the government said it would still be one of the highest rates in the EU.

The EU’s economic commissioner Olli Rehn said the package was “a sound basis for the negotiations” on the international bailout.

As Ireland strove to prove it was trying to get its house in order, another heavily-indebted eurozone country, Portugal, was paralysed by a general strike on Wednesday called to protest against deep spending cuts.

The EU fears Portugal will be the next eurozone nation to require a bailout after Greece and Ireland.

Chancellor Angela Merkel said Germany was prepared to help Ireland, but its support was conditional on Dublin “making clear what steps (it) must take to get back on a path of stabilisation”.

Cowen meanwhile fought off calls from the opposition Tuesday to call a snap election, insisting the budget must be passed first.

Irish lawmakers are unlikely to vote on the budget until January, meaning that an election could not take place until February or March.

The EU has told the main Fine Gael opposition party that while the plan’s fiscal targets are non-negotiable it will re-negotiate specific details with an incoming government, finance spokesman Michael Noonan said.

Noonan insisted the plan was “disappointing in its poverty of ambition and detail.”

Experts warned that the plan would not immediately ease Ireland’s problems.

“Uncertainty caused by the collapse of the government… will continue to hang over Ireland in the coming weeks,” National Irish Bank economist, Ronnie O’Toole, said.

IHS Global Insight economist Sonia Pangusion predicted “the downtrend in consumer confidence will accelerate,” adding that the plan for an export-based recovery “increases Ireland’s economic risk.”

The government has been under pressure since caving in and agreeing to accept the bailout on Sunday night.

Despite reports that it is worth 85 billion euros, Cowen told parliament earlier Wednesday the amount had still to be decided as negotiations were ongoing.

The international loans to Dublin are in part intended to shore up banks left with huge debts from the collapse of an overheated property market.

But the bailout is also designed to stem fears of contagion in other eurozone nations such as Portugal and even the far larger Spanish economy, which came under pressure on the markets.

Spain’s deputy finance minister Jose Manuel Campa insisted that “an abyss separates us from Ireland”.

Despite the efforts to shore up the single European currency, the euro fell slightly below 1.34 Wednesday after sinking below 1.33 dollars earlier because of fears over the eurozone and the Korean crisis. 

Source: SGGP

Ireland in chaos as bailout triggers election

In Uncategorized on November 24, 2010 at 4:51 am

DUBLIN (AFP) – Ireland’s political turmoil intensified Tuesday after Prime Minister Brian Cowen promised to call a general election in the New Year once parliament passes a budget at the centre of an international bailout.

It could take several weeks for the budgetary process to be completed and Cowen would then have to formally dissolve parliament and set an election date, meaning an election may not be held until February or March.

The Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said on Monday that he would call an early election in January, but resisted calls for his immediate resignation. AFP

Two independent members of parliament on whom the government depends to pass legislation said they were likely to withhold their support, raising fears that the crucial budget might not be passed at all.

Cowen, who entered a coalition government with the Green Party in 2008, on Monday bowed to calls from its disgruntled junior partner to call an election in the wake of Ireland accepting a bailout worth up to 90 billion euros (122.5 billion dollars).

The prime minister said the debt-ridden country’s priority must be to pass the six-billion-euro budget on December 7.

“It is my intention at the conclusion of the budgetary process, with the enactment of the necessary legislation in the New Year, to then seek the dissolution of parliament,” the leader — alternatively known as the Taoiseach — told a news conference.

“It is imperative for this country that the budget is passed,” he added.

Opposition parties were angered by Cowen’s refusal to call an immediate vote.

The main opposition Fine Gael party said the people of Ireland had “absolutely no confidence” in the government and Sinn Fein party president Gerry Adams demanded immediate action.

“I totally disagree with the Taoiseach’s assertion that the imperative is to get the budget passed,” Adams said. “The budget should be suspended. The Taoiseach should call an election now.”

The Guardian newspaper Tuesday doubted Cowen’s chances of being leader at the election.

The British broadsheet quoted a senior source at Cowen’s party, Fianna Fail, as saying “we cannot go into a general election with Brian as leader after the events of last week. His credibility is shattered.”

European Union Economics Commissioner Olli Rehn insisted that political upheaval would not jeopardise the rescue deal which Ireland struck with the EU and the International Monetary Fund on Sunday.

“I don’t see that it will threaten the EU-IMF programme or its negotiations,” Rehn told journalists on the sidelines of a hearing before a committee of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The elections “will take place… in January, and our negotiations will be concluded by the end of November,” he added.

Ireland’s request for financial assistance initiated a day of drama in Dublin on Monday.

Green Party leader John Gormley, whose party has six seats in parliament, called on Cowen to name a date for the country to go to the polls, saying the Irish people needed “political certainty.”

Gormley said that in the meantime his party would support the government in getting the emergency budget through parliament.

In a sign of the anger about the bailout a hundred protesters forced their way through the gates of the parliament building before being pushed back by police.

Cowen’s party faces a by-election on Thursday in the northern constituency of Donegal South-West which it is likely to lose.

Having dominated Irish politics since the 1930s, defeat for Fianna Fail in the general election would represent a significant moment in the country’s history.

Ireland’s request for aid was approved by EU officials who were desperate to quell fears that other heavily-indebted euro economies such as Portugal could be sucked into the crisis.

News of the bailout initially calmed fears about the single European currency, with the euro rising above 1.37 dollars before it fell back to 1.3571 dollars by 0130 GMT.

The EU has agreed in principle to use a 750-billion-euro fund, the European Financial Stability Facility, which was set up in May after a 110-billion-euro EU-IMF bailout of Greece.

Britain, not part of the 16-country eurozone, said it was in its “national interest” to consider a separate loan to Ireland of about seven billion pounds (11.2 billion dollars).

Ireland’s public finances have been ravaged by a property market meltdown and the global recession. Domestic banking sector rescues have severely restricted the country’s room for manoeuvre.

Source: SGGP

Ireland lands bailout of up to 90 billion euros

In Uncategorized on November 22, 2010 at 10:05 am

Volcanic ash returns to parts of Britain, Ireland

In Uncategorized on May 4, 2010 at 8:34 am

Irish airports are due to reopen for normal operations from 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) after a six-hour closure due to ash from an Icelandic volcano, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) said Tuesday.

An IAA statement said it had cleared Irish airports to open for full operations from 1300 hrs local time (1200 GMT).

Dublin, Shannon, Cork, Knock, Donegal, Waterford and Kerry may resume normal operations.”

Smoke and ash billowing from Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano in April 2010. Irish airports are due to reopen for normal operations from 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) after a six-hour closure due to ash from an Icelandic volcano, the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) has said.

Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) said airspace over Northern Ireland — a British province — would be closed from 0600 GMT.

The flight cancellations should not disrupt aircraft overflying Ireland from Britain or Europe, or southern British airports including Heathrow, Europe’s busiest air hub, authorities in the two countries said.

The cloud of ash came from the eruption of Iceland‘s Eyjafjjoell volcano, whose drifting dust was behind last month’s shutdown that left hundreds of thousands of travellers stranded across the globe.

Airspace was re-opened after about a week following emergency talks between European governments, airlines and regulators.

The IAA said all flights into and out of Ireland would be grounded from 0600 GMT to 1200 GMT Tuesday due to the dangers posed by the new volcano cloud.

“The decision is based on the safety risks to crews and passengers as a result of the drift south of the volcanic ash cloud caused by the north easterly winds,” said the authority in a statement.

It added that “over-flights of Ireland from the UK and Europe will not be impacted tomorrow. Flights in mainland Europe will operate normally.”

Information from the London-based Volcanic Ash Advice Centre (VAAC) suggested that the ?no fly-zone’ would affect Dublin and other airports across the country, said the IAA.

Hundreds of flights were due to depart and fly into Dublin airport throughout the day, with more from Shannon and Cork in the south of the country and Ireland’s smaller regional airports.

Ryanair said it had cancelled all flights into and out of Ireland between 0500 GMT and 1300 GMT Tuesday.

“The first wave is clearly one of the busiest parts of the day so it will have a fairly significant effect on the operation tomorrow,” airline spokesman Stephen McNamara told the BBC.

Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus said it had cancelled all British and European flights scheduled to depart and arrive into Dublin, Cork, Shannon and Belfast airports before 1200 GMT Tuesday.

The international airline industry body, IATA, said last month’s shutdown cost carriers some 1.7 billion dollars (1.1 billion pounds) and called on governments to pick up at least part of the cost, angered by their handling of the crisis.

Eurocontrol, the continent’s air traffic control coordinator, said more than 100,000 flights to, from and within Europe had been cancelled between April 15 and 21, preventing an estimated 10 million passengers from travelling.

Source: SGGP

Ireland asks FIFA for France World Cup replay

In World on November 20, 2009 at 8:37 am

Angry Ireland called on FIFA Thursday to allow its World Cup playoff with France to be replayed, as a dispute over Thierry Henry‘s blatant handball threatened to become a diplomatic row.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said he supported the Football Association of Ireland’s request, and promised to raise the issue with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at an EU summit.

Video replays showed Henry used his hand to stop the ball going out of play in extra-time of Wednesday’s match, before he passed to William Gallas to head the goal for a 2-1 aggregate win which sent France to South Africa.

TV grab shows French forward Thierry Henry touching the ball during the World Cup qualifier against the Republic of Ireland

“The blatantly incorrect decision by the referee to award the goal has damaged the integrity of the sport,” the FAI said in a statement.

“We now call on FIFA, as the world governing body for our sport, to organise for this match to be replayed.”

As he arrived in Brussels for the meeting to choose two top EU jobs, Cowen said: “Our minister of sport actually will write to FIFA in support of that complaint and look for a re-match.”

He said he and Sarkozy “will probably have a chat about it away from the table,” but added that he wanted football’s authorities to resolve the row and ensure “that fair play is upheld here.”

But as the fallout intensified, the French prime minister said the Irish government should not get involved in FIFA business.

“Neither the French government nor the Irish government should interfere in the functioning of the international federation,” Francois Fillon said.

FIFA confirmed it had received a letter of complaint from the FAI, but refused to say when any decision would be made.

Ireland’s chances of forcing a replay appear slim.

The match in Paris was one of four playoffs on Wednesday which finalised the 32-nation line-up for South Africa.

The draw for next year’s finals is due to be made in Cape Town on December 4, leaving little time in a calendar already crowded by club matches.

Who’s saying what about Henry handball

The Irish football body pointed to a precedent: a FIFA decision in 2005 to invalidate the result of a World Cup qualifier between Ukbekistan and Bahrain on the basis of “a technical error by the referee of the match”.

But a FIFA spokesman said that was a “very different” case, because the referee in the match “saw the incident in question and simply failed to apply the proper rules”.

FAI chief executive John Delaney said his organisation had also written to the French Football Federation (FFF) asking for the playoff to be replayed, and urged FIFA to take action.

“If FIFA believe in fairplay and integrity… this is their opportunity to step forward,” a clearly agitated Delaney said.

“From the French FA’s point of view, they need to look at themselves and look at this situation.

“Thierry Henry’s their captain, he’s a wonderful footballer, but does he want to be remembered like Maradona was in 1986, does he want his legacy to be this handball?” he asked, referring to Diego Maradona’s infamous ‘Hand of God’ goal for Argentina against England at the 1986 World Cup.

Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni said he did not believe FIFA would grant a replay.

“It is impossible to repeat the game,” the experienced Italian said.

He urged FIFA to explain how Swedish referee Martin Hansson, who failed to spot the incident, had been chosen for such a high-profile match, saying: “For this important game we needed a stronger referee, an important referee.”

Henry himself admitted handling, but said the responsibility for seeing the incident fell to the match official.

Trapattoni refused to blame the player, saying: “It wasn’t up to Henry to say ‘I touched it with my hand’.”

The Irish press were unanimous in their condemnation.

“We were robbed” said the Irish Star, “Le Cheat” added the Irish Mirror, while the Irish Sun splashed with the “Hand of the Frog”.

A Facebook page entitled “We Irish hate Thierry Henry (the cheat)” also drew hundreds of comments, including a call for an Irish boycott of French goods.

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

France, Ireland set for bad-tempered Paris clash

In Vietnam Sports on November 15, 2009 at 2:33 pm

DUBLIN, Nov 15, 2009 (AFP) – Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni ensured Wednesday’s World Cup play-off showdown in Paris against France will be a combustible affair after accusing a French player of insulting behaviour.

France, the 1998 world champions and runners-up in 2006, edged the first leg of the play-off 1-0 in Dublin on Saturday courtesy of a late goal from Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka.

French forward Nicolas Anelka scores in front Republic of Ireland’s goalkeaper Shay Given during the first leg of the World Cup 2010 play-off football match Republic of Ireland vs. France, on November 14, 2009 (AFP photo)

The final whistle sparked a mid-pitch clash between the two sets of players at Croke Park with wily Italian Trapattoni hitting out at his French visitors.

“A famous French player (who he refused to name) launched insults at the end of the game against my players and this really surprised me. What he said was insulting for all Irish people in general,” he said.

“You cannot do that when you have won.”

France did all they came to do, scoring an away goal and keeping a clean sheet in a game in which the second-half performance of both teams was the deciding factor.

French captain Thierry Henry reckoned his team’s dominance in the second half meant they were entitled to the slice of luck that saw Anelka’s goal take a heavy deflection off Sean St Ledger and past Shay Given in the Irish goal.

“In the second half we passed the ball better than in the first half. We were creating some chances – maybe not great chances – but we had the ball most of the time so maybe that’s why we deserved the luck to turn our way,” said the Barcelona forward.

His boss Raymond Domenech agreed that France’s improved second-half performance was the source of his team’s success.

“In the second half we were more ourselves. There were a lot of high balls and that wasn’t our game. It’s up to us to impose ourselves and in the second half it was definitely better. The main point is that we didn’t concede any goals.”

Trapattoni agreed that France were the superior team in the second half but he refused to write off his team’s chances in Paris on Wednesday where the eventual winner will book their place in the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

“We are a little bit disappointed because I think the fair result would have been a draw,” he said.

“It is possible to score a goal, maybe from a corner or a free kick (in Paris). Maybe the next game we can get this little deflection at the start of the game and it is 1-0 to us. Why not?”

Trapattoni also maintained his players had more to offer than they displayed in the second half here.

“I don’t think the individual performances were good enough from some of our players. There were two or three who under performed a little bit but normally these players play well. We just seemed to be missing a little bit of strength.”

However, he still believed his team’s attitude was good and they will need to show it again if they are to overhaul the deficit on Wednesday.

“We cannot allow them play how they want. We must play with the same attitude and the same tactics in Paris. We also have to pressurise them a little bit more.”

With just four days to recover the prospect of Ireland putting in the sort of energetic performance that Trapattoni wants seems unlikely.

Even if his team gets an equaliser they will be faced with a further half hour of extra-time unless they get a second.

But the Italian reminded reporters that Ireland have a tradition of famous victories against the odds.

“The team knows what has been achieved in the past and today we could have scored in the last 10 minutes. So the players must take this positive mentality to Paris.”

Source: SGGP Bookmark & Share

Ireland heads to polls for European treaty vote

In World on October 2, 2009 at 4:21 am

Ireland votes Friday on the EU’s Lisbon Treaty in a crunch second referendum which Europe’s leaders hope will overturn last year’s No vote and avoid plunging the bloc into chaos.

Polling stations are set to open across the republic at 7:00 am (0600 GMT) as more than three million voters have their say on the treaty that would reform how the European Union is governed.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen has warned that another rejection would damage Ireland’s attempts to reverse its sharp recession and marginalise it on the European stage.

European leaders are hoping for an end to the constitutional deadlock gripping the EU since June 2008 when 53.4 percent of Irish voters rejected the treaty — designed to streamline decision-making in the 27-member bloc.

A total of 3,078,032 Irish citizens are eligible to vote.

Some have already cast their ballots on remote islands off the western Atlantic Ocean coast. The islands vote early in case bad weather delays bringing the ballot boxes back to the mainland.

A sticker with the word ‘Lies’ is placed over a poster urging voters to accept the Lisbon Treaty in Dublin, Ireland

Five islands voted Wednesday — one with just seven voters — with eight more islands having voted Thursday.

Poor visibility stopped helicopters taking the boxes Wednesday to the furthest two islands, so they arrived by boat instead. Returning officers estimated a 40 percent turnout.

The final opinion poll before the vote, in the Sunday Business Post newspaper, put support for the treaty at 55 percent, with 27 percent planning to vote against it.

Irish bookmaker Paddy Power says the odds on a Yes result are 1/25, while a No is priced at 8/1.

However, there are concerns that some voters will use the referendum to kick Cowen’s unpopular government over the spectacular collapse of Ireland‘s long-booming “Celtic Tiger” economy.

This year, Ireland’s gross domestic product is set to shrink a record eight percent, while the jobless total could exceed 15 percent, three times its June 2008 level. Interview: Ireland’s Europe chief confident

Foreign Minister Micheal Martin urged voters to back the treaty to help pull the country out of recession.

“A Yes vote is a road map to economic recovery,” Martin said.

“We have held a unique position as the country which is known for both being a Euro-positive country and having strong links to the rest of the world.

“We have been the place to invest not just because we are members of the Union, but because we are at the table both shaping and participating in the development of the Union.

“Ireland is a small country with an open economy and we need to send a clear message that we want to be part of a stronger, more effective EU.”

Ireland is the only EU country constitutionally obliged to put the treaty to a referendum. Of the 27 EU states, Poland and the Czech Republic are the only others yet to ratify it.

Dublin agreed to hold another poll after securing guarantees on key policy areas which it felt were behind last year’s rejection, such as its military neutrality, abortion and tax laws.

The referendum paper is in Gaelic and English, with voters being asked: “Do you approve of the proposal to amend the constitution contained in the undermentioned bill?

“Twenty-Eighth Amendment of the Constitution (Treaty of Lisbon) Bill 2009.”

Voters then have to mark X in the box besides “ta/yes” if they approve of the proposal, or “nil/no” if they do not approve.

The counting will start Saturday, with the full results possible as early as Saturday afternoon.

Source: SGGP

Ireland braces for crunch vote on European treaty

In World on October 1, 2009 at 7:49 am

Irish voters cast their ballots Friday in a closely-watched second referendum on the Lisbon Treaty, which EU leaders hope will reverse last year’s ‘no’ vote and clear Europe’s political deadlock.

Electoral officers deliver the referendum ballot box on Inishfree Island, Donegal, Ireland, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2009.

Prime Minister Brian Cowen is leading the campaign in support of the reforming treaty, and warned this week that another rejection would damage Ireland’s recovery from deep recession.

Opinion poll results suggest his side will win this time. The latest survey on Sunday put support for the treaty at 55 percent, compared to 27 percent who said they were planning to vote against it.

European leaders are also anxiously awaiting the referendum results, hoping for an end to the constitutional deadlock the EU has been in ever since last June when Irish voters rejected the treaty by 53.4 percent.

Ireland is the only EU country constitutionally obliged to put the treaty to a referendum, and a ‘yes’ vote is required if the document — already ratified by 24 of the 27 member states — is to pass into law.

Dublin agreed to hold another poll after securing guarantees on key policy areas which it said were behind last year’s decision.

Specifically, its EU partners gave assurances on Catholic Ireland’s abortion ban, its military neutrality and its tax-setting right, while pledging that every EU state will continue to have a commissioner in Brussels.

Cowen said Wednesday that the referendum was “one of the most important decisions in our recent history” and vital to Ireland’s economic future.

“Will we move forward together with Europe or will we take an uncharted and more uncertain road?,” he said.

“A Yes vote marks an essential step for recovery. Only with a Yes will we ensure investor confidence in Ireland, protect our influence in vital economic decisions and reform Europe so that it is more dynamic and effective.”

This year Ireland’s GDP is set to shrink a record eight percent, while the jobless toll could exceed 15 percent, three times its June 2008 level.

The Yes camp likes to point out that, without the 120 billion euros (175 billion dollars) injected by the European Central Bank, Irish banks would probably have had to close.

However, there are concerns that some voters will use the referendum — backed by all the mainstream parties bar the republican Sinn Fein — to kick Cowen’s unpopular government.

Declan Ganley, the millionaire businessman who spearheaded the successful “no” campaign last year, has argued that the “only job that the Lisbon Treaty will save is Brian Cowen’s”.

He warned the treaty imposes a “Brussels democracy”, putting more power into the hands of unelected leaders who are unaccountable to citizens.

Voting is already underway in five Atlantic Ocean islands, which start early in case weather delays the transportation of the ballot boxes to the mainland, while eight islands off western County Mayo and County Galway vote Thursday.

Source: SGGP

Ireland celebrates 250 years of Guinness

In World on September 23, 2009 at 11:31 am

Ireland toasts the 250th birthday this week of Guinness, the country’s unofficial national drink, as the iconic brand battles to hold its own in the global economic downturn.

The company is celebrating the decision by Arthur Guinness, the son of a land steward, to sign a 9,000-year lease on a run-down brewery in Dublin’s St. James’ Gate in 1759.

It was the birth of a drinks legend and the start of one of Ireland’s biggest success stories: the consumption of the dark ale spread around the world and some 10 million pints are now downed every day in 150 countries.

The birthday marketing hype will peak at 17:59 pm (1659 GMT) Thursday not just in Ireland but also in New York, Lagos and Kuala Lumpur with the toast “To Arthur!” to be followed by big name concerts and gigs.

Ireland toasts the 250th birthday this week of Guinness, the country’s unofficial national drink, as the iconic brand battles to hold its own in the global economic downturn

The celebrations come as Ireland is being hammered by recession and overall drink consumption is down four percent — though Guinness says its sales held up and were “flat” last year.

Social changes are leading to more wine drinking and entertaining at home, while sales are also hit by tougher drink-driving laws, a smoking ban in public places and rising unemployment.

The Vintners Federation of Ireland (VFI), representing pubs outside Dublin, say 4,800 jobs have been lost in the last year.

Diageo, which employs 2,200 people in Ireland, says that as a result of the economic downturn a 670 million-euro (990 million-dollar) restructuring plan announced last year is “under review”.

Arthur Guinness, who married an heiress and had 21 children, originally used a 100-pound inheritance from his godfather, an archbishop, to get into the brewing business in Leixlip, just outside Dublin, before moving to the capital.

Having a job with “Uncle Arthur“, as the firm was known in Ireland, came to mean security, a two pints a day free beer allowance, staff picnics and company health care and sports facilities, including a sports field and swimming pool.

Now owned by the Diageo drinks company since a merger in 1997, the Guinness family only retains a small shareholding.

“It is ironic that as it has become less and less owned by an Irish family, it identifies itself more and more as a feature of what it means to be Irish,” said Tanya Cassidy, a sociologist at the National University of Ireland.

The “black stuff” is now firmly entangled in the stereotype of boozy Irishness, a love of pubs, a huge capacity for pints and always being ready for a bit of craic (a party).

Like the shamrock, the traditional Guinness harp is inextricably linked to the Emerald Isle and is both the company’s trademark and a national emblem.

Visitors regard the Guinness “experience” as symbolic of the country.

The company’s Storehouse visitor centre in Dublin — with its top-floor 360-degree bar and free pint included in the 15 euro entrance fee — attracts over a million visitors a year making it the country’s top tourist attraction.

Cassidy is researching how drinking is linked to Irish culture and creativity, from writer Brendan Behan to film star Colin Farrell.

“It was understood that you could be drunk and Irish and creative. That link to a notion of creativity is not just Irish, but we seem to have made it an art form,” Cassidy told AFP.

The original boozy Irish stereotype involved whiskey at a time when ales like Guinness were seen as a healthy alternative to spirits, says Cassidy.

The stereotype grew in the late 18th and early 19th century and was linked with working class emigrants in the US and Britain.

“One of the key employments for emigrants was to run pubs. And this was where the emigrant populations met. The general populace would see the Irish in the pub.”

The boozy stereotype grew despite the fact that the Irish didn’t drink as much as people in countries like France and Italy. But the arrival of the Celtic Tiger boom in the 1990s changed that.

“As we became wealthier we drank more alcohol. The reality is, we now hold our own,” said Cassidy.

Source: SGGP