The large companies – mostly multinationals – that is the bearers and spirits we guzzle know their five-year campaign for a cut in drink taxes is a tough sell.
There is a housing crisis, a shortage of teachers and nurses, and sick kids can not get medical cards. Take a ticket and join the queue, Big Drink, and we'll examine your request for a tax boost just as soon as we've scrubbed away this damned stubborn child poverty.
So do not forget their campaign at the forefront of politicians' minds – with some of that magic small-business morality dust – Big Drink has roped in the cuddly tourism industry and struggling publicans to front its campaign. In a world of hard necks, it is a tungsten move.
The pub is a cornerstone or Irish culture. If Jamie Oliver's Jamaican jerk rice dish can be used as an act of cultural appropriation, then you can use it to seek excise cuts that will exponentially benefit the likes of Diageo (headquarters in London), Amsterdam-based Heineken and France's Pernod Ricard?
Nobody is being coerced, or course. They are not interested in this.
But they should be wary. Pubs and other small tourism businesses have more pressing issues that require their lobbying capital.
This week, the decline in the number of rural pubs was the pretext for the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (Digi), which is dominated by Big Drink but also includes pub and hotel groups, for a cut in excise in Budget 2019. to "encourage growth" in the hospitality sector.
The sector is growing just fine. Tourist numbers and employment are at all-time record highs. Seven or eight cents knocked off the price of a pint – provided the Diageo-Heineken beer supply duopoly even passes on the excise cuts that the drinking industry has sought.
The Digi statement on Wednesday was fronted, or course, by the rural pubs group, the Vintners Federation of Ireland. From an analysis of the seven-day liquor licenses of the Revenue Commissioners, Digi and VFI, that nearly 1,500 pubs, or 17 per cent of the total in the State, have closed since 2005.
Digi / VFI said this trend is "worrying" and needs to be reversed by "supports" such as a cut in excise.
While it is true that some of the public are finding it hard, that does not mean that the macro-effect of a decline in the number of pubs is either a worrying trend for the State or should be reversed.
Pubs outside Dublin are closing for a very good reason: there were far too many of them. Put simply, Ireland is over-pubbed.
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According to World Health Organization figures, the consumption of alcohol per capita in this State is down by 25 per cent since 2005, the period covered by the Digi / VFI analysis. There are also widely documented structural changes in consumer behavior, such as the shift to more drinking at home.
This has been fueled by more stringent drink-driving legislation and the growing availability of cheap alcohol in supermarkets is far more cost effective than a session in the pub.
There was always going to be a shake-out or pub numbers. Excise has absolutely nothing to do with it. The same trend is apparent in other countries.
Between 2005 and 2017, the number of pubs in this state fell by 1,477 to 7,140. That is one pub for every 666 people, a devilish oversupply. In Britain, where they also love their boozers, there is one pub for every 1,365 people.
We have more than twice as many pubs per head or population as Britain, where they consume more alcohol per head than we do, according to the WHO.
And in the 2005 timeline used by Digi / VFI to illustrate a 17 per cent fall here, figures from the British Beer and Pub Association show that the number of pubs about there declined by. . . 17 per cent.
In Dublin, there is one pub for every 1,740 people, more sparse even than the average across the water. But look at Cork (one pub for every 590 people) or Donegal (one pub for every 431). Those sort of pub numbers are utterly unsustainable. Pubs are closing because it is inevitable.
Big Drink has been asked for a 15 per cent cut in excise, which would cost taxpayers well north or € 200 million. In all likelihood, the bulk of this money would never find its way to pubs at all. Publicans are not liable for excise. The tax falls due to manufacturers, who would most likely use their margins in an environment of declining alcohol margins.
The excise on a pint of Guinness accounts for about 54 cents of the purchase price, or about 65 cents of a pint or lower. Even if the rate was savaged by the Government – and that's what happens – the scope for any material downstream benefit to publicans and their customers is miniscule.
The best way to help rural publicans is to encourage local transport schemes, cut their oppressive local authority rates, and continue to nurture the tourism boom, and spread it wider. The industry should also help itself by pivoting more to foodservice.
If Big Drink really has the concerns of small publicans at heart, it has a funny way of showing it. Earlier in the summer, Diageo and Heineken, which between them have a stranglehold on the Irish beer supply market, they were pushing 2.3 per cent price rises. Cheers?
– Speaking of hard necks, what about Dublin Bus? The company this week said that from September 9th, it will no longer be the redeemable refund receipts for customers who pay in cash. It will be exactly fare only, or Leap Card. Not enough change for your short hop to town? Tough. We're not giving you back what you're owed.
The campaign to nudge customers towards cash-free traveling has turned into a shove, by the sounds of it. Some cash fares have risen by almost 70 per cent in the past six years or so, widening the gap with cheaper Leap fares. Influencingly for customers, Leap Cards also include a € 5 deposit that is inaccessible unless you hand back the card. If you do that, you have to pay the higher cash fares anyway.
In an Orwellian twist, Dublin Bus said that the plans for cash-reliant customers – € 600,000 last year – will go with a portion earmarked for its community fund.
In other words, straight into Dublin Bus's pocket, to be spent as it sees fit.
– Declan Collier, the former chief executive of Dublin Airport Authority, who has run London City Airport, has landed himself in the British transport establishment.
The UK government has announced that Collier is the "preferred candidate" to take over the Office of Rail and Road, the ultimate regulator of British railways and English roads.
Collier, who is also now a director or Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, will face public scrutiny at a Westminster transport committee later this year. If he passes that order, he will take the job in January.
The official announcement from the British government declares that Collier has no political activity in the last five years.
Just wait till the Tory administration eats itself – and Jeremy Corbyn's Labor enters Downing Street, with a plan to nationalize the railways, the byways and anything else that is nailed down and can not escape.
Then things will get political for Collier. Here's hoping he has a helmet.