€1.5 Billon Loss to Economy “Regrettable?”

Airplane_ClosedAs an ice cream man and not an economist, I’ve been trying to avoid getting angry about how the current economic mess is being handled in this country, but that is becoming increasingly difficult. The government seems to have only two plans of action: 1. Slash as much money as possible from their budget, and 2. Force through NAMA (a done deal, really, since sadly the Greens are supporting it).

What’s troubling to me is that there is very little debate about the economy outside of these two points. Yet fixing the budget is fairly meaningless unless the economic slide stops, since any cuts will be offset by falling revenue, and the economic impact of NAMA is unclear – even if the banks do offer more credit after the bailout, will people and businesses spend?

Meanwhile, there are so many aspects of our economy that need help. In just one example, Ryanair looks like it will pull most of its routes out of Shannon because the airport fees and government taxes are too high, which will mean 1.5 million fewer tourists to the West of Ireland. Airport director Martin Moroney called the pull-out  “regrettable.”

Regrettable? 1.5 million tourists have a heck of a spend. People flying into Shannon wouldn’t tend to be “weekenders.” I would guess their average stay is at least a week, and their average spend is at least €1,000. That would mean €1.5 billion lost to the economy. That’s more than “regrettable.”


So why wont the government negotiate? Is it because they are offended by Michael O’Leary? Is it stubborn pride? Even if you don’t look at the larger economic impact and just look at government revenue, it should be an easy decision. I made up a chart to show tax revenue  from the airport tax (€15 million) vs. estimated VAT based on 1.5 million tourists with a €1,000 spend (€225 million). Of course, the government would be gaining far more –  the €225 million is only VAT and doesn’t include the payroll taxes of all the people employed to serve the 1.5 million tourists, the avoidance of dole payments, etc.

Whatever one might think about Michael O’Leary, it seems to me that the government should be crawling to him begging him to keep the routes, even if it means rowing back on their precious departure tax. Sadly, there is little sign of such humility and vision from this government…

Short List Announced for ’09 Food Awards

The short list has been announced for the 2009 Blas na hEireann awards, and you can see the three finalists for each category here.

It was very competitive again this year, with nearly 800 entries.

The winners will be announced on Friday, but everyone on the shortlist is guaranteed a medal.

Congrats to all of them!

(In case you’re wondering, we didn’t submit anything because we’re one of the organisers of the awards.)

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Plain or Chunks? Is it a Gender Thing?

ManWoman The Ice Cream Journal put me on to the story that Mintel, a food research company, conducted a study that showed that 70% of men prefer plain flavours of ice cream such as chocolate or vanilla, while 74% of women like their ice cream with chocolate chunks or candy bits. However, that seems to be just a first preference since 66% of women also eat plain flavours and 63% of men also indulge in the fancy stuff.  

The only real loser is fruit – only one in three of either sex would choose fruit ice cream.

What do you think?

[poll id=”6″]

Another Country

Doonsheen It’s amazing how, after a long summer of rain, a bit of sunshine can make such an incredible difference. The sea suddenly looks inviting instead of angry, the landscape softens and the horizons widen.

Those of us living here, I think, appreciate again just how beautiful this country is and many of us have hastened to take advantage of this last gift of summer – a warm spell as delightful as any we’ve seen in recent years.

Barbecues have been rediscovered, swim wear retrieved from the back of the closet, sunglasses dusted off, and ice creams brazenly enjoyed by people who don’t normally indulge. It doesn’t take long to remember how to make the most of a sunny day.


While this all might sound like escapism, given the weighty issues that abound at the moment, escapism is what Ireland offers to the millions both from here and abroad who use it as a holiday destination. And why not? The world’s problems will still be around in a week or so, but at least those of us lucky enough to bask in the Irish sunshine, to swim in our seas, and to feel that stored-up cold and dampness evaporate from our very cores, will feel that bit better than we would have done without it.

Buíochas le Dia!

Ciarraí Abú – A Big Day Out

Ciarraiabu It might have been another wet summer in Ireland, and the economy doesn’t look like improving any time soon, but at least here in the Kingdom of Kerry we can look forward to a big day out in September. Kerry may not have defeated Meath in scintillating fashion, but defeat them they did, and we can now look forward to meeting Cork in the All Ireland Senior Football final. It doesn’t look like little Róisín (photo above) wont be traveling, but I am making plans already…

The Joys of Shopkeeping

mary-sm There are some who think working in a shop is a poor profession, but I have to say that the hours I manage to spend in our own shops are some of the best hours of my week. It might seem obvious, but we wouldn’t exist without our customers, and it’s good to constantly come back to that fact. It is they who keep us in business, pay our salaries, make the place lively, and decide by their purchasing decisions and suggestions what it is that we do. Making our ice cream would be meaningless without people to enjoy it, and their enjoyment creates such a buzz for me.

There is a social aspect as well, as one has the opportunity to meet so many new people. In just one example, this morning, I spent an hour or so talking to the food editor of the Vegetarian Times (photo above), a woman who loves music, loves food, lives in Brittany, and has a wealth of interesting viewpoints and information. With people like her involved, no wonder that publication has such fanatical supporters.

Last night, I wandered into our Dingle shop for an ice cream with my partner and the baby, and we had so much fun talking two sets of customers, both of whom remembered us when we first opened in 2000, that our walk went by the wayside (not that anyone, even the baby, minded that much).

In these times, when there’s so much financial gloom and negativity about the place, there is no tonic like spending time with customers – seeing things through their eyes, listening to their feedback on what we do, and remembering, through their joy with the ice cream, why we started this business in the first place.

Bandit Country? Open Letter to Sunday Times

Like many people who work in the tourist industry in Ireland, we here at Murphys Ice Cream, have been fuming for a few days over an article published in the last Sunday Times. For those of you who didn’t read it, it’s called “Bandit Country.”

It’s hard to know where to start on an article with so many flaws, one so poorly researched and seemingly a sensationalist attempt to bring a bit of profile to the author (and that did work – she repeated her nonsense on the radio). For feedback on value in Ireland, she managed to find all of two tourists with whom to talk. In quoting her prices, she clearly did not research (or conveniently ignored) the prices elsewhere, or why would she mock the Dublin Zoo for being expensive, when it is €25 less than the London Zoo for a family of four? How could she mock €27 for a bus tour around the Ring of Kerry, when a comparable bus tour in Cinque Terre in Italy would cost €60? When a jarvey in Killarney, at €35 for an hour in the spectacular Killarney National Park, is half the price of a horse and cart in Central Park? When green fees at a Killarney golf course at €35 are less than half the price of a comparable course in the US or UK? And how could she compare a package holiday to regular hotel rates?

Throwing out prices without context is such nonsense. If I told you I bought a car for €2000, was that expensive? Cheap? It’s impossible to know without knowing more about the car.

The price of ice cream in Dingle came up in the article, but instead of showing some journalistic initiative and investigating herself, she used as her source a letter to the editor of the Irish Times (“Recently I purchased three ice cream cones in Dingle. The cost? €11.40. Is this a record?” the letter asked). The answer is no. There’s more expensive ice cream both at our shop and elsewhere in the world. We’re not even sure the letter was a complaint, since the writer doesn’t mention whether he thought the ice cream was worth the price, which would be the question we would have asked. However, this particular journalist doesn’t seem interested in such questions.

Here’s a letter to the editor that my brother wrote to the Sunday Times in response to the article:

Dear Sir,

I am writing in about Gabrielle Monaghan’s article “Bandit Country” from July 5, 2009. She uses the following, flawed logic: there are exceptional (and expensive products) in Ireland, therefore we are a race of thieves and you should not vacation here. Has she no pride in what Ireland offers, and will she only be happy when we are a bargain destination with third world wages and cheap products and services?

Mention was made of three ice creams being €11.40 in Dingle. If the author was referring to Murphys Ice Cream, our goal is to make the best ice cream anywhere, not to compete on price. To use us as an example of the cost of ice cream in Ireland is like saying Jimmy Choo is representative of shoe prices in London. Are New Yorkers bandits because New York is home to Tiffany? Are Parisians bandits because Paris, the #1 tourist destination in the world, has Pierre Herme or €2000 hotel rooms? Are the Japanese bandits because in Tokyo you can pay €150 for a single melon (or €7.50 for a scoop of ice cream)? Are golfers ripped off at Hilton Head or St. Andrews, both of which have higher green fees than Killarney?

Shame on the author for believing Irish people do not deserve quality comparable to other countries. Shame on the Sunday Times for calling Irish people bandits and for not believing Ireland can compete with the best in the world.

We have a beautiful country with world-class scenery, products and services. We have hundreds of thousands of Irish people who know this and will enjoy a dream holiday at home this summer. We will be proud to serve them.

Yours etc.

Sean Murphy

Murphys Ice Cream

It’s amazing to me, that with almost half a million Irish people out of work and thousands of tourism jobs at risk, an Irish journalist would tell people to holiday elsewhere and call Irish people bandits. These are Irish people who are trying to offer great products or services to our visitors, to make a living and to provide employment in difficult times. They are not thieves.

I wish there was more pride in what Ireland has to offer and more understanding of how connected we are in this small economy. We can survive this downturn, but we are going to need a lot more positive thinking and a lot less of this kind of destructive vituperation.

Ireland is still a great place to holiday. Although it’s expensive, there are world class attractions. There are also bargains to be had at the moment. We invite anyone who can to come and see for themselves and to enjoy a wide range of offerings amidst spectacular landscapes.

Meanwhile, we hope that Ms. Monaghan takes her own advice and heads away to Crete. Permanently.

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