President’s Report – July 2024

President’s Report – July 2024

It was less than a week after an RAI delegation including myself met with then Minister for Finance Michael McGrath last month that it was announced the Cork man would be leaving for Brussels to fill Ireland’s next EU Commissioner spot. The big pity is that McGrath, after making comments at times which seemed to suggest the opposite over the past few months, appeared to actually really understand the plight facing our sector at that meeting and committed to strongly considering introducing the 9% VAT rate in Budget 2025.

Life goes on, however, and now we have a new Minister for Finance to engage with – Jack Chambers. We expect to meet the new Minister in the coming weeks and will be firmly communicating the same message to him that the reinstatement of the 9% VAT rate for food-led businesses is the only way to return long-term viability to our industry. Anything else will only represent a bandage solution.

In the meantime, I really do want to encourage each and every food business owner whether you operate a restaurant or café, a pub or hotel restaurant to engage with your local politicians in the weeks and months to come. Negotiations around Budget 2025 will be kicking off this month and it is pivotal that the VAT rate and the future of Ireland’s small, independent food businesses the length and breadth of the country are at the forefront of politicians’ minds. The Budget only comes around once a year so we need to make it count.

On Wednesday, a joint effort by ourselves, the Irish Hotel Federation, vintners groups and the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation will see a ‘Hospitality Briefing Day’ take place in Buswells Hotel, Dublin. Ministers, TDs and Senators will call into the hotel to talk to on-the-ground operators about the current severe challenges facing the hospitality industry and will hear about the urgent need for the 9% VAT rate to be reinstated. We hope to have at least one business owner per county, so if you are available to attend between 12.30-3.30pm on Wednesday and would like to meet your local politicians in Buswells, please contact the office to register your attendance.

Reading back over my monthly President’s Reports, it strikes me that at no stage recently have things properly gotten easier for us all. Some weeks are busier than others, some months are better than others, but the underlying challenges of running a food business in Ireland in 2024 remain. Demand is pressurised and costs are out of control. It’s not a surprise, as such, that closures continue to hit our industry so hard. They’ll continue to do so if the Government fails to make Budget 2025 the Budget of VAT9. One thing is for sure – they certainly won’t be able to say they were not warned.

Yours in hospitality, 

Paul Lenehan

President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland

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