When I look back at my 2-year tenure as the President of the Restaurants Association of Ireland I will remember October 2018 as giving me one of my highest and one of my lowest points.
At the beginning of October, a county in Ireland received not one, but three Michelin stars, that county just so happens to be where I was born and raised, Cork. This was a celebration and recognition of Irish produce and of the great Irish chefs we have in this country. As an association we have always been battling the perception of Irish food abroad and it is days like this that will change that perception. Also, what is uplifting about this is that two of those restaurants are in rural Ireland, so if you’re good enough they will come! I would like to congratulate all the other restaurants who gained their Bibs and who retained their Stars and Bibs.
Two Weeks later the government stuck a knife into the heart of the restaurant industry by increasing our VAT back to 13.5%. In doing so they showed no understanding of what it takes to open and run a restaurant in Ireland. They are asking us to get Brexit ready and they do this to us. The margins most of us run on are so tight that I fear for our industry’s future. As an association we will continue to fight this increase and as a general election looms our demands have not changed. We may never see 9% again but we will fight to the end to get it reduced.
Another issue which the politicians showed no regard for is impact the increase will have on food produce. There is one industry which is very close to my heart which I feel is in even greater trouble than ourselves and will affect us too, that is the fishing industry.
My 4 brothers in law have been fishing two boats for the last 25 years and in the last three months both have decided to sell up. This industry is being destroyed by red tape, EU Regulations, unrealistic quotas, and the lack of fish in Irish seas due to the overfishing of Spanish and French trawlers, I could go on and on. The bottom line is, we will soon be an island serving fish from waters that don’t surround us, how ridiculous is that!
Sorry I couldn’t be more cheerful in my report