Sometimes it takes an outsider to bring the truth home, and CNN’s business editor Richard Quest doesn’t hold back when asked for his opinion on how Ireland is faring after the pandemic.
The Liverpool-born, New York-based presenter was in Dublin last week to cover Ireland as a destination for his travel show. Quest Wonder World.
He also did a report on the Irish economy for his most popular CNN show, Quest means businesswhich regularly attracts big-name interviewees like Microsoft’s Bill Gates and Wall Street titans Jamie Dimon.
First the good news. Quest says Ireland is friendlier than pre-Covid The quality of our food is “phenomenal” and our cost of living is “on par” with New York and London – “although by local standards it’s probably going to be expensive”.
And the bad news?
“Honestly?” he says. “Some of the places look dingy. That’s what I thought in Cork. i loved that [English] Market but buildings look tired downtown.”
Quest is a big fan of Dublin, but the city doesn’t escape his critical eye. “To put my business hat on, a city of Dublin’s size and culture needs more than what we see on the Silicon Docks,” he says.
He looks out of his hotel window at the striking buildings on the waterfront of the capital: “Yes, it’s shiny and new. That’s what it’s all about, that’s the source of income for the country. But actually you need more in a city.
“Go down to the tower, what do you see? Shops closed. This is not unique to Dublin. And it’s not just urban rot, it’s the result of the pandemic.
“Shops have closed. I see the same thing in London and New York, but new business is opening up there. I don’t know how long it will be in Ireland.”
Enjoying a full bodied Irish at Bewley’s on Grafton Street, Quest used his sausages and bacon to show viewers how Ireland was attracting the big multinationals and cleaning up corporate tax.
“It worked. When the OECD took away the tax benefits, people wanted to be here anyway because everyone else was here,” he says.
“But now what is the risk for Ireland to keep the ecosystem alive? The risk – and it’s a big one – is that you won’t be able to maintain the talent pool. If people can’t find a place to live, they won’t come.”
Will remote work change the face of Irish cities? “No,” says Quest. “The offices will be open again five days a week.
“Old farts like me can talk to other older co-workers on the phone, but Gen Z wants to meet people in the office. What people really want is flexibility. My husband wants to work at the beach sometimes in the summer and that’s fine as long as the office is the default.
“Unfortunately, Gen Z’s nature is that they want flexibility on their own terms. They completely forget it’s not really their company.”
In a career spanning 30 years, Quest has interviewed some Irish heavyweights in the business world.
Oddly enough, as I throw out the names of Denis O’Brien and Dermot Desmond, he hasn’t heard from either of them.
The “Irish aviation mafia”, on the other hand, exerts a fascination on him.
Qantas CEO Alan Joyce is a “genius” and Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary is “barking but brilliant” with a “heart of gold” to boot. “He just doesn’t want anyone to know.”
However, Quest has seen a ‘hardship’ among Irish businessmen who are successful abroad.
“They all have that great, big-hearted Irish charm and then, across the board, there’s a streak of Irish granite at their core,” he says.
“You see that again and again.
“It’s famine, it’s land hunger, it’s North-South politics. It has created a hardship in the Irish.
“Everyone – especially Americans – thinks they succeed because they’re soft and warm. Not a bit of it. The Irish are the toughest.
“You are ruthless. They will wreak havoc on you, take everything you have – and then smile and make you a cup of tea on the way out.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/the-smiling-irish-businessman-hes-ruthless-hes-the-toughest-hell-take-everything-youve-got-says-cnns-richard-quest-41675081.html “The smiling Irish businessman? He’s ruthless — he’s the toughest, he takes everything you’ve got,” says CNN’s Richard Quest