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Seán Quinn to tell his story in his own words – again

Irish drinks company to appoint liquidator; getting up earlier for work; and Bloom’s rising prices

Those of you planning to bring Seán Quinn’s autobiography on your summer holiday will have to wait until July. The former billionaire has finished In His Own Words, according to Gerry Kelly, managing director of Orpen Press, his publisher. It was due to appear this month but is “now going through the legal process”, says Kelly. We imagine that could be arduous. “There’s no rush from our end to get it out,” adds Kelly. “We have to make sure, from a legal point of view, to make it as clear as we can.”

Quinn, we’re told, did not use a ghostwriter, so these really are his own words, but he did get some help from his children. “It’s a family get-together,” says Kelly.

According to advance publicity material about the 260-page paperback given to booksellers, Quinn will “correct some of the falsehoods that have been propagated” about him. “Many people have already sought to tell the Sean Quinn story, but now, for the first time, Quinn details his side of the story,” it says.

The first time – really? We seem to remember a three-part TV series, Quinn Country, broadcast by RTÉ just last November in which the former tycoon and his wife, Patricia, gave their side of the story in considerable detail.


That’s a wrap for Irish drinks company

Nominees at the Academy Awards’ pre-event reception in 2021 found a drink called Mude in their expensive gift bags. It came from The Naked Collective, an Irish healthy-drinks company launched two years earlier by Niall Phelan and Catherina Butler. Mude was also offered backstage at the Emmy awards in 2022. “It was such a pleasure to help celebrate with all the talented people that were nominated,” its Facebook page posted afterwards, “and what better way to celebrate than with some Mude.”

Another celebrity associated with the brand was Rita Ora, an English singer-songwriter. She posted to Instagram about working with Mude on a live-streamed event in Paris in 2021. Phelan said the collaboration had been set up through a mutual contact.

After some teething difficulties due to Covid, the Naked Collective’s high-profile marketing campaign led to a series of distribution deals across the United States, Canada and Britain. Trading as “carbon neutral”, among the drinks it has offered as being “good for us and our planet” is the non-alcoholic SoBeer.

Mude has gone decidedly flat, however. A meeting of Naked Collective’s creditors has been called for June 8th to appoint a liquidator to the company.

The people who get up earlier in the morning, and then drive to work

Good news for Leo Varadkar – the number of people who get up early in the morning has increased, according to Census 2022. There has been a 23 per cent jump in those leaving home before 6.30am, and a 47 per cent increase in the number of commuters setting off between 6.30am and 7am.

That has meant a concomitant decrease in a group presumably less favoured by the Taoiseach – those who get up a bit later in the morning. “Fewer commuters left home between 9am and 9.30am to go to work, down by over 50 per cent compared with 2016,” the census report finds.

Perhaps people are getting up earlier because the average time it takes to get to work continues to increase – last year it was just over 29 minutes. In what is surely an indictment of our public transport system, the number of people driving to work increased by 4 per cent between 2016 and 2022, with 4 per cent fewer commuting by train, Luas or Dart.

Siteserv inquiry’s final report

The words “not commercially sound” must be the most expensive in the English language. Their inclusion in the terms of reference of the Siteserv inquiry “added years to the completion of its report”, according to Justice Brian Cregan, in a closing memo he has sent to government. Asking his commission to investigate whether the €45 million sale of Siteserv to businessman Denis O’Brien was “commercially sound”, says Cregan, meant he had to check the transaction for its commercial outcome but also “for impropriety, wrongdoing and unlawful activity”.

The investigation took seven years, and the Taoiseach told the Dáil on Tuesday the final bill was expected to be “in the region of €19 million”. In the cost breakdown provided by Justice Cregan, rent of premises for the commission comes to €1.1 million, while the bill for stenographers to transcribe 250 days of oral evidence is €962,914.

What will surely irk the taxpayer most, however, is that the Siteserv inquiry had to set up a dedicated room for the hearing of evidence. The cost of fitting this out, including with IT, is more than €63,000. “This money is now essentially wasted,” Justice Cregan points out, “as the hearing room infrastructure has now been dismantled.”

Irish man seeks magazine correction over Russia link

Chris Weafer from Westmeath, a former head of research at Irish Life, has asked Time magazine for a correction after it erroneously referred to him as a “Putin economic adviser”. Weafer, now based in Russia, is a founding partner of Macro-Advisory, an independent consultancy that provides research to corporations and investors working in the region. Before that he spent two years as chief strategist in Sberbank, but Time wrongly thought he was still there. In an article on May 1st, written by two Yale academics, it called him “a strategist at sanctioned, scandalised Sberbank” and said the Irish man was “perhaps not the most objective source” on the Russian economy.

“The comment is incorrect in that I left Sberbank in mid-2013,” says Weafer. “My role was market strategist dealing with international investors in the Russia-Eurasia region – never chief economist, and I never [did] any work for the Russian government either before or since. So the reference is factually wrong, and no idea where it came from. Our lawyers are dealing with it to ensure deletion or correction.”

Central Bank joins gold rush

The Central Bank of Ireland joined an international gold rush last year, according to its recently published annual report. At the end of 2022 the bank had an investment portfolio with assets worth €16.7 billion, with gold accounting for €659 million of that, up from €492 million the year before. This was in line with a global trend, since many central banks snapped up the safe-haven asset due to rising inflation and the global economic uncertainty.

The Central Bank’s stash consists of coins it holds, and gold bars held at the Bank of England and Banque de France. No further gold has been bought in 2023, the bank tells me, which is also in tune with the international trend. Demand from central banks fell in the first quarter, according to the World Gold Council, suggesting the gold rush has come to an end.

Bloom’s rising ticket prices

Last month Minister of State Neale Richmond said he had had an “open and frank conversation” with retailers about the factors driving inflation for grocery goods, which is higher than the general rate of inflation. It might be time for the Minister to have a similar chat with Bord Bia about inflation in the price of tickets for Bloom, the five-day food and flowers show in the Phoenix Park, which opened yesterday.

In 2019 standard one-day tickets cost €22.50, including the €2.50 booking fee. When Bloom came back in 2022, after missing two years due to Covid, the adult day ticket had crept up to €25. This year it’s €30 (including booking fees) and parking will cost you an extra €5.

In 2019, the generally accepted benchmark for comparing attendances, some 115,000 visitors attended Bloom, including 20,000 children. According to Bord Bia’s annual report for that year, “among consumers there was a spend of €9 million over the five days with another €24 million post-event spend on plants alone”. A case of bloom and boom.

Accepting that ticket prices have increased since last year, Bord Bia noted that Bloom was a not-for-profit event and said the increase in prices was necessary “to continue to deliver the festival to a high standard in the face of increased production costs”.