Fianna Fáil TD : Tesco should leave Ireland

There has been some discussion of comments made by Ned O’Keffe, FF TD for Cork East, over at politics.ie and True Economics. Details of what he actually said are below the fold.

I find it difficult to disagree with Constantin Gurdgiev’s assesment

This is either delusional or clinically mad. And it comes from a sitting TD. In fact, the statement is so historically, economically and socially illiterate, Mr O’Keeffe deserves no comment on this blog other than one word: FRIGHTENING!A local Cork newspaper reported –


Deputy O’Keeffe believes that the UK supermarket chain has been very negative for Ireland since buying out Quinnsworth and Crazy Prices in 1997.

“What has Tesco offered us since they came over to Ireland?” said Deputy O’Keeffe.

“We were far better off as when we had Quinnsworth or Crazy Prices in operation in this country and since they were purchased by Tesco it’s had a very negative impact on the retail sector and food suppliers in every part of Ireland.

“I think we would be better off if Tesco were to leave Ireland altogether. Their absence from the Irish market would be taken up by other supermarkets who would fill the gap and hopefully it would lead to less exploitation of Irish food suppliers.

“They’ve done enough damage to the sector and I really wish they would leave Ireland before they cause more Irish food suppliers to go under, resulting in more job losses.

We’ve already seem the damage that foreign banks have done to Ireland and how the Irish banks were forced to make up for their mistakes. Well the same could happen in the retailing sector with the foreign retailers such as Tesco ruining the Irish supermarket industry and putting thousands of people out of work around the country”, Deputy O’Keeffe concluded.

So there you have it. It’s not about protecting consumers and ensuring they are able to access goods and services at the best price, but rather it’s about enabling Irish producers to charge whatever they wish for their products. Is it any wonder Ireland is so expensive?

  • Neil

    Almost sounds like the BNP or something, foreign banks out – foreign business out – foreign builders out etc. Mad though all the same: the Irish answer to the recession – not more jobs, less jobs. Plus Crazy Prices was shit.

  • Mick Fealty

    I thought I’d blogged that story the moment I got the release. I thought it extraordinary. On one hand, you can see where he is coming from. Tescos has made a fortune out of selling Irish goods at Irish prices. But in one fell swoop, those Irish food processors who still managed to stay in the Tescos game are likely to be toast. This has trauma written all over it. In BLOCK CAPITALS.

    Yet it is the inevitable outworking of that small open economy that brought all that beautiful prosperity in the first place. Another reason for FF to seek the opposition benches after June?

  • CS Parnell

    Well, the old Republican myths die the hardest. Just when you thought it was impossible for the boys to blame the Saxon foe for how they’d fecked the country up, along comes one on a gobshite special to prove you wrong.

    Fianna Fail delenda est.

  • Mack

    Mick –

    Ah. So that’s what this was :-

    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/fianna-fail-says-back-to-the-future-without-tesco/

    I only came across it this morning, so you were way ahead there – if only it had submitted correctly.

  • fin

    Mack, by protecting producers from been forced into selling at silly prices you are protecting consumers, animals and the environment by ensuring a better quality locally produced product.

    Anyway although the big supermarkets force prices down with suppliers they tend to pocket the difference themselves and are actually poor value for money, my local market sell veg for about 20% of the price of tesco’s ie a kilo of cherry tomatoes for a quid and 10-12 peppers for a quid. My local butcher is owned by people who know meat, source locally and sell real meat not slabs of tasteless pink sponge, also a wide range including oxtail and hamhocks etc and make their own sausages minus the eyelids and gristle found in the supermarket offering.

    Supermarkets are the scourge of communities, producers and decent food.

  • Mack

    Fin –

    by protecting producers from been forced into selling at silly prices you are protecting consumers

    Surely not? You would be subsidising uncompetitive businesses. If Irish producers of a particular good or service can’t compete, even locally, then surely we’d all be better off if they jacked it in and focused their energies and capital on activities where they can be competitive? (And the rest of us would divert the cash saved to spending on products from more viable enterprises or savings & investments). No one is ever forced to sell at a silly price, if you think the market price is silly is probably a sign that you simply can’t compete..

    Proper competition amongst retailers should drive prices down for consumers, at least we’re getting a dose of real competition thanks to the M1! Though Tesco are going half-hearted at this, reducing prices only in boarder regions. We shouldn’t be demanding Tesco leave, we should be demanding Wal-mart, Sainsburies and Carrefour set up shop here too!

  • Dave

    He’s right about the foolishness of allowing food distribution to be controlled by foreign companies who, of course, do not operate in the national interest. It is absolutely essential for the Irish food industry that these companies support it. These smaller start-ups don’t have the benefit of scale that allows them to compete with the imports that these foreign companies specialise in and they will never get any scale at all if they are frozen out of the local food distribution network. Most food in Ireland is imported and distributed by these foreign companies at rip off prices compared to the prices they charge consumers for it in their UK stores. We need to recognise that we are a nation with a national interest, and we need to regain our sovereignty and start acting accordingly.

  • Ulsters my homeland

    Don’t be surprised if another TD calls for the use of gas and a favourable wind towards Britain.

  • Mack

    Dave – Milton Friedman would be turning in his grave 😉

  • I was on my way to that Award thing last week, and it was the last thing I did before running a mercy errand…

  • a northern whig

    “So there you have it. It’s not about protecting consumers and ensuring they are able to access goods and services at the best price, but rather it’s about enabling Irish producers to charge whatever they wish for their products. Is it any wonder Ireland is so expensive?”

    The only thing which has made TESCO even begin to start addressing retail prices in recent years is competition – cross-border from the North and from discount suppliers such as Lidl.

    TESCO’s strategic approach is not to provide the best choice, the best value or the best service. It’s simply to win a game of prisoner’s dilemma by being the first to replace the entire high street with one big ugly shed, and building such monopoly that no competitior can justify investing in further, potentially non-profitable, competing sites. It’s the strategy of the Airbus 380 – there can be only one.

    If you want greater price competition how about preventing any one supermarket from taking more than 20% of a town’s total market. TESCO have more than 50% of Inverness’s market and AFAIK Inverness isn’t renowned for its cheap prices. How about a minimum charge (at least the same as town centre parking) for parking in car-parks with over 20 spaces, to be collected like the charge for plastic bags?

    Better still, let our Borough Councils build us some really attractive covered markets for independent producers and co-ops.

    Re the similarity between TESCO and rapacious “foreign” banks. It’s their willingness to use borrowed money to take out the competition. TESCO have consistently higher gearing than their competitors. They also have the meanest buyers and lawyers. Bargaining is about power. TESCO have too much of it.

  • Fergus D

    Lots of people in the UK have serious issues with Tesco. Mack may like to reduce it all to lower food prices, but there may be a “cost” to lower prices (if indeed they are). Choice and our urban environment being two.

  • Mack

    a northern whig –

    Ned O’Keef’s comments on the ‘similarity’ between Tescos and the Irish banking situation were beyond economically illiterate. Irish banks, in particular Anglo-Irish bank led the charge. Anglo led in terms of developer loans, while PTSB led the buy-to-let market, and EBS pushed out salary multiple for first time buyers to well beyond prudent boundaries.

  • Mack

    Fergus D –

    Deputy O’Keeffe is arguing Tescos should leave Ireland because they are not paying Irish producers enough for their products. This at a time when Irish (Republic) supermarkets charge their customers significantly more than supermarkets north of the border.

  • a northern whig

    I’ll take your point re the banks Mack. Maybe I just have a special place in my heart for TESCO.

    When my wife pulled up outside the new TESCO’s in Bangor my five year old asked “why are we at the airport?”. Bangor’s isn’t even an “Extra” yet!

    Shops this size are a crime against good neighbourliness, economic diversity, self-determination and, probably, nature.

  • Joe

    We need a better looking taoiseach. That’ll solve most of our problems if not all.

  • fin

    Mack, Its not that simple, local producers in the UK and Ireland cannot compete with other countries with much lower animal welfare standards or much lower standards in the use of chemicals or GM seeds for fruit and veg.

  • Mack

    Fin – We have the CAP subsidies, regulations and standards. It’s not just food producers. Question is, how come prices are so much lower in the UK? Is it because they sell more foreign sourced good there?

  • Reader

    fin: and are actually poor value for money, my local market sell veg for about 20% of the price of tesco’s ie a kilo of cherry tomatoes for a quid and 10-12 peppers for a quid.
    So buy from the market instead of Tesco then. We do. But it seems that Tesco are adding something else to the deal that the local market doesn’t – for instance; free parking, one stop shopping, credit card sales, ready-made meals and unseasonable availability.
    a northern whig : When my wife pulled up outside the new TESCO’s in Bangor…
    Does your wife share your opinion of Tesco?

  • fin

    Reader, we do, not only for price but its a nicer experience, and you are right about what else is on offer, this sad because from my experience and from what I’ve seen in Europe, going to a butchers, then a greengrocer, then a bakery etc, gives something more to the meal produced at the end, we are lucky with have a local highstreet like this near us but they are disappearing

    Mack, the price of everything is lower in the UK even London, an average pint is 2.60(ish) good old wetherspoons do beer for £1.50, but then pensions, unemployment benefit, student grants and the average wage are also a lot lower.

    But supermarkets vary greatly, M&S and Waitrose are silly prices, Tesco, Asda etc in the middle, Aldi and Lidl silly cheap.

  • a northern whig

    “Does your wife share your opinion of Tesco?”

    If anything she’s more fervently anti, having delivered a few contracts for them.

    She’s a Sainsbury’s, a St George’s Market and a Davy Burns the Butcher fan.

  • Driftwood

    Does the RoI not have ASDA?

  • George

    “from my experience and from what I’ve seen in Europe, going to a butchers, then a greengrocer, then a bakery etc”

    Try find a butcher in Germany these days after a couple of decades of Lidl and Aldi.

    Driftwood,
    no ASDA and no Sainsbury’s although there were rumours over the last year that there might be a move for Dunnes by the WalMart group. That seems to have died down now.

  • Ned does have the perspective of the pig farmer (helpful when he’s talking about pigs, less so when he’s talking about other things) and that of the protectionist (of his political fief). I happen to come from his part of Co. Cork.

    However, it is not entirely fair to simply state economics prevails when it comes to food production. More and more the concept of local food is penetrating the public thinking as one way to preserve the environment. This is not to say that imports should be discouraged, more that government policy should examine producer costs and taxation and whether anything can be done to ensure producers are competitive without simply paying them a subsidy.

    For instance, the government could find ways to encourage and subsidise, in co-operation with local authorities, the concept of farmers market where the producers could operate without business licence or stall rental charges with the understanding that they would offer their produce at equivalent prices to what they would charge wholesalers. Farmers markets here in Toronto tend to attract other entrepreneurial businesses like small bakeries, confectioners, pottery makers and the like. It won’t replace Tescos but it gives farmers an opportunity to choose an alternative business model which has been traditional to but lost from many towns.

  • Also: read the rest of the Avondhu’s output (such as the letters page) and ask yourself how well Deputy O’Keeffe’s opinion in tone and thinking syncs with its readership compared to one of the national dailies. I assure you that any outrage expressed from outside the locality will simply reflect itself in higher 1st prefs next time out – as it has done many times before.

  • a northern whig

    “Farmers markets here in Toronto tend to attract other entrepreneurial businesses like small bakeries, confectioners, pottery makers and the like.”

    There’s a great big gaping hole in Bangor’s Queen’s Parade that would make a lovely sea-side covered market if we could just repossess it from the useless developer. Plenty of room for a theatre. It could be North Down’s English Market. We could have a terrace of cafes and restaurants (like the English Market) but overlooking the Marina too. I like the idea of free/reduced rate pitches for start-ups.

    Come to think of it, the “market house” is a very Norn Iron thing. Every town should have a posh new one.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Market_houses_in_Northern_Ireland

  • Harry Flashman

    “So buy from the market instead of Tesco then.”

    As a die-hard believer in the free market that would be my sentiment in the same way that I will tell people who do not like Ryanair to quit whingeing and simply fly with some other airline but in the case of the small food retailers and the likes of Tesco there isn’t a fair market which allows both to prosper equally.

    I guarantee you if I went to that market I could find grounds to shut it down immediately on food hygiene or health and safety rules.

    I worked in a small family run food retailers and we were almost always cheaper than Tescos or Sainsburys and our customers were those people who shopped on price rather than on convenience but I have to tell you it was a god awful nightmare trying to run such a business when it came to the authorities. If one were to actually obey all the regulations you’d have to take on a full time member of staff just to allow the management and the rest of the staff to get on with the business of actually selling food.

    A few examples off hand, the law requires you to record the temperatures of all fridges, freezers and cooler cabinets at least twice a day, the temperatures must be recorded on paper and the records have to be kept for a year for inspection; all food handlers have to attend a compulsory food hygiene certificate course to be paid by the employers and involving the staff members taking an afternoon off work every week for ten weeks (this applied to all staff even the skilled workers who had been in their trade for thirty or more years and had somehow managed to avoid poisoning vast swathes of their customers in that time); all food being delivered must have its temperature checked, all food leaving on a delivery must have its temperature checked, again the checks must be recorded and kept for a year for inspection; all cleaning procedures must be inspected, written down and the records kept.

    I could go on about general risk assessments, fair employment legislation, dismissal procedures, weights and measures, public liability requirements, fire regulations and all before we even talk about the parking restrictions and the planning legislation.

    So you see the government has massively stacked the deck against the small entrepreneur. It is of course no surprise that perhaps 98% of this stuff comes straight down the pipe from Brussels as that is the way the EU likes things, they like big corporatist government where the state officials deal only with a small number of big government approved enterprises who will happily conform to government legislation in return for a semi-monopoly and those irritating free-minded self employed can just piss off and stop being so damned independent.

  • Congal Claen

    Farmers have fleeced consumers for decades. I for one am glad that Tesco is forcing them to reduce prices. If it’s all about buying British/Irish then maybe farmers should have started the ball rolling and bought locally produced cars or machinery. But they didn’t. All big Toyota or Mitsibushi jeeps, etc. So fek them.