In a week when Northern Ireland’s chartered accountants said that the dual market access afforded to Northern Ireland post-Brexit is our biggest opportunity for growth in the next decade, guess who begged to differ? Yep, Jim Allister and his TUV cronies. The views of expert professional business advisers count for nothing when you count yourself as a professional opponent of all things protocol, whether it makes any sense or not.


Accountants, business owners, experienced entrepreneurs, economists…..they can all whistle into the wind as far as Jim, Sammy Wilson and the massed ranks of protocol opponents care. It’s a big thing for Jim and the TUV. With lots of candidates running, he can smell the big time coming over the horizon, he can almost touch his moment in the sun.

But let’s be honest. None of them, Jim included, look all that likely to be in the winner’s enclosure come early July.

He was grasping at straws once again this week when he drew attention to an apparent EU ban on smoke flavourings. He clearly pores through every new EU regulation that’s issued looking for something that either offends him or might offend some of his like-minded souls.

It’s all the result of a tale that’s tenuous at best. More likely, it’s completely irrelevant. But the TUV weaved it into a warning that Smoky (sic) Bacon crisps produced by our leading crisp manufacturer might be under threat. There could soon, Jim fumed, be a ‘smoky bacon border’ with Britain.

Heavens to Betsy, his followers would soon be saying, more EU madness is being imposed on us against our will. We must take to the streets. Or, at least, we must vote TUV in the coming elections.

Of course, none of this will come to anything. Tayto will keep on producing Smoky Bacon crisps without impediment and we’ll all live happy ever after.

As for those who vote for the TUV, they’ll do little but encourage the demise of various DUP and other unionist candidates, big Gavin Robinson included.

When it comes to the protocol, framework, whatever you want to call it, it’s best, perhaps, to listen to the chartered accountants. They might just know better.

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EXCUSES, EXCUSES

It’s fair to say that Rishi Sunak doesn’t often think about Northern Ireland. He certainly doesn’t at the moment, and he didn’t when he panicked the other week and decided to call an election for the 4th of July.

As Sam McBride rightly pointed out in the Belfast Telegraph last week, there are plenty of distractions around this part of the world in early July. For starters, our kids get off school at the end of the previous week and holiday season kicks in. The annual exodus to Portsalon, Portugal or Palma begins, the flights are bunged and the annual sweatfest can begin (although not if you’re going to Portsalon, to be fair).

Next up there’s the marching season, well under starter’s orders come early July, what with the 1st July parades and so on. Will it affect voting intentions? Big Gavin and Wee Jim will certainly hope so.

But the election diversions don’t end there. There’ll be wall to wall football on the telly with the Euros in full swing. Not that that will affect anyone’s electoral preferences. Or it’s hard to see how in any case.

Sam McBride points out one more factor. A certain Jeffrey Donaldson is due in court once again on 3rd July down in Newry. Will his appearance impact? It’s always possible, isn’t it?

As for ourselves, we’ll not be in Portsalon or Portugal. We’ll not be marching. The rugby season will be over. And we can watch and read about Jeffrey’s court appearance without it changing our mind on whose name we’ll place our coveted ‘X’ next to.

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SUNAK STUNS STARMER

We’re not usually a big fan of political debates but we quite enjoyed the Sunak v Starmer battle the other night. With Rishi cast as the plucky underdog, he did a decent job of making Starmer look a bit dithery and indecisive on a number of occasions.

Will it make much of a difference come election day? It seems unlikely. Everyone seems to think that Sir Keir is a bit of a shoe-in, and everyone can’t be wrong. Can they?

His greatest enemy, in the end, might just be apathy. He doesn’t want too many people to assume that it’s all a foregone conclusion and sit at home watching A Place In The Sun when they should be out voting.

The UK media got all hot and sweaty this week with the re-birth – yet again – of Nigel Farage who is going to lead the Reform Party into battle and try to become an MP himself once again.

He’s a bit like the national equivalent of Jim Allister is Nigel. Only perhaps just a tad more charismatic and media friendly. And he smiles occasionally, even when he’s wearing a banana milkshake.

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BLOT ON THE LANDSCAPE

Not content with staging a mock crucifixion by nailing some poor unfortunate to a fence the other month, the loyalists of the North Antrim coast covered themselves in the opposite of glory once again this week.

Outraged that a visiting sailor should tie his boat up in Portballintrae’s harbour with an Irish flag flying from its stern, the neanderthals confronted the guilty party, had a bit of a fight and then return to set his boat on fire, destroying it and leaving it a smouldering wreck in the pretty harbour.

What a welcome to a picturesque village in the heart of Northern Ireland’s showpiece tourist region, and what a way to encourage more visiting yachts to make their way to our shores. And each one of them, as the Bushmen of Bushmills should realise, has to fly a national flag.

Fortunately, the offenders didn’t make it too difficult for the PSNI to pick them up and three were arrested at the scene. The PSNI later said that the incident is being treated as a sectarian-motivated hate crime. Let’s hope they throw the book at them.

With the Open Championship coming back just up the road to Portrush next summer, and tourist numbers on the up, we don’t need idiots like those three.

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STARTING ‘EM YOUNG

Staying on the north coast…..The new mayor of Causeway Coast and Glens has said he “will amplify the voices and aspirations of our youth” in the borough. And he should be able to do that fairly well, ‘cos he’s just 22 years old.
It does seem a bit on the wet behind the ears side for a Mayor, but that’s just our old man attitude kicking in, one supposes. Why shouldn’t Ciaran McQuillan make a good first citizen, although there might be a few die-hards around Bushmills who don’t agree?
Mayors are all the rage at the moment. While Ciaran was taking the chain of office in Coleraine, up the road in Derry, Lillian Seenoi-Barr, a former Kenyan refugee, was being anointed as the new Mayor of Derry & Strabane.
Meanwhile, down in the big smoke, Micky Murray was hoisting the hefty chain of office over his shoulders. Micky, in case you hadn’t noticed, isn’t 22 years old and nor is he of the Afro-Caribbean persuasion. But he is Belfast’s first openly gay first citizen….a phrase that always seems to infer that one of the previous Mayors might well have been gay too, but not quite so open about it as Micky.
For those of us of older vintages, it’s all positive but it’s all a learning curve. Back in the day, it was easy to spot a Mayor. He was the portly, grey-haired Protestant man in the suit and tie.

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FACES OF FAMILY BUSINESS

Hats off to the team at Harbinson Mulholland and the Ulster University Business School for their excellent Faces Of Family Business TV series, the first episode of which aired the other night on Belfast’s NVTV channel.
In the six episodes, Harbinson Mulholland’s Darren McDowell and Ulster University’s Dr. Ian Smyth chat to six different family businesses home grown here in Northern Ireland – the McKeever Hotel Group, retailers Menary’s, Morelli’s Ice Cream, cider and apple juice producers Long Meadow, food distributors Lynas and construction group Henry Brothers.
The various family business leaders talk openly about the challenges of running a family enterprise, trials, tribulations, succession issues and much more besides.
It’s a fascinating watch, and much-needed coverage for the family business sector here in Northern Ireland. Available on demand via www.nvtv.co.uk

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SPANISH SUNSETS

There’ll be no Business Eye blog next week as we head off on a short pre-election break to one of Spain’s quieter (we hope) coastal regions for a spot of sun, sea, sangria and the rest.
We’ll be back well on time to follow the later stages of the election build-up and, of course, to cast our vote in one of the tighter contests in North Down, where the DUP has stepped aside but two unionists will still do battle with the incumbent Stephen Farry.
We can’t wait. Although, on thinking about it, maybe we can.

richard@businesseye.co.uk

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Charles Hurst MPU2 - 14 July 24
HOLD MPU 2
Football, Flags, Families & Farage

In a week when Northern Ireland’s chartered accountants said that the dual market access afforded to Northern Ireland post-Brexit is our biggest opportunity for growth in the next decade, guess who begged to differ? Yep, Jim Allister and his TUV cronies. The views of expert