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Ireland’s No 1 NEUTRAL

Buoyant Cork looks to the future page: 2

Logistics experts make themselves scarce page: 14

Calm before the storm

Everybody in Ireland – North and South – is watching and waiting to see what sort of Brexit the politicians in Westminster and Brussels deliver. Ireland may have little or no say in the outcome, but there is much at stake.

Making hay while the sun shines?

Ireland’s economy chalked up another exceptional performance in 2018, says the Economic and Social Research Institute

(ESRI) with gross

domestic product expected to grow by 8.2%. Such high levels are of course

not sustainable (and arguably not wholly desirable either) but ESRI’s forecast for 2019 is still for 4.2% in 2019, heady stuff by the standards of any developed European country. There

is however one

caveat, say the economists. They assume that “the UK’s continued membership in the EU will eff ectively remain in place aſt er March 2019. However, the economy faces an unprecedented degree of uncertainty in 2019; the outcome of the Brexit process, combined with the possibility of increased international trade tensions, could have signifi cant implications for the economy’s performance.” ESRI warns that if the UK fi nds

itself subject to WTO tariff s, this could almost halve Ireland’s growth in 2019. In that situation, growth might be around 2-3%

- quite respectable by the standards of most European nations but rather unexciting by recent experience. Meanwhile, though, Ireland’s

international trade has reached astonishing heights in the past year. The value of goods exports rose 15% in 2018 to a record €140.8 billion – and this despite a fall in the amount of goods sold to the UK, which was off set by increases to almost all other major trading partners.

Indeed: “The Irish

export-led economy has been the best performing in the European Union since 2014,” it said. The strong export

performance is good news for the freight industry, but the fact that imports rose by a similar percentage – 14% - to hit €90.2 billion - is likewise encouraging, helping to keep physical fl ows in balance.

Slow progress in Ulster

Northern Ireland’s economic growth has tended to be much more measured, even with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement and the years of peace that have followed.

Nevertheless, Conor Lambe,

chief economist at one of the province’

has been s leading fi nancial

institutions, Danske Bank recently pointed out that employment


and indeed the number of jobs reached a record 765,880 in September. The

Chancellor has also

announced a Belfast City Region Deal – which despite its name applies to well beyond the city’s boundaries including Newry near the port town of Warrenpoint – which will bring £350 million of funding to the province. House- building is also on the up aſt er years of stagnation. But the uncertainty over Brexit

remains a drag on the economy and indeed, some would argue that Northern Ireland is more vulnerable to its eff ects than any other part of the British Isles. Lambe considers that it has adversely aff ected businesses’ willingness to invest. As if these problems weren’t

enough, Northern Ireland has now gone almost two years without a functioning government which is severely aff ecting business confi dence.

Waterford may not be Europe, or even Ireland’s biggest port, but it is certainly one with potential. Described by chief executive Frank Ronan as “a mainly bulk port with a small container operation”, both sectors have plenty of scope


for future expansion, he says. Bulk business grew to 1.7m

tonnes in 2018 but has the potential to increase signifi cantly - using current facilities - to well over 2m tonnes, perhaps 2.7m


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