Corrs Corner

Editor Frank Corr gives his views on the hospitality and tourism industries, shares anecdotes and gossip and welcomes your contributions.

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John Brown's Pension

'Seamus, there's a PQ here from Sinn Fein about John Brown's pension. Can you look it up'
'Well, Tadgh, we have a John Brown who is an ex Minnister and is getting around €40k. Then we have a John Brown who is a TD and gets €10,000'
'Anybody else ?'
'Well, there's a guy who worked for Bord na Mona and a few ex Gardai and three National Teachers'
'And how about the fella whose body lies moulding in the grave?'
'Yeah-we are still paying him.'
'What do they all come to ?'
'Just short of a million'
'Fine- we'll round it up for safety's sake'
'That should keep the Shinners talking'

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Farewell Grangegorman

A quarter of a century has passed since the idea of consolidatiing DIT at Grangegorman was first mooted. Indeed I thiink that I was writing about the idea ever before DIT came into existence.

Now, with a rub of the Government erasure, this enlightened idea has been swept aside.

So to-day my thoughts are with those who had the original concept, people like Bob Lawlor who worked on its development for many years, the planners, designers, architects who had made an input over decades, the academics who had worked out the fine detail of bringing several diverse colleges together on a single campus and the boys and girls still at school who dreamed of being educated at a new state of the art Institute.

Surely this is a huge missed oppportunity to create somethign special in Irish third level education and perhaps lead to a new University. The economics made perfect sense during the Celtic Tiger era and it is galling to think now that the various DIT colleges could have been sold four or five years ago and that the proceeds would virtually pay for the new campus.

It is only a slight consolation that some elements of the project may still go ahead.

But it is not to be. Maybe, sometime when property values increase and we have a Government prepared to make Third Level education a high priority, the project might bve revived.

But I wouldn't be holding my breath

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Lies and Stats

News from Belfast leaves me breathless. The MTV Awards were watched by 'a potential audience of 632 milllion' and generated 'an estimated £10m for the local economy'

Except that they didn't.

Statistics bandied about regarding tv audience figures invariably eminate from the promoters of events like the Ryder Cup or the MTV awards and are usually grossly exaggerated. Nobody is really going to count up all the people who may or may not have a tv set turned on while the MTV awards are being shown nor can they  measure those that bother to watch. In the case of 'contributions to the local economy', the benefit of events such as concerts, football games or festivals is all too often 'estimated' by somebody dashing out a press release.

The wonder is that the media take these statistics at face value and repeated publication gives them a certain credibility. For more than two decades I was associated with an Irish festival which claimed to attract '40,000 visitors' to its host town. The number never changed, irrespeective of the weather, the economic situation or the quality of the festival programme. Yet, it was reported faithfully every year.

Another piece of statistical inexactitude are the figures for visitor spending. The CSO can make a fair shot at counting visitor numbers because the carriers issue tickets, but spending estimates are merely based on surveys, the results of which are grossed up. They may be accurate- but nobody really knows because they are not actual statistics.

So, when you hear that an event is watched by ten billion tv viewers and generates a zillion to the economy of your town or village- just remember that there are lies, damn lies and statistics.

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Could Bill Fire Silvio ?

Italy could use hotelier Bill Cullen right now. Not to tell them how to run their hotels, but to say to Silvio Berlusconi 'Your Fired'.

Silvio must be the cutest hoor in Europe and would leave the legendary Bertie in the shade. Imagine surviiving 50 Confidence Votes. As I write, he is gone and he is not gone. He has said that he is going, but he is still there and says he will remain until some law is passed in Parliament. Does anyone believe for a moment that he will just slip away quietly. Certainly the bond traders don't and that's why they are dumping Italian bonds faster than a Milanese barista serving espressos.

The difficulty in firing Silvio reminded me of a true story of a few decades ago. A wealthy hotelier was served a poorly-cooked breakfast in his own five star property and immediatelty instructed the manager to fire the hapless breakfast chef, which he did with exceptional haste.

A few hours later the hotelier was driving towards a nearby city when he noticed a young man hitch hiking. He pulled the Merc over and gave the lad a lift.

'What do you do for a living ?', the hotelier asked.

'I'm a chef'

'Are you working ?'

'Not at the moment'.

Whereupon the hotelier performed a U turn, sped back to his hotel and marched the young man up to meet the manager.

'Have you replaced the breakfast chef yet ?', he asked.

'Well- no sir', said the manager.

'Well you have now', the hotelier told him, introducing his new protegee.

And so a breakfast chef was fired and re-hired before the dishes had been even washed.

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Leo and the Rabbits

Way back in the 1950s, James Dillon, a Fine Gael Minister,  predicted that before very long, rabbits would be running free on the runway at the then fledgling Shannon Airport.

Neither he nor Fine Gael were ever allowed to forget those words, which have been used as a rallying call during the many occasions in which the future of the airport has been at risk.

Now it seems Minister Leo Varadkar has a similar outlook for Shannon. Judging by his downbeat comments at the weekend,  the County Clare airport would seem to have no real future. He will not provide subsidies, he will not write off debt and he says that passenger numbers have fallen to a level at which Shannnon is no longer important.

Buit it is. Indeed it has a highly important strategic role to play in attracting visitors to the entire Western Seaboard, now that the Governmenr has effectively
closed down every other regional airport from Clare to Donegal.

Shannon's difficulties have been many and severe, but have only become critical since its management was bundled with that of Dublin Airport. The DAA has been disastrious for Shannon and its future is largely dependent on breaking that link. Given any decent chance,  the airport which invented Duty Free, which created the Ireland's first Industrial Zone, which pioneered pre-flight iimmigration and customs checks into the USA, which gave us Bunratty Castle and Folk Parkand  Rent an Irish Cottage, can tap into its proud history of innovation and once again re-invent itself. But it needs to be indepeendent and free of other people's debts.

The immediate future of Shannon may seem bleak, but when (rather than if) it survives, Leo's remarks at the week-end could well earn him the immortality of  Dillon's rabbits.

And he wouldn't want that.

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