MHC Times Issue 38, Spring 2016
16 March 2016
Welcome to the 38th issue of MHC Times. In this issue, we look at what the future holds for Ireland.
“Success, however hard won, is by definition fleeting.” So runs the introduction to Ireland’s new strategic plan for attracting foreign direct investment which is called simply, “Winning: Foreign Direct Investment 2015-2019”. It is a good sentiment for Ireland to bear in mind as we reflect on the economic performance of 2015 and face a general election early in 2016. Ireland’s economic performance in 2015 was quite xtraordinary. GDP growth was 7% in a sluggish world. Unemployment dropped to 8.8% from a peak of over 15%. Government debt as a percentage of GDP dropped to 97% from a peak of 120%. Tax revenue increased by €4.3billion year-on-year, some €3.3 billion ahead of profile, and the Exchequer was broadly balanced. The turnaround from the financial crisis is remarkable.
This comparative success has indeed been hard-won and the policies of austerity have come at a high personal cost for many Irish citizens. There are those who lost their jobs at the outset of the financial crisis, those who were, and frequently remain, beset by debt and those who suffered the effects of significant cutbacks in public services, particularly in healthcare. As the State increases its spending to rebuild public services, the fleeting nature of success should remain at the forefront of the minds of politicians or Ireland risks wasting what has been so hard-earned. As January’s world equity market showed, there are plenty of risks about, and as a small open economy, Ireland is very susceptible to negative international economic trends. Brexit, strains on the EU caused by migration and the slow-down in China, are among the multiple external threats which may make Ireland’s success indeed fleeting.
Such external and, from Ireland’s perspective, uncontrollable factors can often be used as excuses for not focusing on what we can control. What Ireland can control includes our competitiveness, our relative freedom from corruption, respect for the rule of law, intelligent and proportionate regulation, investment in education and the delivery of a fair distribution of the benefits of economic recovery throughout society. The adoption of responsible and effective policies in these areas is my hope for whomever forms the next Government of Ireland in 2016.
The quote from the strategic plan is also fitting for us in 2016. In 2015 we again enjoyed record growth, with a 20% increase in revenue and the addition of 75 net new staff to take our personnel numbers over 420. While we capitalised on the benign economic conditions, we remained entirely focused on what we could control, namely consistently delivering excellent client service.
That service was exemplified in some landmark transactions and disputes, including representing Activision Blizzard on its US$5.9 billion offer for King Digital Entertainment and representing Dragon Oil on the Stg£3.7 billion cash offer by Emirates National Oil Company. On the contentious side of the practice, we acted for Teva Pharmaceuticals in proceedings seeking the revocation of a blocking patent for the blockbuster drug, Spiriva, and also represented American investors against the Democratic Republic of Congo and Congo Airways on the enforcement of a multi-million US dollar international arbitral award.
Because we know that success can be fleeting, our commitment to clients for 2016 is simply to intensify our focus on being consistently excellent, relevant, quick and clear in whatever service we provide. Whatever the external environment, that’s what we can do. Lastly, at the commencement of a new year, I have to thank two groups: first our clients for choosing us, and secondly, our partners and staff for looking after our clients expertly so that we might continue to prosper alongside them.