LET’S hope that Ballinascarthy, birthplace of Henry Ford, makes a few bob out of the massive PR campaign celebrating the establishment in 1917 of the Ford tractor and car factory. Located on the Marina, Cork, in its heyday it employed 1,100 Leesiders.
Not everyone will be cheering. Those long in the tooth are still kinda sore at the way Ford abandoned the city in July 1984 with the loss of 800 jobs and £12m a year in pay packets. Combined with the closure of Dunlop’s in 1983, the result was economic devastation.
But, as far as Ford was concerned, there was no sentiment in big business and so they packed their bags. The company reckoned that they could shut Cork and still keep their market share. Ireland, consequently, became a place to which Ford would import cars, rather than export them.
Cork people were furious because at around the time that Ford of Cork was leaving for pastures new, Ford of Britain was announcing a four-year spending programme of £45 million, which included a £30 million plan for component pump manufacture at its Belfast plant. The families of many ex-workers have neither forgiven nor forgotten.
To make matters worse, Cork was suffering one of the most useless coalition governments of all time and, even though the local FG-Labour gurus should have been reading the signs concerning Ford intentions, their thoughts were elsewhere. Consequently, the politicos went into a state of shock when the doo-daws hit the fan and Ford announced it was definitely pulling out.
Foreign Minister Peter Barry was the most shocked of all, telling the world that, despite Energy Minister John Bruton and himself travelling all the way to the US to outline a number of possibilities, they got sweet fanny adams for their troubles.
By the same token, Corkonians did not forget the terrible sin of coalition politicians and government agencies: the failure to prepare Cork for the crisis that confronted it.
Sir Garret’s Coalition was accused of ignoring the impact of accession to the EEC and the alarm signals emanating from Ford. People also were angry that Fine Gael did not take steps to divert Ford and Dunlop workers elsewhere, either through helping them set up new industries or channeling them into other ones.
On the other hand, Ford was so disdainful of Irish politicos that the company didn’t bother sending anyone to Cork to tell Peter Barry and his out-of-touch administration the dire news. And, if memory serves us right, it was the snub from the Americans that hurt government politicians the most.
Privately, however, the high redundancy package awarded by Ford was of serious concern to local Fine Gaelers. Tea merchant and minister, Peter Barry, commented that Ford’s generosity would put intense financial pressure on other Cork industries where workers were seeking redundancies! It was a revealing observation and certainly not Peter Barry’s finest moment but, then, neither was it Fords.
Recently, Ford Ireland’s current chairman and managing director, Ciarán McMahon, proudly mentioned that almost every Irish person grew up with a Ford car in the family or had aunts, uncles and neighbours who drove a Ford and that the company remained one of the best selling brands in both van and car markets. True, indeed.
But while Mr McMahon’s observation in relation to Ford vans is correct – the Ford Transit has a healthy 22% of the market – when it comes to the auld family jalopy, Hyundai, Volkswagen and Toyota outsold Ford in 2016, according to statistics issued by the Society of the Irish Motor Industry.
Nevertheless he’s spot-on when he says Ford has a unique heritage in Ireland through the Cork Ford factory. For that reason, we hope the commemoration campaign that he’s promoting will be hugely successful and that no resentful Leesider, who’s been hankering dark thoughts all down the years since the closure, will raise awkward questions.
For instance, questions about why Henry Ford enthusiastically financed the Nazi Party from as early as 1922? And why did Ford send Hitler a personal gift of money every year on his birthday and why, in 1938, after Hitler achieved power, did he accept one of Nazi Germany’s most prestigious honours, the Grand Cross of the German Eagle? (For more information read Who Financed Hitler: The Secret Funding of Hitler’s Rise to Power 1919-1933 by James Pool).
But, on the occasion of this glorious commemoration of Henry Ford’s involvement in Cork, perhaps we shouldn’t be too critical. After all, any commentary on past events has to take into consideration this profound truth: ‘History,’ the Father of the Assembly Line conveniently said, ‘is more or less bunk!’
You have to admire him, Dame Enda! Guards, nurses, bus drivers, train drivers, pedagogues and most workers are in a state of intifada at the absence of any guiding or uniting principle in relation to pay. But, whatever about the proles struggling to make ends meet, Enda’s formidable skill at making money mysteriously appear from nowhere puts Harry Houdini, Paul Daniels and even Tommy Cooper in the halfpenny place.
Like a sorcerer he taps his wand and, hey presto, spondulix in its millions is suddenly flowing into the pockets of our ’umble holders of public office.
From April councillors will get a new annual allowance of €1,000 and – wait for it – the annual expenses allowance for those who avail of the vouched system will be doubled. With the help of his assistant, the nice Mr Coveney, the annual unvouched sum of €2,667 to cover exes other than travel and subsistence will be increased to €5,000. Social Protection Minister Leo Varadkar has already introduced changes to the PRSI system, which also will enhance remuneration.
As well, Enda the Magician is giving top-ups of about €2.2 million over a full five year Dáil term to those hard working TDs whose basic salary is a miserly of €87,258.
Oh, and two mini-ministers, Finian McGrath and Paul Kehoe, who attend Cabinet meetings but officially aren’t allowed open their gobs, are in line for an extra €15,829 each this year. That’s on top of their basic mini-minister pay of €121,639.
Ah yes, a great little country, as that dreadful Squire Haughey used say.
Thanks to the new American President, sales of George Orwell’s book 1984 are going through the roof, and it is now the top Amazon bestseller. People see a chilling parallel between Trump’s America and Orwell’s classic novel about a totalitarian regime in which critical thought is suppressed, and concepts such as Newspeak (language in which independent thought has been eliminated), Thoughtcrime (illegal doubts about the ruling party) and Doublethink (accepting two mutually contradictory beliefs as correct) become part of everyday life.
Scary, indeed, when Trump’s notion of ‘alternative facts’ already has morphed into reality!