MOST SUNDAYS, I read four different papers. The names of the titles vary but and one (the Sunday Independent ) never features in my reading. Like most people, I read for a certain slant on things and if I spend my time correctly, I will start the week with a better focus--not because of the papers but because of what the papers have sparked in my realm of curiosity. Today, I think there are four important points that might have a big impact on Irish life during the next 12 months. One concerns the Irish government, another examines the impact of the rising price of oil, the third wonders if anyone named Hussein can run the White House and the fourth deals with hand-rolled social commentary in Ireland.
1. Non-compliant tax obligations could unsettle the governing Irish coalition. Nearly every Irish broadsheet, several times a week, covers the fascinating story of Bertie Ahern, Ireland's three-time Taoiseach. The fascinating details are murky at best but they involve clever tactics such as "whip arounds" to collect money for a man down on his luck and the resultant path taken by that money. Questions continue arising about the purpose of the money and the deep undercurrent suggests the donations actually amount to a clever way of laundering funds. The Mahon Tribunal will issue its findings within a year but before that, Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will remain unable to produce a certification from the Revenue Commissioners that indicates he has met his personal tax obligations.
2. Rising oil prices will dampen Irish growth. The price of oil crested above $100 a barrel last week and although crude pricing may dip in and out of the three digit range, the higher price point of fuel oil will tack around 10% to the price of food and supermarket products in Ireland. That's more than double the rate of inflation forecast by the government and if those prices show up at the cash till, consumer confidence will drop like a rock.
3. Barack Hussein Obama. It would be a special day to see Senator Obama take the White House but up to now, blacks don't win a seat in the Oval Office. And with a middle name of Hussein, all sorts of negative campaigning is sure to roll onto the networks during the upcoming months. Barack Obama carried Iowa on the back of veneered policies and quality rhetoric. It will be difficult to maintain that posture during the tough slog of a national campaign, even though the initial coverage in Irish and British press portrays the rise of Obama in very positive ways. I hope that eight years with a President who cannot talk has awakened my fellow Americans to the prospect of a leader who can think, speak and act with compassion. The Imperial Presidency can do none of those things.
4. Better social networks could ensure Ireland achieves above its grade. Some of that social networking begins by blogging. Small businesses in Ireland need to hear blogging evangelists advocate the technology and the connectedness. Blogging is merely the first point of connectivity. Beyond the online conversations lies other clever ways of connecting to like-minded people from Ireland's vantage point at the centre of the time zones that connect America to China, two of Ireland's largest potential markets. The Twitter and Jaiku microblogging communities have boosted enthusiasm for business conversations in Ireland throughout 2007. More should follow in 2008. Jack Donaghy, MD of Roomex sees his company's marketing activities embracing "social media such as Facebook, blogging and viral marketing." That perspective should be shared and endorsed by county enterprise boards throughout Ireland. Not embracing social media will confine a small business to the digital underclass.
0. In Ireland, the Sunday Independent is more likely to carry an erroneous front page story than any other Sunday broadsheet. That proven tendency rails against its purchase and has damaged the title's credibility in my eyes on several occasions since 1995.
1a. Stephen O'Brien -- "Ahern fails to get tax clearance" on the front page of The Sunday Times, 6 January 2008.
1b. Mark Tighe -- "Now it's Paddy the tax dodger" on p2 of The Sunday Times, 6 January 2008.
1c. Gavin Sheridan -- "Is Bertie Ahern Just a Dumbass?"
1d. Shane Coleman -- "O'Dea calls for investigtion into tribunal leaks about Ahern's taxes" in the Sunday Tribune.
2a. David Smith and Damien Kiberd -- "How $100 oil will change your life" in The Sunday Times, 6 January 2008.
2b. David Clerkin -- "Oil and sterling bad news for Irish business" in The Sunday Business Post, 6 January 2008.
2c. Paul Cullen -- "Prices here among highest in Europe" in The Irish Times, 5 January 2008.
2d. Gerard O'Neill -- "Ceiling becomes the floor"
2e. Nick Mathison and Jo Revill -- "Every UK home to face 15pc energy price rise" on the front page of The Observer.
3a. Sarah Baxter -- "Veteran McCain rouses the rattled Republicans" in "US Election" coverage with The Sunday Times, 6 January 2008.
3b. Michael Crowley -- "The winds of change are set to blow away the American Right" in The Observer, 6 January 2008.
3c. Andrew Sullivan -- "Obama is the liberal Reagan who can reunite America" in The Sunday Times, 6 January 2008.
4a. Sandra O'Connell -- "It's time to be resolute" in The Sunday Times, 6 January 2008.
4b. Jo Revill -- "Digital world creates a new underclass" in The Observer, 6 January 2008.
4c. Rose Costello -- "Acting fast and going the extra yard helped his online concerns" in The Sunday Times, 6 January 2008.