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I’m indebted to the Workers’ Party (and in particular Padraig Mannion, Research Officer) for forwarding me this document, which has been mentioned in discussions on the Cedar Lounge Revolution during the past while. The accompanying explanatory note is of particular use.
Explanatory Note Tony O’Reilly’s Last Game was first published in 1976 and this revised and updated edition was published in 1979. This pamphlet is now thirty years old. However Tony O’Reilly is still in the news. In January he hit the headlines with the closure of Waterford Glass and presently he is in the news because of the major financial and boardroom problems in INN. It is therefore appropriate that this publication become available to a wider public. The original document has been scanned using OCR and reset on A5 pages. No alternations - either of spelling, syntax, grammer or politics - have been made to the text. It is planned to re-issue this pamphlet before the end of 2009 or early in 2010 with a comprehensive new introduction and a new epilogue. PM
And a short precis sums it up:
On the playing-field or in the boardroom. Tony O’Reilly always turned in a dazzling performance. Everything he touched - even butter - turned to gold. When he was approached by an American talent scout, O’Reilly seized the opportunity of professional coaching in Pittsburgh where he quickly learnt that Heinz means business. O’Reilly, the returned Yank, shot to the top of the Irish financial charts by applying the American code to Irish business. With the assistance of financial journalists, he cultivated a climate of success of which the greatest symbol was the FitzWilton empire. Tipped by Time magazine as a future Taoiseach, O’Reilly was dubbed ‘The Golden Boy’. But as 365 former Gouldings workers now know, all that glitters is not gold. They learned the hard way that free enterprise has to be paid for by someone. For them, the price was high indeed: O’Reilly’s enterprise, flair and dash cost them their jobs. This booklet reveals for the first time the full story of the rise of Tony O’Reilly and the fall of Gouldings.
The introduction by Eamonn Smullen is also very useful in contextualising the nature of the document. As Smullen notes:
This pamphlet, which traces the rise and collapse of the O’Reilly business- empire in the first half of the 70s, is a study in microcosm of the capitalist system as it operates in Ireland. It purposely picked as its subject the darling of the Irish bourgeoisie, for it shows the inevitability of any capitalist venture in Ireland - unemployment, inefficiency, waste of resources, double talk, and sordid corruption.
Some of the details are fascinating, for example:
In October 1972, as O’Reilly led out the team for the second half, there were a few complaining voices raised. The most distinguished was Dr. Ken Whitaker of the Central Bank. In October 1972 Dr. Whitaker told an investment conference what they all knew. “Within the last two years we have witnessed an astonishing wave of mergers and take-overs in these islands”. The crowd knew that and were quite happy about it, especially by O’Reilly’s neat trick of actually making money from the inflation that was hitting the workers’ wage packets. But Dr. Whitaker lamented: “If sections of the community come to have a vested interest in continued inflation, will this not tend to Feed inflation further?” The crowd agreed that it would and a good thing it was too for Irish business. Dr. Whitaker in desperation warned that it was paper money and that no goods were being produced by O’Reilly. “It surely cannot be desirable socially or economically” he said, “that financial transactions should yield bigger gains than production.” The crowd on the stands told him not to be an old fool. Noel Mulcahy, pioneer of the “stake-holder theory” and prominent Gaeilgoir who spoke figures in Irish, told Whitaker sharply “It seems a little untimely for Dr. Whitaker to dampen enthusiasm for enterprise”. The crowd agreed that O’Reilly should get on with the game.
One could quibble with the central conceit of the ‘game’, and some of the references which are perhaps a little too much of their time, but I think it’s a pretty effective way to get across the overall argument. And, as noted in the explanatory note, still as timely as it ever was.
I hope that we will have a number of other additions to the Archive of a similar nature in the near future. Again, thanks to the Workers’ Party for this contribution (it hardly needs saying, but by the way, as always the Archive is open to policy documents from all left and progressive parties, groups and formations on the island of Ireland or similar material from non-Irish sources relating to Ireland).