Another vine mess as €14,000 blown by Bertie government on wine ‘club’

Wednesday December 21 2011

BERTIE Ahern’s government agreed to pay up to €14,000 per year to become a member of the Paris-based International Organisation of Vine and Wine.

IT was another crazy Celtic Tiger idea — becoming a member of a wine organisation when we barely produced any wine.

It put Ireland in the company of great wine producing countries like France, Italy and Spain. There was no sign of the UK, whose wine output is not much better than ours.

But last night, Agriculture Minister Simon Coveney decided to unleash the ‘grapes of wrath’ on this little-known frivolity.

The Cabinet agreed with him that it was time to put a cork in it, and announced that it was cancelling the Vine and Wine membership we had held since 2004.

Fianna Fail Junior Minister Liam Aylward, now an Ireland East MEP, was the man who got us in there in the first place. He gave two key reasons for joining — there had been a 160pc increase in wine consumption in Ireland since 1990 and it would allow us to contribute to the drafting of “wine policy” at EU level.

“It is, accordingly, opportune for us to become a member of this organisation and I commend Ireland’s participation to the committee,” he said.

But even back then before the Oireachtas Agriculture committee in 2003, Mr Aylward admitted that Ireland’s production of wine was “tiny”.

Warming

“In relation to wine production in the future, we will have to wait some time for global warming to take effect,” he joked.

Mr Aylward apologised for not having any “samples” with him.

But his motion to join the international organisation of Vine and Wine was passed unanimously by the committee members — which included Fine Gael‘s Billy Timmins and Sinn Fein’s Martin Ferris.

– Michael Brennan

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Written by Frank Corr
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 09:42
What, on Earth, was Ireland doing in an international organisation devoted to co-ordinating the scientific and technical aspects of wine-making ?

In 2004, for some obscure reason, we joined an international organisation representing 40 wine-producing regions of the world, even though Ireland does niot produce a single bottle of commercial wine.

The only possible explanation for this madness is that some civil servant with a taste for Chateau Lynch Bages, thought it would be nice to meet up with some of the top wine people in the world a few times a year to discuss the finer points of oenology and viticulture over good bottles in some of the world’s better restaurants.

The bill f or this exercise is quoted at €14,000 a year, but I wonder if that includes travel and ‘subsistence’ ?

In any event we are well out of this organisation and the €14,000 is likely to be put to better use.

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