Nenagh’s Noreen O’Sullivan has been elected the first as the female president of the The Vintners’ Federation of Ireland (VFI), the representative body for 4,200 Irish pubs outside Dublin and accounting for an estimated 50,000 jobs.
Noreen,53, from Puckane, Nenagh, is married to Jim and has two daughters, Dearbhla and Aoife. She runs a family owned pub, Rocky O’Sullivan’s in Nenagh which has been in Jim’s family for three generations.
Noreen was originally a nurse and studied nursing in London and Midwifery in the Rotunda Hospital before working in the Rotunda, Portlaoise and Nenagh before focusing on the pub.
“For decades, women have played a crucial role in the Irish pub, working behind the bar and managing premises. It is a great honour to take up the role of President of the VFI and to be the first female to hold this position. However, symbolism alone will not address the issues we face as an industry,” she said after her election.
“My number one ambition as president is to be positive and to highlight at every opportunity all that is great in the Irish pub. We must not sulk and look for sympathy and we cannot expect others to come to our rescue. We must extol the virtues of the great institution that is the Irish pub and shout about it from the rooftops and that is what I intend to do.
“Make no mistake, the pub industry is still facing significant challenges. Some 1,300 pubs have closed since 2005 and thousands of jobs were lost and family business closed their doors for the last time. It has been a bruising and challenging decade.
“Pubs still face high costs and we have deep concerns about government inaction to implement health codes. As incoming president, I urge the current Government to address the sale and promotion of cheap alcohol, introduce the ban on price based advertising and bring in the statutory code of practice in respect of segregation. This is a massive social and health issue which cannot be ignored any longer. The time for action is now.
She said that the pub trade was of vital economic importance and will be central to any economic recovery and tourism industry revival. The drinks industry as a whole supports 92,000 jobs and she is fully behind the recently launched Support Your Local campaign.
“In the case of my own county, Tipperary there are 4,385 job supported by the drinks industry, generating €107,000,000 in payroll per annum,” she said.
At a time when we are enticing more tourists, our country already has one of the highest levels of excise in the EU, for example the combined excise and VAT on a pint in Ireland is 68 cent and in Spain it is only 6 cent, she said.
“The pub industry needs relief from the current penal rate of excise. My message to government will be very clear. No more taxes,” said Noreen.
“The pub is a key player in Ireland’s tourism sector which is seen as a major player in any recovery. The Irish Pub has been voted the number one tourist destination in Ireland by the Lonely Planet Guide. The Irish pub has a future worth fighting for. The pub of tomorrow will be very different to the pub of today. Publicans must focus on changed offerings with an increased emphasis on events. Constant evolution and innovation will ensure survival,” she said.