It was the first time that VFI members could gather in person for the AGM since Cork in 2019.
The 2021 management report was given by outgoing Chief Executive Padraig Cribben and not surprisingly, the impact of Covid featured strongly.
“2021 also saw a major move to outdoor activity as there were long periods in June and July when only outdoor was available,” he said, speaking to delegates, “This necessitated a quick change in the law to allow for the sale of alcohol in the outdoor areas. With cooperation all round, Government enacted this piece of legislation very quickly to ensure easy compliance for all publicans.
“We saw further restrictions being put in place towards the back-end of the year but thankfully they’re now all removed.
“The past two years have created challenges that businesses could never have anticipated. It would be remiss not to note the very significant support afforded to the sector by the major suppliers. Their support in terms of retrieving both full and broached kegs, extending credit and providing materials for outdoor activity certainly ensured that the vast majority of businesses would be in a position to re-open.
“Equally, it has to be noted that the supports from Government were and continue to play a major part in ensuring businesses could open.”
Speaking about future trading prospects Paidraig Cribben explained, “Availability of staffing has also become a significant issue after the two-year restrictions. Many have left the trade due to the stop/start nature of the openings and their inability as a result to meet ongoing commitments. This is hardly surprising. Many other international workers have returned to their countries of origin and are unlikely to be returning here again in the near future.
“We’re working with Fáilte Ireland to identify pockets of available labour within the EU in an effort to begin to fill these gaps. Obviously, significant training input will be needed if we are to encourage numbers to relocate to take up the jobs that are available here. Side-by-side with the challenges of getting people here will be a challenge in relation to accommodation and this again will be more difficult as we try to accommodate those Ukrainian people fleeing the ravages of war. All in all, this is and will remain a major challenge.”
This was Padraig Cribben’s final AGM as VFI Chief Executive. In his address to delegates President Paul Moynihan praised Padraig for his unstinting dedication to the Federation, particularly during the Covid crisis.
“Padraig has led the Federation for 14 years and his contribution to the VFI cannot be exaggerated,” said the President, “I particularly want to mention his work over the past two years when the trade was faced with an unprecedented crisis that had most of us fearful for our businesses and staff.
“Padraig’s calm and measured response to the crisis, including keeping the channels of communication open with Government, helped steer the VFI during a period of immense pressure.
“That he did all this with unfailing politeness and good nature is a testament to the man he is.
“Padraig, on behalf of all the delegates here in the room and the wider membership, as President of the VFI, I want to say a wholehearted thank you for your hard work and huge contribution to the VFI.”
Minister for Rural Affairs Heather Humphreys TD was guest of honour at the subsequent VFI Gala Dinner and her speech also paid tribute to Padraig Cribben, stating that he was a “brilliant advocate” for the sector.