home faces threat of sell-off to developers
By David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent
© 2007 Independent News and Media Limited
Published: 23 June 2007
For two and half centuries it has been one of the most
famous features of the Irish capital. But now, the Dublin
headquarters and spiritual home of Guinness, one of the
world's best-known brands, may be sold to property
For 250 years the site, at St James's Gate on the
quays of the river Liffey has been a hugely important
part of Dublin life, producing millions of pints of what
is known as the "black stuff".
It has been a symbol of Ireland and a major employer,
and today is a popular tourist attraction. In previous
times the firm was known both for its paternalistic
attitude towards its employees and for its wider
The Guinness family made many donations to the Irish
state, one being Iveagh House, which serves as
headquarters of the Irish diplomatic service.
But the business is now owned by Diageo, the world's
largest drinks company, which said it was
"considering a number of important investment
decisions on upgrading and renewing its brewing
facilities in Ireland" but no final decisions would
be made until its assessment was completed.
The company added: "Diageo fully recognises the
huge importance of St James's Gate in the history of
Guinness and Dublin and this important aspect of our
brand and heritage will be fully embraced in the
Consumption of Guinness is on the wane in Ireland,
partly because of competition from other drinks such as
foreign beers, cider, wine and spirits. It is also partly
attributed to the decline of the Irish pub culture:
although the beverage is readily available in bottles and
cans, purists say it is at its best when on draught.
Although it is now brewed at about 50 sites worldwide,
the Dublin brewery turns out about 500 million litres a
year and is regarded, perhaps sentimentally, as the heart
of the concern.
The site is hugely valuable, covering 64 acres of land
adjacent to the river Liffey. It is close to Dublin city
centre, making it prime real estate which, if put on the
market, could be expected to sell for billions of euros.
The building of apartments, offices and hotels has
been proceeding pell-mell for some years in the city,
with large cranes dominating its skyline. Clearly, any
business would be tempted to undertake a move which could
deliver huge amounts of money.
The business was started in 1759 by Arthur Guinness,
who eventually switched from brewing beer to producing a
stout which, though traditionally regarded as black, is
actually ruby-red. It was a decision that created
enormous wealth for the family. Arthur, who had 21
children, took out a 9,000-year lease on the riverside
site, which originally covered four acres.
Arthur's great-grandson, Edward, the first Lord
Iveagh, is credited with generating much of the wealth.
Down the years members of the family adopted a variety of
political attitudes and was, until the 1940s, known as a
firm whose top management tended not to include
It nonetheless maintained popularity with its workers
due to its long-standing policy of providing them with
substantial welfare benefits.
The Guinness family were described by James Joyce as
ceasing in St James's Gate "not night or day from
their toil, those cunning brothers, lords of the