Fianna Fáil Seanad Group Leader, Senator Catherine Ardagh has said that it is important that small, local, independent businesses are supported to keep a healthy and competitive marketplace that best serves consumers.

Since 2005, 51 outlets of the international coffee chain have opened in the greater Dublin area. In response to the large number of Starbucks outlets blanketing parts of Dublin, including five in the O’Connell St area alone; local coffee shop owners have started the #Drinkindependent campaign to highlight the surge.

Senator Ardagh said, “Over the course of the past 18 months in particular, it has become rare to walk down a street without seeing a single Starbucks outlet.

“It emerged this time last year that the multinational chain in question showed complete contempt for the due planning process by opening a number of premises without planning permission.

“Ordinary, independent and local cafés must go through the full rigours of the appropriate planning process to establish their business and this must be expected for any premises.

“Furthermore, the multinational paid just over €4,000 in corporation tax in 2014. It is shocking to think that they paid no corporation tax whatsoever in either 2012 or 2013, yet independent coffee houses are forced to pay thousands each year in tax related payments.

She added, “These are people who have taken a leap and risked savings to establish their businesses. Indigenous businesses must remain at the centre of our Capital’s economy and their entrepreneurial spirit should be better nurtured and supported by us all.

“Dublin has always had a unique and wonderful culture that promotes individuality and the independent speciality coffee movement across the city bolsters that spirit.

“I don’t fault Starbucks, after all it is business, but the saying ‘bigger is better’ does not always ring true. The individual attention that smaller, independently cafés have to offer means that most source their produce locally and keep money within the local economy in communities across Dublin.

“As we scramble to regenerate areas of our city, communities across Dublin can benefit from business of any scale. However, having multiple small home-grown businesses all striving to be diverse and innovative means its is a healthy marketplace with well served customers.

“Planning departments need to apply a more consistent approach to enforcing planning laws and with no exceptions. All prospective businesses must be treated equally under planning regulation, regardless if you are a large multinational or neighbourhood corner coffee shop.

“Local matters, even in urban centres and we must all promote that.”