James Flynn was a pioneer.

He saw things that other people did not. He saw opportunities that other people did not see and he saw the capacity of Ireland to do things that others did not.

Sadly, in February, James Flynn passed away at the age of just 57.

You might not have heard of him. But you should have. Along with his long-time collaborator, Morgan O’Sullivan, James Flynn helped transform the Irish film and television production sector. In fact, for a period, he was the Irish film and television production sector.

Together, Flynn and O’Sullivan induced a string of major television and film productions to Ireland. He worked on large international television productions such as VikingsThe TudorsThe Borgias and Penny Dreadful, and also on a host of critically acclaimed films, including the recently Oscar-nominated The Banshees of Inisherin.

In 1997 he and his wife Juanita Wilson set up Metropolitan Films, which has been involved with more than 80 feature film and television productions.

When he passed away, President Michael D Higgins said in a statement that Flynn’s death “represents the loss of one of the key figures in modern Irish filmmaking”.

Metropolitan still exists, producing both films and television shows. It filed its accounts last week; accounts that highlight Flynn’s immense success in developing the industry here.

As Rosanna reported, the latest accounts for the company reveal 2022 as a hectic year for Metropolitan as the pent-up pipeline for productions post-pandemic went full throttle. This is evidenced by the €72.5 million the company received from Revenue under the government’s Section 481 tax credit for the film industry.

Turnover for 2022 was €139.2 million, up from almost €72 million the year previous. While the company tends to have heavy pre-tax losses, these are cancelled out by the tax credit, so a €72 million pre-tax loss last year became a net loss of €80,779. The company retained equity of €45,262 and paid out no dividends.

The accounts point to two things: The potential scale of the television and film industry in Ireland, and also the importance of the Section 481 tax break.

When it was unwrapped back in the mid-nineties, the tax break was seen as a cultural incentive, a relief designed to foster and promote cultural initiatives.

More recently, the same form of tax break that helped Flynn’s company prosper has been extended to video game production. This came as the result of years of lobbying by the sector, by people who believed that Ireland could become the epicentre of the video game world if the right incentives were in place.

It begs the question: Can the creative tax break be pushed further?

In September, the then finance minister, Paschal Donohoe addressed the issue. In his budget speech, he talked about expanding the Section 481 relief stating:

“In recent years, Ireland has emerged as a location of choice for new and innovative multimedia industries, such as animation and digital gaming. To continue building on these successes, I have asked officials in my department to explore the opportunities for Ireland in the ‘unscripted production sector’ to encourage international players to locate here and help bolster and sustain employment in indigenous businesses.”

The recent report of the Future of Media Commission said the government should consider a further extension of the scheme, “with consideration given to expanding eligibility to broadcast media”. This would be a game changer, as it would allow international studios the capacity to produce shows directly in Ireland as opposed to routing the production through local partners.

The review is ongoing. But, just as Flynn showed as he lured major productions to Ireland, there is capacity to bring other non-Section 481 qualified floor shows to Ireland also. It is an opportunity that should not be overlooked.

There is the capacity to extend the relief to so-called unscripted dramas – reality television shows. It may not be high-brow on the cultural scale, but it would still mean that a significant number of people are employed in the wider cultural industries.

As of now, a film can avail of the section 481 relief. Meanwhile, a talent show cannot. Why is this?

There is no obvious answer other than cultural elitism. And that form of cultural elitism needs to end now.

Take the case of BiggerStage, the production business led by former Virgin Media Ireland boss Pat Kiely. It recently produced the US classic musical game show Name That Tune for Fox – in Ireland. Host Jane Krakowski and band leader Randy Jackson flew to Dublin – as did the competitors – for recordings that took place in front of an Irish audience but were broadcast on US television. This was classic FDI – but without any of the enhancements.

Why was it excluded from the tax breaks? There is no logical answer.

Stephen wrote a thought-provoking column last week where he asked us all to reconsider what we classify as FDI. For far too long, we have looked at foreign direct investment through the prism of digital technology companies. Stephen argued coherently and intelligently that we need to look beyond that and to the sectors that anchor FDI in the real world – such as pharma.

We are a creative country. If we enhance Section 481 relief, we can extend that creativity and increase its economic impact.


Elsewhere last week, the proposed merger of Avianca with Viva, an airline once owned by Declan Ryan, was designed to create a powerhouse. Almost a year later, the deal has finally been cleared, but the delay led to grounded planes, computer seizures, and jubilation from rivals. What was going on?

Meanwhile, Sam Batran has convinced 21 investors to back him in finding and acquiring a single Irish company with revenues of up to €50 million. It is one of Ireland’s first search funds, a relatively unknown asset class developed by Harvard Business School, which potentially offers hedged risk and big returns. Rosanna interviewed Batran and Sean wrote about the rise of search funds

Silicon Valley Bank and Credit Suisse had their own problems. But there is a possibility that the banking sector as a whole simply cannot handle high interest rates. This is something Peter addressed in a column last week.

AJ Thomas is chief chaos officer with Google’s secretive innovation lab: X, Moonshot Factory. In a podcast, she talked to Rosanna about setting personal moonshots and using simple certainties to chart a path through the unknown.