Whatever Happened To The Luck Of the Irish?
Mark Seddon is the former United Nations Correspondent and New York Bureau Chief for Al-Jazeera English TV. He reported from eighteen countries during that time, including North Korea, China, Haiti, Syria, Libya, Yemen, Ethiopia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He has interviewed, amongst others, Ban Ki-Moon, Lech Walesa, Tony Blair, Hans Blix, Michael Foot, Mia Farrow, and George Clooney. In a journalistic career spanning over twenty years, he has been Editor of Tribune and an elected member of the UK Labour Party's National Executive Committee. He has written for most British newspapers and many magazines, including The Guardian, The Independent, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Spectator, New Statesman, Private Eye, British Journalism Review and Country Life Magazine. For a number of years he was a Diarist at the London Evening Standard, and has also reported for, amongst others, the BBC and Sky TV. He lives in Buckingham, England.
Ireland, once hailed as the ‘Celtic Tiger’, is bust and has gone cap in hand to the IMF and the European Central Bank. Ireland was once hailed by Britain’s now Chancellor, George Osborne as the ‘country to emulate’. He asked ‘how can we learn from them?’ Riding a wave of speculation and easy credit, Ireland, like Iceland, allowed its future to be mortgaged by irresponsible, greedy bankers and an effete political class that had presumably bought into Alan Greenspan ‘endogenous growth theory’, and really did believe in the end of boom and bust.
Ireland also joined the European Single Currency at an utterly unrealistic level, and pegging its fortunes on that of Germany, which was all very well at the height of the boom, but is disastrous now that Germany has experienced economic problems of her own. I covered part of the referendum – or should I say the second enforced referendum on whether Ireland should further sign up to the Lisbon Treaty. The European and Irish political class had decided in their wisdom that since voters had got it wrong the first time round by voting ‘no’ they should be obliged to keep on voting until they made the correct decision.
Had Ireland not signed up to the Single Currency, the country would still have been in recession. But it wouldn’t have been nearly as bad as it is now. Which conversely is what Britain avoided by not joining.
The massive loans that Ireland has just taken out courtesy of the international institutions slap yet more debt on top of debt, mortgaging the future to pay for the past. But the Irish Government couldn’t handle the financial crisis on its own, whatever the wishful thinking on Irish premier Brian Cowan’s behalf. The country is now sharply divided between the super rich – the untouchables as they are known – and the rest. And Ireland may be on the brink of regressing further, as young people take the time honoured course of emigrating. Who can blame them?
If Ireland has fallen on her sword, to prevent the contagion spreading to Portugal and Spain, the rest of Europe must have cause for thanks, But a huge row has broken out in Britain, after the same Chancellor who once wanted to emulate the ‘Celtic tiger’ has offered £6 billion in loans to Ireland – despite the fact that Britain is not in the Euro zone. Being but a layman, I cannot quite comprehend how these sums have been plucked from thin air, when all around massive cuts in public spending beckon.