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The Luck of the Irish

As Europe looks on, the Celtic Tiger dies an untimely death; Margerita Pulè offers an insight and thanks the Lord she lives in Malta.



As Europe looks on, the Celtic Tiger dies an untimely death; Margerita Pulè offers an insight and thanks the Lord she lives in Malta.


As Europe looks on, the Celtic Tiger dies an untimely death; Margerita Pulè offers an insight and thanks the Lord she lives in Malta.



 
The Luck of the Irish
The Luck of the Irish
The Luck of the Irish
The Luck of the Irish
The Luck of the Irish
The Luck of the Irish

Imagine this; you wake up in the morning and look at the sleet falling outside. It’s nearly snowing, but it’s not cold enough to stick, so the ground is covered in a grey sludge. You can’t remember the last time you saw the sun shine for more than five minutes; can’t remember the last time it didn’t rain for a whole day.


It’s still dark, but you have to get up to go to work. The commute across the city will take at least an hour and it’s so painfully cold, even inside the house, that you just want to stay under your warm quilt, but you actually feel lucky to have a job, so you drag yourself out of bed.


Downstairs, you turn on the radio. You are not surprised at the newsreader’s subject matter. This is the same subject that has been dominating the country’s headlines for at least the last six months: the utter and total collapse of your country’s economy and the complete shambles that your political leaders have made of the situation.


The dramatic and absolute crumbling of the Irish economy has left Irish society reeling and facing widespread unemployment, mass emigration, hiked taxes and slashed welfare services. The International Monetary Fund and the EU officially moved in last week to oversee Ireland’s financial affairs, leaving the government to cobble together a budget which must include €6bn in cuts and taxes.


You are not politically-minded, but you listen to even more news of even more political turmoil. Only last week, the Irish government was thrown into confusion as the Green Party announced that it would withdraw its support from the Coalition Government in January, effectively forcing an early general election. There is instability within the majority party Fianna Fáil with a number of members of parliament calling for Prime Minister Brian Cowen’s resignation, and only last Tuesday, Sinn Féin tabled a motion of no-confidence in the Prime Minister.


You are just one of four million Irish people that have suffered an ever-growing list of economic mishaps and blunders: unsustainable developer loans, a property bubble collapse, ghost estates, negative equity, bank bailouts, an unsuccessful National Asset Management Agency and unprecedented government instability. Disastrously foolhardy lending on the part of the Irish banks has resulted in a situation where their debts are so big that the Irish State alone cannot bail them out. Ireland had been borrowing from the European Central Bank in an attempt to do so, but in September, this level of borrowing reached crisis point, and this month, Ireland had no choice but to effectively declare itself bankrupt. You, the Irish taxpayer, are now facing the prospect of having to repay the banks’ losses through income tax payments for approximately the next eight years, or rather, as long as it takes.


Last Wednesday, with the IMF looking over its shoulder, the Irish Government published its National Recovery Plan 2011 - 2014, in which it set out €15 billion of savings over the next four years. The plan includes a cut on social welfare spending of €2.8 billion, a rise in VAT to 23%, a local service levy for businesses, an introduction of a site value tax and the creation of a domestic water charge.


What this means for you is lower tax-brackets, so you get taxed more; possible pay cuts, so you earn less; property taxes and water bills, so you pay out more; and health, education and social welfare cuts, so you had better not get sick, have children or expect any help at all from social services.


You, like most of those around you, however, see the IMF bail-out as far too little, far too late. As you see it, senior executives and policy-makers in the financial and political sectors will emerge untouched by the fall-out and you will be left footing the bill. An elite or lucky few made their fortunes during the property boom, but you, as an average Irishman were emotionally blackmailed into taking out a larger mortgage than you could afford only to see the value of your property fall to a fraction of what you paid for it as the property bubble burst. The cuts in welfare and the lowering of the minimum wage will only serve to hit those around you already at the bottom of the economic ladder. Commentators are now predicting mass unemployment and mass emigration, sharp rises in poverty and inequality, as well as a level of mortgage defaulting to match that of the US.


People have taken to the streets in a series of protests and marches around the country. Last week a group of protestors organised by Sinn Féin forced its way into Government Buildings in Dublin and attempted a sit down protest, before being stopped by the police. On Saturday, you, along with fifty thousand other people attended a march in Dublin’s city centre against the Government’s austerity plan. You have never been on a march like this before; you never felt the need. You look around you and realise that this level of civil unrest in a society largely unaccustomed to protest marches shows how appalled people actually are at the utter incompetence and apathy of their political leaders.


An atmosphere of doom now prevails in Irish society and in the Irish national consciousness.  Your country is in part paralysis as it waits for the passing of the new budget in two weeks’ time. Predictions of catastrophe and rumours of disaster abound in the local media, adding fuel to the fire of civic unrest and collective despair.


Of course, this is not really you; you live in Malta, you can complain about overnight lows of 15°c and traffic jams that last ten minutes. Your country is far from perfect, but at least it boasts an unemployment rate of only 7%, a state of the art health service, a respectable education system, and even some spare change to put towards Ireland’s bail-out. So spare a thought for the unlucky Irish, because there, but for the grace of God, go we.


 


 


Images are courtesy of photojournalist Paulo Nunes Dos Santos


http://www.paulonunesdossantos.com

 

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stephanie
December 02, 2010
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hmmmm and only a few months ago their banks were supposed to be in 'good shape', according to a report....don't know what to believe anymore

 
 
Paul Cave
December 01, 2010
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I'm not sure I agree with your emotive 'emotional blackmail' line. Were those same 'average Irishmen' emotionally blackmailed into thinking €5-6 was a reasonable price for a pint of the black stuff or indulging in the benefits of high salaries and a strong Euro? Greed has caused the crisis, there's no doubting that, but it's not all been on the part of the banks and bankers.

 
 
Walter
November 30, 2010
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Before we thank our lucky stars that we live in cosy Malta, there are 2 main points to consider :
1. We use the Euro. The value of the Euro has been going down since the start of the Greece crisis. The value has further decreased since the Irish crisis. If Portugal and Spain follow in the footsteps of Greece and Ireland, we are all in deep sh**.
2. Many Maltese banks hold collateral in the form of property. As long as uemployment is low and we dont have a property bubble burst in Malta, we are safe.
Just my 2 cents worth opinion.


 
 
Margerita Pule
November 30, 2010
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@ Mona, no we don't follow suit (hopefully) because Maltese banks didn't or aren't giving out huge loans to anybody who asks for them, whether they can afford them and pay them back or not. Ireland's work force is quite highly skilled, but it was the banks' collapse that bankrupted the country.

 
 
Mona Farrugia
November 30, 2010
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Margerita calls Malta 'lucky' but I'm a little more circumspect. We also compared the 'benefits of EU accession' to Ireland's when Ireland was riding high. What now? Do we follow suit?

 
 
Daniela Attard
November 30, 2010
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I still find it hard to believe this is really happening to Ireland. I left just a few months before the crisis started and everything there was so different. Now most of my friends, even Irish friends have left the country or unemployed... Scary stuff indeed

 
 
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