Irish Growing Pains

Author: Mark Randall

Since winning its independence and becoming a sovereign state, Ireland has played a careful and beneficial path. This path has allowed it to be declared a neutral state-so dealing with none of the difficulties and complexities of hands-on geopolitics. This is apart from financially beneficial UN support missions, whilst fully benefiting from the cover and growth of NATO, G7 and the European Union. As such, Ireland has skillfully benefitted from the small nation dividend probably more than any other country.

After the total collapse of the Irish economy in 2008, resulting in the humiliating intervention of the EU/ECB/IMF effectively taking control of the failed Irish state, a left leaning liberal British newspaper, The Guardian, ran a headline ‘’So Ireland’s back to exporting its best-known natural resource – emigrants‘‘

Since then, Ireland has pivoted deeply, no doubt with external advice from the USA, and repositioned itself as a low tax haven for American corporations resulting in excellent figures of economic growth. This is not wholly reflective of a serious and unified economy that is robust and largely home grown.

However, with the world now in flux, Ireland has discovered what happens when you greatly benefit from the hand of the USA and its neo-liberal economic system, the result being that you attract immigrants. 

It is somewhat remarkable that you hear intelligent Irish people claiming that Ireland is ‘bursting at the seams’ when it is the only country in Western Europe to have less of a population now than it did in 1843. The country remains sparsely populated and with the economic strength to deal with the pinch points of housing and education. Moreover, the reason for the housing crises is nothing other than a populist anti-developer policy that was brought in to win votes. This has slowed house building which has meant less private buyer opportunities, supply and demand curve impacted, house prices increasing and more of a strain on social housing.

 I have also heard members of the Dublin bourgeoise stating that asylum seekers should remain in the first safe country which is a nonsense repeated from the lesser thinking part of the home counties right in England. The idea that asylum seekers have no right to search for eudaimonia for themselves and their children by trying to move to the wealthiest and friendliest countries is something that their Irish grandfathers and mothers didn’t listen to when they populated the world with a diaspora of 75 million. This resulted in anti-Irish riots across the English-speaking world throughout the 19th century, all with the usual claims of housing crises, schools overrun, undercutting wages and bringing in foreign beliefs.

Ireland has an ageing population and is in urgent need of an influx of young people and people with a propensity to have more children than the native population. This will redress the balance and create a pyramid demographic, where the base of young people (taxpayers), significantly outnumber the top of the pyramid in expensive health and social care for the older population. This will also help to ensure medium and long-term growth and stability. The systems for housing and education may be creaking but for a wealthy country this is simply a question of rapid strategic adjustment to benefit from this opportunity. 

If Ireland can process the influx and manage to achieve a lowering of the average age whilst putting in place serious economic strategies to couple with financial services and tech, it will have a very interesting future. A future based on tangible economic principles and not from highly mobile foreign tech companies benefitting from low taxation. If Ireland basks in a false confidence of economic success, as it did pre-2008, then some small global adjustments could spell disaster.

It is time for Ireland to grow up, morally, psychologically and economically. As John Osbourne said, ‘to love you have to get your hands dirty’. It would be far better for the soul of Ireland if they dealt, with grace and economic sense, with the much-needed immigrants, and held off sending their leaders to pontificate on issues around the world from which they are distant to and have zero intention of doing anything practical about.