European Commission Bloggers Conference

The European Commission Representation in Ireland is supporting a special one day conference in Galway for social media practitioners entitled “Challenges facing the Irish Economy “.

When: Saturday 24th March at 11.00 am, with registration from 10.30 am

Where: Aras Moyola Building, National University of Ireland, Galway

This conference is aimed particularly at social media practitioners and will bring together journalists, academics, politicians, and business people with an interest in web-based technologies to look at some of the complex issues facing Ireland’s economy.

The internet is a powerful tool in communicating the economic challenges Ireland is currently facing. Social media and special web based tools all have a role to play in communication between the public and key decision makers. The general public has become much more economically-literate and informed since the beginning of the crisis – how much of this can we put down to increased accessibility of economists and their ideas online? And has it changed how academics and the world of politics interact?

These and other questions will be put on the table and some well-known economists have kindly agreed to kick off the discussions:

Professor John McHale
Professor and Head of Economics at the National University of Ireland, Galway

Presentation Slides 

Dr Aidan Kane
Lecturer in economics at the National University of Ireland, Galway

Presentation Slides

Seamus Coffey
Lecturer in economics at the University College Cork

Presentation Slides

Ronan Lyons
Economist at, DPhil candidate at Balliol College, Oxford & adjunct lecturer at Trinity College, Dublin

Presentation Slides

Margaret E. Ward, financial journalist and author will host the conference.

35 replies on “European Commission Bloggers Conference”

I hope it goes well. I don’t go to things like this anyway because my hearing is poor, but the organizers might be wise to flag these things a bit farther ahead.

You would think looking at the first housing chart there was no Bubble directly after the Single European Act ……… but there was albeit a tiny little thing when compared to this monster.
New Vehicle sales
Y1988 : 82,285
Y1989 : 105,245
Y1990 : 114,870 (peak)
Y1991 : 91,623
Y1992 : 86,478
Y1993 : 75,964 (through)
Y1994 : 96,685 (recovery ?……………..Y2007 ?)

The above was a Bank fueled credit bubble with the EMU crisis in the middle of this.
Most of these vehicles have gone to the great scrapheap in the sky although you could argue Tractors & commercial vehicle stuff paid for themselves before making the ultimate sacrifice.

Then you have Moneypoint brought fully on line in 1987 …….. its still there.
I think it was that awful fiscal debt thingy that financed it.

Now what do those nice guys in the core really want with us ?

Kevin and Grumpy

Sorry about that. The organisers have advertised elsewhere, so hopefully the word got around. Didn’t occur to me until I was finalising the slides. I’ll ask the other presenters to post here as well.


Does it really matter? It’s all arm-waving about things that are mostly outside of the remit of domestic policy-makers – and insofar as they are, the domestic policy-makers’ noses are being held to the grind-stone by the Troika. There seems to be bugger all about the areas that are fully in the control of domestic policy-makers.

@John McHale

A genuine thank you for your efforts and those of others to make the area of economics more available to the general public. In many ways this blog has been an education, worthwhile in itself.

Very poorly flagged. And talking about social media, why was this not on SM? Where is the twitter feed, the liveblogging? Who selected the presenters – where are Kinsella, Lucey, Gurdgiv, Whelan, Lane, Taft, to name the most prominent socia media engaged economic commentators?


Careful now. Are you familiar with Mervyn the robot from The HitchHikers Guide to the Universe?!!!


I thought that was Marvin. But I’m being a bit dense today and not sure what you’re getting at.

In any event, it doesn’t really matter. Those with a public profile but who are within the broader government machine have either to advance the projection of Official Ireland’s optical illusion or, if they are critical of some aspects, to speak in such coded language that it goes over the heads of most people. Thiose who have a public profile, but are not formally within the machine – though very much part of Official ireland – seem to focus on Ireland’s perceived enemies on the continent.

For obvious reasons, neither group has any interest in tackling the enemies within. Anyone for the economics of legally sanctioned monopoly profit-gouging, inefficiency and rent-seeking?

Ah Marvin, yes.

“Anyone for the economics of legally sanctioned monopoly profit-gouging, inefficiency and rent-seeking?”

Unlikely if you or your connected interests are more on the right side of it than the wrong. If you go to a good school in Ireland and a decent university, how likely are you to be steered into a position where you are on the wrong side of it?

That only leaves people with loads of capacity for economic selflessness to do the campaigning. That will be a small, if eventually recognised as distinguished, list.

Marvin was attempting to communicate with humanoids that could not (rightly or wrongly) share or empathise with, his perspective uniform reaction: ‘What is his problem!?’

(Please note, this comment should not be constued as ‘abuse’ of people who disagree with the views on PH, via the suggestion they are in some way less than human. It does not in fact do that.

Marvin was attempting to communicate with humanoids that could not (rightly or wrongly) share or empathise with, his perspective. Uniform reaction: ‘What is his problem!?’…..might make more sense.


I’m not so naive (or arrogant even) to think that I can change anything. I’m just doing the canary in the mine routine in the hope that at least some of the grown-ups might pay some attention and start to swivel the search-light around. The current arrangements in the sheltered sectors cannot continue indefinitely. Sooner or later a wheel will come off – or be forced off. Everything seemed to going swimmingly for bank supervision and financial regulation until the end of Sep. 2008. Every effort is being made to maintain the fiction that everything is going swimmingly in terms of the regulation, competition policy control and direction of the sheltered sectors.

An ounce of foresight is worth a ton of hindsight, but so much of Official Ireland has invested so much effort in maintaining this fiction that the prospect of unpicking even the smallest corner of this web of deceit froghtens the bejasus out of all.

And so it will continue until a wheel will come off – or be forced off. In actual fact, I’m looking forward to the mayhem. I’ve spent the last 8 years trying to flag it up to anyone who’d pay attention, but Official Ireland just doesn’t want to know.

I’m confident that sometime very soon the mayhem will begin. Until then I’ll bide my time. I just have to make sure I have a front row seat.

@Paul Hunt

Yanis Varoufakis, one of the rare breed of economists around that are NOT yes men, establishment parrots, or people who sit on chairs way too big for their little butts and close to zero publishing in their respective fields, reminded recently to John Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath concerning Greece, concerning Ireland, I am reminded to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

@ Paul Hunt


I hope the mayhem is deferred for some time. Malaysia is the only East Asian country that is self-sufficient in crude oil (and palm oil along with Indonesia) but my family ‘fortunes’ are still tied to the auld sod.

There sure is little evidence of radicalism and the conservatives of the left and right continue to hold sway.

Chuck Prince, the former Citi chief, infamously told the FT in July 2007, referring to the firm’s leveraged lending practices and the credit bubble:
“When the music stops, in terms of liquidity, things will be complicated. But as long as the music is playing, you’ve got to get up and dance. We’re still dancing.”

The pre-August 2007 world is not going to return despite the allusions to rockets and so on.

Big conference themes are fine but what is lacking is an unvarnished assessment of the challenges five years or more ahead.

There will be some good news from China this coming week with announcements of new orders won with the help of the Taoiseach, that are old and so on. Wonder though, if indigenous Irish exporters have limited success in Europe, what chance have they in a very tough Chinese market – – including joint ventures and the obligatory sharing of technology by the foreign party?

This year €45bn of the projected revenues of €55bn will go on the public pay and pensions’ bill, social protection and interest on the national debt.

Any demographic dividend from the growing population will only come in the long-term.

Are there any areas of the private sector that are not relying for some income from the State — lawyers fees amount to half a billion annually – – farmers for example were getting huge bonanzas from land sales during the bubble but also public welfare?

Public procurement contracts kept management consultants in clover during the ‘good’ years. Recall the 46 reports that were commissioned by Micheál Martin, when minister for health?

With the demise of FF, there may be an opening for a new centrist party that has the aspiration of a fair/just society that promises transparent competent government, which the peoples of small countries such as Norway, Sweden and Finland take for granted.

The ‘Democracy Now’ project before the last general election with ideologues such as Fintan O’Toole and Shane Ross couldn’t have worked.

It’s interesting that an Irish Independent survey of TDs on whether they had private medical insurance revealed that some left-wing politicians indignantly refused to answer — suggesting that the spending of huge amounts of money on the health service and the aspiration to achieve ‘world class’ has not inspired confidence.

‘The internet is a powerful tool in communicating the economic challenges Ireland is currently facing.’ Are you having a fecking giggle.

You want the bloggers, tweeters & facebookers to turn up to St A’s on the Clifden rd to be told by the EC what exactly.

You think we’ve become suddenly more economically literate because we’ve access to your gems. Well, ask yourself just how many have been through the University system since 1995. Then you’ll have your answer. It’s not access to your product but the ability coupled with total distrust to pull any argument of yours apart at the seams.

@Michael Hennigan,

Quick response, since the ‘machine’ has decided anything longer than a couple of sentences is ‘unacceptable’…No desire whtasoever to see general mayhem. Just the visitation of some serious discombobulation to the members of a few ranks of Official Ireland…that could have wider implications…

@ John McHale

The general public has become much more economically-literate and informed since the beginning of the crisis – how much of this can we put down to increased accessibility of economists and their ideas online? And has it changed how academics and the world of politics interact?

In separate broadcast interviews, if Brian Lucey says we should default and Morgan Kelly says we will default and the interviewer is the default economic illiterate who has never made an interviewee uncomfortable with a forensic contrary position, what would a member of the public make of it?

Of course if the issue was presented as the choice of crucifixion of the little people to payback German banks for being taken for a ride by cute hoor Irish bankers, it would strike a chord – – and understanding economics would have nothing to do with it.

This is an interesting article from ‘Mother Jones.’

‘The Science of Why We Don’t Believe Science’

We’re not driven only by emotions, of course—we also reason, deliberate. But reasoning comes later, works slower—and even then, it doesn’t take place in an emotional vacuum. Rather, our quick-fire emotions can set us on a course of thinking that’s highly biased, especially on topics we care a great deal about.

Consider a person who has heard about a scientific discovery that deeply challenges her belief in divine creation—a new hominid, say, that confirms our evolutionary origins. What happens next, explains political scientist Charles Taber of Stony Brook University, is a subconscious negative response to the new information—and that response, in turn, guides the type of memories and associations formed in the conscious mind. “They retrieve thoughts that are consistent with their previous beliefs,” says Taber, “and that will lead them to build an argument and challenge what they’re hearing.”

John, well done for organising this.

I did receive an invitation but took the event to be for invitees only, and therefore didn’t promote it.

I hope it was a great success – there was a terrific line-up of speakers, and look forward to seeing the slides.

@Japdip and Michael
The post has given the misleading impression that I was one of the organisers. I was simply asked to give a presentation of the broad macroeconomic context. I have been working to various deadlines of late, so didn’t get to focus on it until the end of last week. It occurred to me that I hadn’t seen much advertisement, so I posted the organiser’s advertisement.

Some of the comments here are dispiriting. Gavin Kostick has good humouredly poked fun at me in the past for asking for some civility. The main reason that I have contributed to this blog, if less frequently of late than I would like, is that I believe in the value of the debate – and have learned a huge amount from the many participants. I think it has been a huge success in terms of the “social production” of knowledge and analysis. I have no issue with people who post anonymously; still less with robust disagreement. I am much more interested in the ideas and the range of perspectives. But do I find it hard to understand the need to insult and attack the integrity of those who do take the time to contribute and engage in debate. It is driving people from the blog. How can that be in anyone’s interests?

@John McHale,

You may find it dispiriting, but you might ask yourself how dispiriting it is for those of us who participate on a blog entitled “Irish Economy” when so many areas of economic activity in Ireland are either excluded from any consideration or, if they are not, receive attention that verges on the negligible when compared to the frenzy that attends fiscal and monetary matters that are largely out of Ireland’s hands.

I accept that the threat of libel action chills debate on public policy in many areas, but there are many other areas subject to public direction and control where the interests of the vast majority of citizens and consumers are being damaged and where this ‘chilling’ effect does not, and should not, apply. The only reason I can see for the failure of most economists and others (who are well aware of them) to raise these issues and problems in an effective manner in public is the fear that to do so could be career-limiting or even livelihood threatening.

This ‘omerta’ was a major contributor, and continues to be a major contributor, to the economic mess Ireland is in. If pointing it out, and seeking to encourage people to summon up the courage to break it, casues offence, then so be it.


You know I generally think highly of your contributions and you are a valued asset for all of us. But at this stage, after dozens of posts, can we take it as stipulated that you believe that Irish economists are unwilling to take on microeconomic reform issues because of self-interested career concerns –which, by the way, I think is nonsense. I agree it is unfortunate that there are not more posts on these questions, but as far as I can see it reflects the areas of expertise of those willing to be contributors in what is a small pool. Hopefully this will change, but incessently insulting people is unlikely to help. I also fully appreciate that you do not see it as your job to lead on this analysis. But would your intellect and communication skills not be better used with concrete analysis rather than in a campaign to “discombobulate”? I fear that this campaign has been more successful so far in inducing “exit” rather than encouraging “voice”.


Thank you. We may have to agree to disagree. I had hoped, given the severity of the policy and regulatory dysfunction that the banking crash had revealed, that this blog would have encouraged more “voice” collectively – safety in numbers – to tackle the wider policy and regulatory dysfunction that is endemic in almost all areas of public policy.

But I also realise that even if this collective “voice” had emerged it would be extremely unlikely that it would the desired effect on politicians, policy-makers and regulators. They seem to be capable of responding only when a serious problem manifests itself. All warnings up to that point are determinedly ignored – and those who raise them are treated as malcontents and their professional integrity is ridiculed and traduced. And then they go through the various stages of shock, denial, damage limitation, the search for short-term fixes, fiddles and fudges and the quiet removal and replacement of the very few who can’t be protected and on whose watch the problem festered – all with a view to self-preservation and all the while denying the extent and severity of the underlying problems.

And so it goes on. And it goes on in all jurisdictions, but the Irish ability to attempt to suspend disbelief for as long as possible stands out.

In any event it probably doesn’t matter. In the next month or two an opportunity will arise to shatter an optical illusion in a corner of the little empire being maintained by Official Ireland. If that opportunity is seized, as I very much hope it will, the landscape could be changed quite dramatically.

I apologise for any offence I may have caused, but I have never disguised my intent. It’s probably best to leave it at that.

‘Cracking’ and should be ‘agenda-setting’ column by Colm:

@JmcH & Co

Irritation at some comments aside, has it occurred to you that there might be quite a few people in the media / economic commentator nexus that find their role as gatekeeper to the public’s understanding of economics as it relates to Ireland not assisted by your role in engaging in open discussion on this site.

There is a symbiotic relationship between mainstream media journalists (who can aid public profile and minor celebrity status) and those with knowledge who can provide briefings and good ‘copy’ quotes.

Generally people like to seek out and mix and communicate with people who share and reinforce their views. Lots of mutual back-slapping and bigging-up. The peculiarity of this site has been the lack of control or dominance in posts or comments, of any particular cadre. That is what makes it interesting.

If you stop engaging with people that don’t agree with you because a few commentors make annoying or misjudged points – or might be slightly inappropriately expressing very deeply held frustrations – or are just in some cases transparently pillocks, then the site goes into retreat, and broadening of informed debate reverts to newspaper articles, a-word-in-edgewise on VB, or a seat on a committee.

Your choice.

Off-piste a bit but, I suspect, possibly a little overlooked of late – risk-on/off mumbo jumbo and the Irish funding context.

Risk appetite is being led by US investors currently, but there is some interesting market micro-economics within that. Last week, commercial hedgers (aka the other side of sizeable hot money / hedgie trading) were net short about $9.5 bn worth of large and e-mini (filters out retail punters) futures contracts in the Nasdaq 100. I think this is an all time high.

In the large (big trades) Nasdaq 100 contract, large speculators increased their long position by approximately $5 bn, the largest one-week change ever. The 2nd-largest one-week swing was +$3.6 billion in late September 2007.

Now this is all ‘at the margins’ stuff – a bit like counting cards at a casino – it tells you how the percentages are moving, but is in no way a guarantee the risk-on march will not continue. Having said that, this sort of awareness is something Ireland has a good track record with. Careful now!

@ John McHale, et al.

“Gavin Kostick has good humouredly poked fun at me in the past for asking for some civility.”

It’s a fair cop guv – but society’s to blame.

The blog is in some way a victim of its own success, with original contributors Patrick Honohan, John McHale and Kevin O’Rourke going onwards and upwards and Richard Tol going onwards certainly.

The added voice and postings of Stephen Kinsella arew welcome and if more could be encouraged, yes including female voices, so much the better.

Briefly, on the whole I don’t buy the ‘conspiracy of silence’, as much as potential bloggers fearing:
(a) Saying something stupid about their subject area,
(b) Saying something stupid outside their subject area, and
(c) Not fancying getting an online earful every time they post.

There should be a rule in academia somewhere saying comments made in threads of blogs don’t count as an actual public statement.

There were some frankly wierd self-aggrandisingly, self-effacing comments about the absence of Karl Whelan with a sense of gloating self-congratulaion at the possibility of being part of that decision. Whilst I appreciate the contribution of some of these posters, they need a good look in the mirror.

I have a few more thoughts on this, but I’ll save it for another time – I have an IKEA wardrobe unit to assemble.

“And has it changed how academics and the world of politics interact?”

Pols like Mathews and Stephen Donnelly and the 7 independents have a good idea of what is going on and very good marshalling of the numbers but is any of it getting through to the decision makers or their sycophants ?

Does Lucinda know what is going on ?


Ta for link to Colm’s piece …

‘Ireland is not, contrary to current perceptions, a particularly corrupt country. If you think it is, try offering a bribe to a police officer or a tax official and see what happens to you. Such corruption as has emerged — and it is pretty shocking — has its origins in careless policy design which has created ludicrous incentives for favouritism, clientelism and worse. The best protection against the abuse of discretionary powers in the hands of public officials is to redesign policy so as to remove the excessive discretion.


Wonder does Lucinda know the difference between a ‘beauty contest’ and an ‘auction’? McCarthy game a little tutorial on the blog moons ago. Must ring up the editor of Hello Magazine or maybe someone might provide a link to Celia’s piece? BTW, wasn’t Mick PD McDowell in all those Cabinets with Bertie of the Neu Newz o da World FF?_no interest in a link – it’s a lovely lovely day …. and nothing from William O’D … must be still lookin for that half a crown on his ‘dig-out’ with X-Minister Hanafin … spose Bertie and Pee will have their own flying columns in next week’s edition … shudda listened to McAnthony …

@John McHale

‘Exit’, ‘Voice’, and …. ‘Loyalty’. Hirschman I think?

Methinks you have a little positive experience of all three (-; Hope not too much of dat oul Mairteen Feldsteen nonsense didn’t influence you too much …. (-;

Listened to Leo V. on Newstalk today – talked about the “structual defecit” as if the banks & their “investments” had nothing to do with it.
As if our crazy input costs of just living & moving around had nothing got to do with the built envoirment that the Banks financed.
“it was not me gov”
These guys merely want to peserve the very sad status quo so that if things settle down again the banks can be free to waste the surplus again.

This very very nasty conservatism is all pervasive.

@Gavin Kostick

great post. I think your contributions to the blog are very valuable and i think it’s great how you are so involved in this economics blog and also in the artistic world of the theatre. I think this blog needs some dedicated resources. Someone to manage it full time, sell some advertising on it to pay some of the costs or running it. Explore whole new ways of using the information that is, or could be, presented here – e.g. most popular posts, graphics and charts. Here’s an idea I had a while back of an irish economics wiki and I set a trial up – you can view it here:

best wishes to all

@John, understand that you didn’t organise it but thanks for the slides.

I see that you show that Irish banks are heavily dependent on the ECB with a September 2011 funding figure of €122bn, though that has since fallen. Also the ECB has increased its lending substantially to non-Irish banks in Europe, including the €1tn LTRO lending in December and February.

Do you consider the changing dynamics of ECB lending to be relevant to the Irish position with respect to the promissory notes?

Thanks John Mc Hale et al who contributed to the conference and allowed their slides here. This material is of immense value to anybody that uses it firstly to understand the problem and secondly to see where this country is going. Like you I have been dispirited by some of the contributors here who essentially are just destructive for the sake of it. There was a debate already on the way this site was going and the more I begin to realise that certain people who have no real interest in the topics presented but just want to slate everything should be banned.


“the organizers might be wise to flag these things a bit farther ahead.”


However I hope it goes well also. 🙂


You are certainly correct that the unusualness of Ireland’s dependence on the euro system has declined. But I wouldn’t exaggerate too much how things have changed. The perception of reliable LOLR funding from the euro system continues to be critical to the stabilisation in the funding situation in the banks. The improved situation should allow Irish officials to be more forthright in making the case the common interest in improving Ireland’s sovereign debt profile via promissory note restructuring — and they do appear to be doing that. But I think it would be a mistake to see the improved situation as a green light to start a game of chicken — not that you are suggesting that.

@Paul Hunt
“The current arrangements in the sheltered sectors cannot continue indefinitely.”

You really are pulling our leg now. Ireland is world class when it comes to “sheltered sectors”. It started right out of the gate in 1922 and never faltered for an instant.

We all know that the sheltered sectors paid for their shelter and continue to pay. The only way to break into the shelter or to create a level playing field (shudder) is to curry favour with those who create dysfunction in the economy. You join the party, make campaign contributions, work diligently between elections and put in superhuman effort to get out the vote for yer man. The rewards will flow as sure as water flows down hill. At times a special campaign contribution will be required but being on the inside you will be quite capable of reading the signals. You scratch my back I scratch yours. Or as the Germans say “one hand washes the other”.

Are the tenants organised, are they contributing? If not, why not.

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