Celtic metamorphosis

There are many journalists in Dublin this week for the start of the EU Presidency.

The Charlemagne column in the new issue of the Economist is here.

26 replies on “Celtic metamorphosis”

Metamorphosis! That was a big word in biology class.

For the economy, as an optimist: maybe!

The tiger looks the worse for wear and thanks to St Patrick, no snakes about.

Just staying with myths, the Examiner has an uplifting story today: ‘Amazingly strong’ year for exports.’

If you are not in the mood for fairytales, check this out:

Irish Economy: Industry body says exports grew to €183bn in 2012 — fact or fiction?


I’m off to China: maybe I might run into Mr Xi and check if he remembers that cuddly calf he encountered in Clare last year.

‘…Yet success is far from assured. The Irish economy is a strange hybrid: the front legs of its export sector may have recovered tigerlike strength, but the hind legs of the domestic economy are more akin to those of a sickly Mediterranean goat’

Well put.

No doubt the government will be well-pleased with this column. In the arguments for alleviating Ireland’s debt burden, neither the ‘unfairness’ nor ‘economic welfare’ frames have exactly cut it with the ECB. So now they turn the ‘European poster child’ frame to their advantage in this column – what’s good for Ireland will be good for Europe too. Have to say, I like that!

@ John Foody

At least the tiger is at the front!

There is also a rather curious juxtaposition in the middle of the comment that leaves the impression that the increase in the Irish debt ratio is largely, if not exclusively, attributable to the banking crisis when we know this not to be the case.

Meanwhile on the Economist’s home ground, Osborne is quoted as follows in an interview in Die Welt; “I hope very much that the UK will remain a member of the EU. But in order for us to stay in the European Union, the EU has to change.” He added, “We have plenty of ideas for Europe…And we would wish that Germany would support us more strongly to push forward these ideas.”

There’s confidence for you!

Mark Hennessy has a rather different take on the situation.


Whatever is in the promised speech, there are clearly going to be fun and games over the EU’s long-term budget 2014-2020 which Cameron is in a position to veto (urged on by Labour!).

I do like the Economist. I must subscribe to it one of these days….

1) Based on the way they are playing their spin, I would say Noonan and Kenny don’t have a lot of confidence that they will either exit the bailout or get a deal on the PN’s. They are certainly setting it up to blame one for the other not happening.

2) It used to be that all the people I knew leaving the country were jobless graduates/builders and various other children of friends. More recently I’m seeing both the self-employed and employed people with jobs leaving.

Sadly, this is going to include me in a couple of weeks time. Work has been difficult enough to find since 2008 and since the spring of 2012 has gradually withered away other than the odd day here and there. I’m off to the UK for six months to work with a well known Swiss financial services company and I’m going to work things so that I move my company/operation/family there and just fly back over for the day when I need to do something in Ireland.

I will be sad to go and it will be a big wrench for my family but I can’t see the point in staying here and becoming a sad statistic. I will of course still pop into this place from time to time for the wit and repartee.

Mrs PR Guy is looking for a lethal weapon to take with her…… She hates the Brits but even she has given up the ghost with Ireland and is fed up with having to shop in Lidl over the past few months.

@ Frank Galton

Thanks for the link. Quite brilliant! It’s rather amusing that the European People’s Party, to which Merkel’s CDU belongs, is currently meeting in Cyprus. Merkel is trying to pretend that it is just another euro crisis impacting on a peripheral country, need for reform, blah, blah etc.

From Icesave to Russian oligarchs, one messes with bank depositors with extreme caution! All the blather – or whatever the German equivalent is – about PSI (private sector involvement) in the context of Greece is coming home to roost.

@PR Guy

More recently I’m seeing both the self-employed and employed people with jobs leaving.

Sadly, this is going to include me in a couple of weeks time.

I am genuinely sad to read that you are leaving, but then that is necessary supply side reforms, European solidarity, painful decisions and restoring confidence for you.

If it helps try and remember that in the long run, though all of us we will all be dead, children not yet born in Ireland will still be bearing the cost of Irish political cowardice and right wing market fundamentalism.

@ PR Guy
Hopefully you will continue to contribute here. Believe me, there is life after Eire. I am proud to have great American kids, born of Irish parents (Cork and Galway born). Ireland is increasingly “a great place to visit”.

All the best to you & yours. Chin up & chest out.


@ PR Guy

Yip you are right in that there are people with jobs leaving. I left 3 years ago, didn’t have a job at the time but could have got one at the low paying end of the scale so it was an easy decision for me. I was back at Christmas and 2 guys I know are heading off to Canada to work in the fracking industry eventhough they have jobs in Ireland, the lure of high pay and insecurity about the future is driving them. Both have young familes they are leaving behind in Ireland for the time being anyway. Sad to see but I can understand why they are doing it!

Best of luck to yourself btw!

@PR Guy,

Very best of luck to you and your family. Even though I don’t know you, I expect that Ireland’s loss is the UK’s gain. I’ve always assumed that most of those who participate in this forum are doing O.K. and have ‘security of tenure’ in this society. Which is entirely wrong since anyone and everyone who relies on the domestic economy to make their own crust have no security at all.

Emigration is no longer a safety valve solely for the youth of the country. I too am aware of people with young families, who thought they would make their lives here and that they had a stake in the place, who are heading for Canada or Australia or elsewhere in the EU. This is scary, both in the fact of it as well as its implications for the future, yet it hardly features in our national political discourse. It’s not, as the Economist article put its, that the Celtic Tiger has the back legs of a decrepit old goat; it’s that increasingly it has no legs at all.

It’s a bit clumsy. Tigers are aggressive loud and damaging. A goat, even though decrepit still gives milk. When was the last time anyone tried to get milk from a tiger.

Maybe the economic environment of the world should forget about striving to be like any animal really. Maybe it should be like a boring old human couple with loads of kids – providing solace and protection but not much more. Maybe economies just need to be boring

@PR Guy

Sad to here that you have to leave in order to earn a living.
I wish you the best. Protecting and nurturing your witty and acerbic style will be important during the transition…Swiss ears may not be well attuned to wit.

@ PR Guy.
All the best to you and Mrs PRGuy.
Enjoy. It will be exciting.
Hopefully you’ll keep posting

@ PR Guy
Self employed and employed leaving…..So little is being said about personal, private debt in Ireland. It is generally only mentioned as a statistic…..but the reality is profoundly negative for the country.


Thanks for the sentiments. I’m really touched.

Of course, I will return here from time to time. There are no borders on the interweb.

I don’t suppose blind Biddy can spare Mrs PR Guy one of those WMD I hear she wields from time to time?


The bonkbuster needs maybe two more reviews/edits. I’ve been a bit sidetracked with research into the famine lately: I fancy writing a ‘Grapes of Wrath’ about it. I’ve also sidetracked further with a screenplay about a bunch of unemployed youths in (insert peripheral country of your choice – but mine is set in Bristol, UK) from a sink estate who raid an army barracks, arm themselves to the teeth, go on a rampage through the city centre, etc. Watch this space.

I’m just off to my last Leinster home game for the forseeable future 🙁

@ PR Guy

It can only get better!

I have highlighted in the recent past that the crisis in the self-employed private sector gets little national attention. It would be a different kettle of fish if it was farmers, despite guaranteed cash welfare from Brussels.

Five years of crisis and there is little evidence of fresh thinking on enterprise policy, among the Irish elites even though pre-2008 is not coming back.

I’m in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province, which is responsible for about 30% of China’s exports.

Anyone familiar with video clips of Bejing bicycle traffic in the 1970s, recalled in Kate Melua’s song, ‘Nine Million Bicycles,’ would be impressed with the remarkable progress in the interval.

Guangzhou is a modern clean city with an impressive metro.

I was at two trading clusters yesterday where perfect competition exists but too much competition can come at the expense of quality.

External business demand is down.

The world is small but for sitting in an aircraft for more than 10 hours.

A coffee shop (not Starbucks) this morning featured Damien Rice and a local bookshop was selling two different books on Samuel Beckett, in Mandarin.

I have used the following points previously but they highlight remarkable developments since 1945 — there are some downsides for Europeans and Americans as regards wahat has been taken for granted:

Dr. Michael Spence, a winner of the 2001 Nobel Prize in Economics and chairman of the Commission on Growth and Development, said in 2008 that sustained high growth in developing economies is a recent, post-World War II phenomenon. Using GDP figures, “high” is above 7% and “sustained” is over 25 years or more. He said that these cutoffs are arbitrary, but a similar picture emerges with variants. Growth at these rates produces very substantial changes in incomes and wealth: Income doubles every decade at 7%.

There are 13 such cases of sustained high growth, and nine are in Asia. These are Botswana, Brazil, China, Hong Kong (China), Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Malta, Oman, Singapore, Taiwan (China), and Thailand.

Each and every one of these miracles had an export sector as a driver of growth and an increasing share of trade in GDP. There are no exceptions. Every growth miracle involves leveraging the demand and resources of the global economy.

Good luck to you, PR and to all who are moving to build a more secure future.

Old solutions to new problems. Emigration is an out and out disaster for an economy that carries a lot of debt. Despite that, it seems that this wave is just beginning and there is very little discussion on its effects.

I have friends that returned in the late nineties, some are still surviving but others are looking to go again. Tragic and sad.

Ironic that recent minor falls in the official unemployment rate are being lauded /seen as a green shoot, when in fact the emigration tragedy is the reason for this and is only beginning. Huge numbers planning to exit…..I only have to look at own family. Young people, young families, and even the older generations /middle-aged.

@Pr guy

Keep up the confessional contributions from the land of voluntary austerity.

You might need to take your magnifying glass to that Swiss joint if you are going to try to market its culture 😉 . Take a look at a few of the old ads that aired on Bbg and cnbc for a bit of a laugh.

Best of luck to you and yours!
Don’t forget to keep your beady eye on the decrepit elites we are still inflicted with……

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