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Death of the Celtic Tiger: Ireland's Troubles Renewed

By Cathleen Schandelmeier-Bartels
On October 26, 2010

 The Celtic Tiger is dead.  The boom years of Ireland (1995-2007) are officially over and prized horses, now starving, are roaming the streets where out of work bankers have returned to school to study agriculture, and the banks are poised on the brink of collapse. This is the reality of life in Ireland, where owners can no longer afford to care for their horses, and raising food is more sensible than working for an industry on the edge of destruction. In Ireland, able-bodied young men are the second most common people to emigrate, the first being immigrants returning home.  What is happening in Ireland is a reflection of what is happening across the world, where everyone is being hit by a global recession. In an effort to better understand what is happening in Ireland, Jim Mallon, himself Irish and recently returned from his mother country, agreed to be interviewed for this article.

"During the years of the Celtic Tiger, the Irish economy was booming. Ireland was transformed from one of the poorest countries in the European Union to one of the wealthiest.  People from all over the world came to Ireland, but no more," said Jim Mallon on Saturday, Oct 16, 2010 during our interview at the Irish American Heritage Center. "The economy is a reflection of the recession we are having here in the United States.  The banks just lent out more money than they were taking in!  Hundreds of thousands of homes have been foreclosed upon.  The North of Ireland is not hurting as much because they have the help of English taxpayers."

According to Mallon, even the local Irish Country pubs – the first in the world to have a no-smoking ban – are being forced out of business due to the recession.  The expense of DUIs, and a night out is too high, and rather than take that risk, people drink at home.  The liquor stores are thriving, and, for the first time, wine is the most common alcoholic beverage being consumed.  

Other than that, on the surface, little has changed. According to Mallon, Irish people drive to work in SUVs, dress nicely and have food on their tables. However, inside the infrastructure of its socialist government Ireland is trembling.  Unlike here, where an elected official has a certain amount of time to serve in office, if the Irish lose faith in those elected, they can call an election anytime. As a result, Ireland's Labor Party recently vetoed a cross-party agreement to help settle Ireland's economic troubles, as proposed by current Prime Minister Brian Cowen and called for new elections. Cowen's proposal includes a bid to cut funding to the Child Benefit (the Children's Allowance is its more common term).  The cost of the child benefit varies, although this year's estimated expense is 2.26 billion pounds – factor in the pound to dollar ration and it comes out to 3.1608 billion dollars a year. That is a lot of money for a primarily Catholic country that loves to keep its children.  The solution to Ireland's woes is not going to be an easy one, as reflected in a recent tweet from verygoodyear: "Wouldn't want to stop funding the nuclear submarine system we've never [expletive] used. Child Benefit, though? SLASH AND BURN."  The voiceless are usually the first to suffer.

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