I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Home Uncategorized Not So Very Different

Not So Very Different

This survey of Ireland’s economic policies and performance has three main messages. First, the economic history of post-independence Ireland was not particularly unusual. Very often, things that were happening in Ireland were happening elsewhere as well. Second, for a long time we were hampered by an excessive dependence on a poorly performing UK economy. And third, EC membership in 1973, and the single market programme of the late 1980s and early 1990s, were absolutely crucial for us. Irish independence and EU membership have complemented each other, rather than being in conflict: each was required to give full effect to the other. Irish independence would not have worked as well for us as it did without the EU; and the EU would not have worked as well for us as it did without political independence. Somebody clever, I’m not sure who, is supposed to have once said that “he who only tries to understand Ireland will not even understand Ireland”. There can at times be an attention-seeking particularism about Irish writing – look at us, we like to say, mostly to ourselves, but if possible to any foreigners who might be listening as well – look at us, and at how unique, and at how very interesting we are. When I was a young boy in primary school, we were taught that post-independence Ireland was poor but uniquely virtuous. Today, we are taught that it was poor and uniquely wicked. Both positions are misguided: we were never as different as people have made out. Those traditional rural values that we once correctly celebrated can still be found in agricultural communities around the world; meitheal is not a uniquely Irish phenomenon. And the Magdalene laundries that we now correctly condemn have their counterparts elsewhere as well. The past, it turns out, is a foreign country everywhere. And what is true of Irish social history turns out to be true of Irish economic history as well. Very often, the things that were happening in Ireland at a particular time were in fact part of a bigger, European, or even global story. On the other hand, I am quite certain that it was Rudyard Kipling who once asked “What do they know of England who only England know?” It seems as though the temptation to focus on one’s own country, and to ignore what was going on around it, is not just an Irish phenomenon –…



Dublin’s Oldest Independent BookshopBooks delivered worldwide