April 9, 2008

FF needs to refloat as the economic tide shifts

Posted in Irish Economy · 41 comments ·

Yesterday, housing starts fell by 70pc compared to the same month last year. This is the biggest annual decline on record. Other data provided by the website Daft.ie showed that house prices fell in South Dublin by 6pc in the first quarter. This suggests a possible 24pc annualised fall for Ireland’s most expensive area.

Anyone who still doubts that we have got an imploding housing market on our hands had better snap out of it. We are seeing the Irish version of a phenomenon which is playing out all over the English-speaking world.

Worldwide, there is a palpable sense of the end of an era. In the US, the Federal Reserve is bailing out bankrupt banks and the White House is contemplating a huge housing bail-out; in the UK, Northern Rock has been nationalised and here, yesterday, the board of Waterford Wedgewood is going cap in hand to the Government to keep the gates open.

What is happening? One answer, particularly for the banks, is that the global tide of cheap money is receding, and as it does it is exposing, in the words of the investor Warren Buffet, those who are “swimming in the nude”.

The Waterford episode is related to these banking difficulties. However, in the case of the crystal maker, the fall in the dollar is the real problem. But it is important to realise that the plummeting greenback is merely the flipside of the end of cheap credit which made the US look stronger than it was.

As the US’s frailty becomes more and more evident, the dollar falls. This makes manufacturing in this country prohibitively expensive.

On top of currency movements is the fact that Ireland has priced itself out of the export market in the past few years as costs, driven by inflation, accelerated way above productivity.

We are facing a vicious combination of falling houses prices, which beget falling credit demand which in turn begets further house price reductions.

Equally, the international environment has turned sour precisely at the wrong moment for us.

Normally, when the domestic side of the economy shudders, the exporting side takes up the slack. This is not happening this time because (1) the dollar is pricing us out of the market, (2) the US is in recession and (3) we have become so expensive that Irish wages will have to drop or Irish productivity will have to rise dramatically for our companies to be profitable.

The productivity point is the most worrying of the above three because by investing so much in property we have exhausted our capital base. And now, when we should be investing in productive capital to increase the productivity of our workforce, we don’t have the wedge.

An increase in productivity could justify some of our wage demands. Without this, real wages (adjusted for inflation) are likely to fall along with property prices.

Such an outcome, if it were to come to pass, would present Brian Cowen with an entirely different political script from the one which underpinned Bertie Ahern’s era.

The reason we can be reasonably confident of such an assertion is because history tells that this is what happens. After huge booms, whether it was the 1990s Japanese property boom, the USA’s “Roaring Twenties” or indeed, the Thatcher boom of the late 1980s, the Government is left to carry the can.

In most cases, this financial process also leads to a dramatic political change. In the US, the 1920s gave way to the New Deal of the 1930s. Implicit in the New Deal was a government commitment to reign in the power of the oligarchs who had made enormous fortunes in the boom.

All booms lead to a concentration of wealth in the upper echelons of society. Such inequality rarely survives the subsequent recession because the State concludes that the quid pro quo for a government safety net is higher taxation of extreme wealth, more regulation and more control.

In a downturn, there is a political tailwind behind such moves — something FDR used to great effect in the US of the 1930s.

In the boom of the 1920s, the oligarchs — such as Scott Fitzgerald’s fictional Jay Gatsby — were seen as emblematic of the “can do, positive, go-getting” culture of the possible.

In a slump, these former heroes become villains and their attributes become liabilities. Their great wealth becomes a focus of envy and a signal of everything that was wrong with the excesses of the boom and the State moves against its former wealthy allies to cheers from the public gallery.

The figures on wealth distribution are truly startling. While the country on an income basis is quite equal, the wealth story is different. The EU suggests that Ireland is smack in the middle of the European average when it comes to income but when it comes to wealth, Ireland resembles America of the 1920s.

The Bank of Ireland estimated last year in a publication called The Wealth of the Nation that the “top 1pc in Ireland own 20pc of the wealth, the top 2pc own 30pc and the top 5pc hold 40pc of the wealth”.

This is not healthy. If you take houses out of that equation and calculate only financial wealth, then the top 1pc of the population owns 34pc of the financial wealth.

Other figures about the Irish oligarchs are equally arresting, both in terms of how rich they are and how recent this wealth is.

For example, the top 1pc of the population has assets of €92bn — that’s close to half of our national GDP. In the past 10 years, Irish wealth has increased by 350pc, but at the very top the increases have been much more fantastical. In a country that was almost bankrupt 20 years ago, it is estimated that there are at least half a dozen billionaires in Ireland.

Again, according to Bank of Ireland, there could be as many as 100,000 millionaires in the country or 2.5pc of the population.

This dwarfs the figure of 0.7pc of the population in the allegedly plutocratic US.

However, at the very top, it’s estimated that there are at least 300 people with net assets of over €30m, close to 3,000 with assets of between €5m and €30m and at least 27,000 worth between €1m and €5m. This is a Kremlin-style concentration of wealth.

As the feel good factor for the average Joe evaporates with ongoing house price falls, the temptation to see the mega rich as culprits rather than heroes will increase.

Rightly or wrongly, this might set a dramatically new tone for Irish politics where the little man reasserts his position.

Fianna Fail always suggested that it was a Republican Party, the party of the little man, the small farmer and, as my mother described it “the people who don’t know anyone who ever got an obituary in a newspaper”.

If Brian Cowen is truthful about going back to Fianna Fail’s core values or if he is forced there by events, the high rollers and Ice Bar aficionados of the Bertie era should be afraid, very afraid.

  1. Observer

    Just what needs to happen in this country, I hope we take a really good look at ourselves and realise how foolish we were.

    Ireland should go back to the state of Moral Responsibility that it was honored for years ago, hopefully FF and other Parties will go back to the core values of what is more important than living in a Overdraft.

    The Irish Peoples Welfare and Wishes.

  2. Brian

    Good article David,

    Just want to pick up on something you said as regarding, “All booms lead to a concentration of wealth in the upper echelons of society”. If I were to add to this, and with this comes power and influence over the government from this section (which you have spoken about before). I am not an economist, but it seems the lessons of the boom are the same of any other; booms need to be controlled requiring state intervention (equity control etc) through good leadership who realise of the pitfalls ahead, and have the guts to act and not be bullied by the main benefitors of the boom who are likely to have considerable influence. It seems this government were getting too many benefits from the boom in terms of tax returns and short term employment benefits driving the economy. The next election was more important than the long term interest of the country. No guts here, and governments in other countries have fallen into this trap before and will again (although their leaders often ‘bail’ at the ‘right’ time)

    However this is idealist however as ultimately, as Rob pointed out in a previous comment, assuming the count is correct, we vote in our leaders which means we have to share the blame collectively. This means that some of us had no guts! The fact that individuals in a state can be fooled into thinking a boom can last forever, and prudency (with long term benefits) is not in the best interests of the country, is a seperate debate more closely aligned to psychology (fear of loss and herd instinct) than economics. Will we ever learn to control fear of loss?

  3. Rob

    To my mind I think there is both a ‘poverty’ and perhaps ‘fear’ aspect in the Irish psyche which has never been adequately explained or debated. This may be in some part due to our impoverished past/oppression etc. Put it another way, the creation of wealth and the management of it is some as a people we have little or no experience of. An intelligent, confident society would have immediately pushed for a world-class rail system to link up around Ireland (or maybe that was just me!). Instead we wanted v costly roads to drive our bright shiny cars around the place. When the tide recedes you are then left with expensive decreasing assets and an outdated public transport system. Not very smart. But as was pointed out earlier, we elect these politicians ourselves. These politicians merely re-enact or put into practice our own smash-and-grab desires. In fact I think that Ireland has one of the most representative democracies in the world, i.e. a v low amount of voters per TD. That is why, however unfair it may seem, I think that a painful economic lesson now will help to wise-up the population as a whole and get them thinking politically about what is actually in the best interests of the country.

  4. Malcolm McClure

    The New Deal in the US was about far more than “reign in the power of the oligarchs who had made enormous fortunes in the boom.” It was about putting people back to work with schemes like the Tennessee Valley Authority, highway construction, national parks and the Hoover Dam. The shock of recession will free up the rheumatic restraints of the planning system and enable government to progress with major infrastructure projects. It can also help Irish farmers by dispersing meat packing plants to local communities right across the country and emphasizing organic quality of the produce. Too much emphasis on pie in the sky industrial projects will just produce a string of De Lorean’s in the game for to stoke their vanity with subsidies. Lets concentrate on traditional strengths in the recession rather than desperately searching for the ‘Next Big Thing’.

  5. Rob

    Malcolm, i agree with excellent posting but one question I have is where will the govt get the revenue for major infrastructural projects given vastly depleted exchequer funds?

  6. Philip

    That’s very well put Malcolm. <>. I have asked many times why do things like Agriculture and Food “feel” so ordinary? We all go gah gah looking at a couple of computer whiz kids creating websites that might draw a few bob on ad revenue…even the term whiz kids is such a stupid term. Designing Websites or working in IT is not exactly Hi Tech…not really rocket science. However, a new type of seeder or wormery or manure digestor – that’s real science and tech…a bit smelly, but hard science that needs real PhD material and where Ireland’s very elegant future lies in my opinion.

    Roll on recession…time to wake up and if Cowen has any sense, maybe his harking back to the Lemass days suggests he already sees the writing on the wall.

  7. Malcolm McClure

    Rob said “one question I have is where will the govt get the revenue for major infrastructural projects given vastly depleted exchequer funds?”
    Don’t antagonize the oligarchs but tempt them with ‘Square Deal’ government 15 year bonds at an attractive interest rate.
    Even the canny old boys with cash in the mattress would buy them if ‘No questions asked’.

  8. John

    If the government try taxing the rich then the rich will leave Ireland,mobility has never been easier,large amounts of money give you this freedom.

  9. Ed

    Malcolm, The real pie in the sky is a belief that farming can carry this country – it had every opportunity in the past, but failed to deliver on either jobs or wealth. Last night’s programme “ the importance of being Irish” spelled it out – an island necessitates high transport costs for exports, so the ideal exports for are low weight, high density and high value products. Shipping an organic heads of lettuce to mainland Europe doesn’t make much sense. Microchips fit very nicely into this category and software even better.
    Pharms. and all other forms of hi-tech products can also meet this requirement. We have production of these desirable products here already, but the problem is that they’re not ours – there is no reason why we shouldn’t be able to excel in some branch of hi-tech and reap the rewards.

  10. John Q. Public

    Is anybody worried about the few hundred thousand foreigners we have here? Will they at last be a talking point now that the economy is dipping or even worse going into recession or will we keep pretending they don’t pose a problem. How many of them will be entitled to the dole and can we afford it? I’m also sure that many MNC’s here could change their workforce to foreigners willing to work for a lot less money. I see a lot of conflict in my crystal ball for this country. We might be looking back in five or ten years from now wondering how so many came here and how they have drained us dry of jobs, money etc. How many by then will be able to vote and how will the then government appease them?

    ‘Rightly or wrongly, this might set a dramatically new tone for Irish politics where the little man reasserts his position’-yes and little foreigners too, just look at how they do it in Britain and through Europe!

  11. Johnny Dunne

    David, young people especially who are ‘suffering’ due to forces beyond their control will righfully look for someone to blame !

    Should our politicians not be trying to put the ‘infrastructure’ in place for these vast amounts of personal wealth generated over the boom period to be diverted into ‘productive’ businesses which use ‘innovation’ (in the widest sense) to grow in tougher market conditions ?

    Many have accumulated this wealth through ‘deal making’ on bricks and mortar so should be open to invest if they see posible returns.

    Do we need some of the ‘trusted advisers’ (whose incomes from the property boom are drying up) to be brave enough to introduce and promote these ‘riskier’ opportunities across all industries where Irish workers can add value such as food, technology, services etc. ?

  12. AndrewGMooney

    Reading DMW’s latest article had me digging ‘Affluenza’ by Oliver James from the bookshelf, regarding income disparity and healthy societies.

    In particular, Oliver James singles out Denmark where the gap between the richest and poorest members of society is staggeringly less than America, UK and Ireland. Yet is seems to function as a very successful market economy.

    Whilst Ireland might not want to got to the Danish level of Government taxation and spending:

    There’s surely a mid-point between America and Denmark which will allow a tax redistribution of windfall boom profits from the last 10 years to cushion the downturn for the poorest, and to invest in infrastructure for the future?

    As for the argument that ‘The Rich’ will just feck off. Well, in that case, you have to ask yourself what is the purpose of the Nation State, national or cultural identity in the C21st. In Ireland, America or Britain.

    If ‘parasitic’ capitalists just abandon their ‘home’ countries for tax havens: What does it mean anymore to be ‘Irish’ or ‘English’ or ‘American’? Or Danish……

    It appears that the Danish Identity is rather more solid and unique than casual outside analysis might indicate. Is the same true for Ireland?

  13. Rob

    AndrewG, i think the Danish model you describe is more of an evolved society, where a balance is struck and it is accepted that the binman gets a good wage along with the bank manager. In turn this leads to a pride in one’s work whatever position you hold and not a denigratory ‘he’s only a binman’ attitude. Such a society though does not have ‘a winner takes all’ mentality but recognises that some sort of trade-off is required for a healthy balance. This would require a major shift in our own thinking. Look at the points race. I knew a girl who scored max points in the leaving in the late 80′s (during the mad points race) but gave up telling people how she did (she was studying arts). People could just not understand why she wasn’t doing law/medicine.

    John Q. You may not have a lot to worry about. From anecdotal evidence a lot of Eastern Europeans have gone to London for construction work for the london olympics.

    Ed, agriculture is not as daft as you think. We bought ‘Dubliner’ cheese in Texas, it was a premium price alright but anyone who tried it was immediately impressed and vowed to buy it themselves. Good Irish food, cheese, milk, salmon, beef, butter beats all. Okay organic farming is expensive but aim for the luxury market, we won’t compete with the mass-produced stuff anyway. Ireland still has this incredible green ‘Ryan’s Daughter’ image in the minds of many foreigners. Lets utilise it.

  14. Jim Bulger

    “we have become so expensive that Irish wages will have to drop or Irish productivity will have to rise dramatically for our companies to be profitable”

    Just a quick comment about the famous sentence that is quite widely used , about our famously high wages

    why the hell shouldn’t we have high wages , we work long enough and struggle long enough to get to those positions where we can enjoy good money.

    The trouble is that in this country there are too many institutions who are greedy and want vast profits hence putting up the prices for the rest us hence the need for high wages .

    I say get all the banks and huge companies to drop their profits by more than 50 % , you then will find that you can pay better wages and you will find that the costs will go down by themslves and you should should have a better workforce.

    and lastly get rid of manufacturing industry which is involved with cheap consumer goods , leave that to the Chinks , and invest in very high tech industry . That should change things around somewhat !!

  15. Garry

    I think Brian Cowen could start the whole process by canceling the pay increases awarded (but then delayed) under the previous leadership…

    Sure it’ll be slagged as a political stunt but it would send a message that times have changed, particularly going into the pay talks and that and EVERYONE needs to work together to get through the next few years.

    Fianna Fail leaders last an average of 14 years; this one coincides with a definite shift in our economy… we need the new leader to plan for the next 14 years….. Bertie’s style or patient consensus building worked brilliantly for the peace process, but more long term vision and stronger leadership will be needed over the next few years….Be brave Brian!

  16. Free flow of cash my man, penalise them and they will go. Why stick around to let the more socially minded get all Opus Dei on their ass?

  17. N

    I am sitting here at 9pm on Thursday, Sydney, Australia reading today’s Irish Times.
    I am no Fianna Fail’er but I say this…let’s hope Brian Cowen makes a break with the old, rotten FF past and has the guts to now LEAD and make the harsh decisions now required of an Irish head of Govt. They say he is a smart, intelligent guy…well, come the hour, come the man.

    So good luck and god speed but for God’s sake LEAD on Mr Cowen. History is watching.

  18. Marc

    To John Q. Public.
    I am foreigner, I got a 7% raise yesterday, my boss looks to be very happy to work with me, and I know they got trouble to find someone with my skills.
    My landlord is happy I am paying every month my rent since two landlords in the estate are trying to sell their house.
    To be honnest. If you want to take my job, pay my rent, I am happy with that, I will go back to my country and hope you will do well.

  19. John Q. Public

    Marc, good for you but you would probably still work for 7% less. I don’t want to take your job or house but others might in the future. You forgot to mention weather your wages were the same as your Irish work mates wages when you started. Everybody knows that payrises like that are not sustainable, something has to go pop. Why do you think infation is at 5% here? My main worry is the huge numbers of immigrants here and the fact that there is not enough debate. When there is a scramble for jobs, I hope you don’t get it in the neck. Best of luck.

  20. Kevin

    Come on David, even the very first paragraph is inaccurate – and the real picture supports your argument even better! The DAFT report said ASKING PRICES fell 6% in South Dublin, not sales prices. (The increase in supply indicates that the asking prices aren’t dropping quickly enough.)

    No one in Ireland outside the Revenue (via stamp duty numbers) and the estate agents (because they’re making the deals) knows how much sales prices fall or rise. Why? Because there’s no centralised state-run publicly available dataset. This is incredibly frustrating for anyone trying to get a clear picture of the state of the property market in Ireland. But of course in a bubble market it’s in the developers, estate agents and indeed the Government’s interests not to release that data – so we’re never going to see it.

  21. Tom

    kevin, I agree, over in the UK since 2000 its possible to see the actual sale prices of all properties sold, as stored in the land registry. So you know exactly how much places in a certain area sold for. Its gives a much more accurrate picture and you can see what the neighbours place went for!

  22. MadMax

    To John Q. Public.

    I am foreigner too. So is my fiance. So far very few local people are willing to replace our jobs. Engineer and supervisor in a hotel…

    As of today there are almost no science students in Ireland. Without extensive pool of Polish, Spanish and French students/graduates a tech company that I used to work for in wouldn’t manage to hire ANY young engineers and would end up with workforce collapse leading to yet another MNC moving out from Ireland.

    Shifting to hotelling and tourism – Irish manager of the Irish hotel couldn’t find ANY Irish workers and supervisors wishing to work for the rates he proposes (the rates proposed by him are typical within this industry). So ENTIRE department is non-Irish, namely Eastern-European.

    Finally – rental property market. More and more landlords are forced to sell their properties due to current economic slowdown. As a result of this many tenants are being given notice nowadays. Both of us are currently searching for some apartment letting. For the FIRST time since my arrival in 2001 the market becomes at least balanced between landlord and tenant. Tenants finally have something to say including rent price negotiation! This is how property market is changing rapidly.

    In conclusion: Dear John Q. Public, without certain number and certain type of immigrants Ireland would be dragged into an even deeper economic sh*te. Less tenants, less professionals, less people ready to accept ‘dirty hands’ type of jobs.

  23. Rob

    John Q. Public, your ideas about immigration are a little bit of the mark. In a booming economy (as Ireland was) many immigrants are attracted, particularly well-qualified ones or even if that not well-qualified they tend to be dynamic as there are looking for opportunities. This introduces a large amount of young, enthusiastic, willing to work people which boosts the economy.

    My own personal experience is that the Eastern European worker you find in Ireland actually works harder and is better presented than their Irish counterpart. In a downturn it is these workers who will actually replace their ‘inferior’ Irish counterparts.

    For example I know a small business which has replaced most of its irish workers with lithuanian workers. Pays them the same rates but they are more efficient, diligent and reliable than the previous irish guys. The boss kept one irish guy, a driver, as he knew the roads better (until that is a Lithuanian does).

    This was a natural consequence of signing up to a common market. In effect people travelled within the EU for job opportunties. Dole tourists are not as common as you might think and in fact Ireland put a 2 yr minimum in place for some countries before someone could claim.

    Industry in Ireland often bemoans a lack of suitably qualified technical graduates. The fact that foreigners are willing to come here and take up the slack is a GOOD IDEA. It is the Irish worker who is not up to it/suitably qualified who will ‘get it in the neck’.

    Going by your logic you would have justified irish people being turfed out of Birmingham, Boston, or London whenever those economies downturned. The same way the Irish did in Brixton, the Polish have come here, found jobs, integrated and set up social networks.

  24. John Q. Public

    Rob, you are bang on in your 2nd and 3rd paragraphs. The question is will it cause conflict in years to come if things get really tough again? I’m sure foreigners do a great job, pick up the slack, turn up on time, drink less etc. A ‘certain number and certain type’ as MadMax points out is fine but as the economic tide shifts how will things pan out socially/economically long term with our huge influx?

  25. Rob

    I’m not sure. I mean who can answer that one. Irish people living in Birmingham in their seventies? You are assuming that all ‘foreigners’ will stay? Many have already gone to London for olympic construction work. Many have good jobs and will probably stay, the very same as for example an Irish guy who settles in Boston. Many will probably fly back and forth on Ryanair over the next few years. The immigrants are a mixed and varied bunch.

    Will there be resentment? From who and about what? I won’t be jealous of a Polish engineer who lives next door, drives a BMW and works for Sisk. I’ll think fair play to him, for coming here and making a go of it. Maybe you might need to more specific? An influx of immigration into a country, bringing different cultures, influences, music, food etc even genetics is a good thing. Irish people today are a mixture of Old Irish/Old English/French/Spanish (West coast)/Viking/Norman and it didn’t do us any harm. Over time who is ‘foreign’ anyway? ‘Jayo’ Sherlock is a son of immigrant Vietnam Boat people. Despite being small he blended in fairly well, particularly as corner forward.

  26. MadMax

    When it comes to immigrants from Eastern Europe I think those of us who lose jobs will go back or move somewhere else, e.g. Germany is booming these days. There is very little intention among Poles and Lithuanians in staying on a dole here. Construction workers are already leaving, services sector employees would try to get another similar job, technical professionals wouldn’t waste time on a dole and rather get hired in on the continent.

    There is also a group among us that will be loyal to our new country. Some of immigrants will stay and participate to transformation of Irish economy following endof recent construction and MNCs fueled boom. With a ‘time for new thinking’ emerging and upcoming challenges some non-nationals may want to try to face the challenge of building value added, pro-export oriented domestic economy. While manufacturing is winding down here and moving to Eastern Europe and Asia we-immigrants are learning that MNC investment based success is short term. These companies will be moving out from Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary or Lithuania withing next 10-15 years due to rising costs. Then they will settle in poorer former USSR republics or go to Africa.

    Another topic is immigrants to Ireland originating from other continents. One of them could comment here their point of view…

  27. SpinstaSista

    Immigration has its benefits as many of you have pointed out. The biggest disadvantage of mass immigration is that it discourages integration with the host community because people naturally gravitate towards their own ethnic group when they come to a new country. The more immigrants the less attractive it is for newcomers to integrate with the host community unless absolutely necessary.

    If there were more integration between immigrants and the Irish there might not be as much resentment and misunderstanding between us. Without integration how can the Irish and immigrants understand each other or appreciate each others cultures? A worst case scenario is where Irish clash with immigrants and different immigrant ethnic groups clash with each other. Ghetto towns or housing estates solely populated by immigrants from a single ethnic group do nobody any good.

  28. “My own personal experience is that the Eastern European worker you find in Ireland actually works harder and is better presented than their Irish counterpart. In a downturn it is these workers who will actually replace their ‘inferior’ Irish counterparts.”

    I can see the signs in shopfront windows now! “Irish Need Not Apply”!

    If I had your attitude, then I might as well top myself rather than waste time competing with our Eastern European supermen.

  29. Rob

    Spinsta, the integration of immigrants probably takes a lot of time. Also it was reckoned that when the sikhs for example moved to Britain after WW2 they integrated easier at first and adopted local conventions, blended in and became more western/british. However as more of them arrived their own community (now strengthened) began to exerted a more conservative pull on them. Sikhs were chastised by their own for failing to observe traditional customs. These greater numbers in effect resulted in less integration. It may be that there is not only a duty on the host country citizens re. integration but it also raises questions for the immigration community itself. One method that I personally found to be work when I lived abroad was sport i.e. you make social connections easier with a host community when part of a local team. I think some of the Pakistani kids in Ireland for example have made good hurlers and one of them made it on to a top-notch GAA development panel?. It is probably these less formal social interactions that will blend citizens and foreigners. In addition I know of a number a couples in Ireland where one person is Irish and the other an immigrant and this appears to be rising. Come to think of it, Éamon De Valera was an immigrant too.

  30. Observer

    Too be honest Rob, the sikhs might be more law abiding citizens in the UK compared to their Muslim & Hindu counterparts but one little known fact is that they are percievied as very arrogant and in your face. I went to school in the UK with Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews and of course the dominant Protestant population: This house near where I lived…. which is owned by a Sikh family is beyond any word of description due to its size.

    The Front door was literally right smack in front of the ginnel they had left for a driveway and the back of the house was at the limits of what used to be the back garden- Meaning they would be housebound and of course not interact with the neighbours, a swimming pool was even planned but the tolerant neighbours decided to finally object this plan as they feared it would affect their own house prices.

    As a matter of fact if you see any house that is owned by a sikh family you’ll find: it has imagery of gold to symbolise their prosperity and their social status of success – This style of display has cheesed off alot of neighbourhoods across the UK as I found certainly during my time there.

    I wouldn’t keep your aspirations up of Pakistani & Indian kids fully interacting with the rest of the Irish population with GAA, the english invited many immigrants from the two nations into county cricket clubs and since then these communities have become marginalised and subsequently formed their own cricket teams – With No white players.

    This is not a prejudiced comment, its fact as I lived for so long in a city that I saw this develop over so many years and the demographic shift of the population. You’d need only visit an average cricket team in a bradford suburb to see what I’ve described.

    If you have a low immigrant population e.g. <=2% of the national population then they will make the effort to integrate but any higher than that……they won’t because they don’t feel the need.

    BTW Eamon De Valera wasn’t an immigrant, he was born of an Irish Mother and with a Surname like his his ancestors would have been Spanish Celts so he was a Celt by descent making him as Irish as the rest of the Native population. If you are of strong Irish Descent like even Des Bishop, that should make them irish aswell.

  31. Rob

    Observer, a quick look at the current England cricket squad features:

    Michael Vaughan (capt) 29/10/1974 Manchester RHB OB
    James Anderson 30/07/1982 Burnley LHB RFM
    Ian Bell 11/04/1982 Walsgrave RHB RM
    Ravi Bopara 04/05/1985 Forest Gate RHB RM
    Stuart Broad 24/06/1986 Nottingham LHB RFM
    Paul Collingwood 26/05/1976 Shotley Bridge RHB RM
    Alastair Cook 25/12/1984 Gloucester LHB
    James Dalrymple 21/01/1981 Nairobi, Ken RHB OB
    Andrew Flintoff 06/12/1977 Preston RHB RFM
    Steve Harmison 23/10/1978 Ashington RHB RF
    Matthew Hoggard 31/12/1976 Leeds RHB RFM
    Simon Jones 25/12/1978 Swansea LHB RFM
    Edmund Joyce 22/09/1978 Dublin, Ire LHB
    Jonathan Lewis 26/08/1975 Aylesbury RHB RMF
    Sajid Mahmood 21/12/1981 Bolton RHB RFM
    Dimitri Mascarenhas 30/10/1977 Hammersmith RHB RFM
    Philip Mustard 08/10/1982 Sunderland LHB WK
    Paul Nixon 21/10/1970 Carlisle LHB WK
    Graham Onions 09/09/1982 Gateshead RHB RFM
    Monty Panesar 25/04/1982 Luton LHB SLA
    Kevin Pietersen 27/06/1980 Pietermaritzburg, SA RHB OB
    Liam Plunkett 06/04/1985 Middlesbrough RHB RFM
    Matthew Prior 24/02/1982 Johannesburg, SA RHB WK
    Owais Shah 22/10/1978 Karachi, Pak RHB RM
    Ryan Sidebottom 15/01/1978 Huddersfield LHB LFM
    Andrew Strauss 02/03/1977 Johannesburg, SA LHB
    Graeme Swann 24/03/1979 Northampton RHB OB
    Marcus Trescothick 25/12/1975 Keynsham LHB RM
    Jonathan Trott 22/04/1981 Cape Town RHB RM
    Michael Yardy 27/11/1980 Pembury LHB LM

    Now add in Nasser Hussein as well, the recently retired captain. It seems to me that your argument doesn’t stack up, plenty of immigrants/descendants of immigrants are in the English squad in the most English of games, even our own Ed Joyce.

    The immigrant population we received was mainly through an economic boom and enlargement of the EU. A comparison with England is not accurate. On scale alone England has a huge population, 60 million, ten million in Greater London alone, twice the pop/n here. In addition the UK had a duty to receive certain immigrants due to its colonial past over certain countries. Ireland does not this corresponding duty. Already there are reports of many immigrants moving on elsewhere, landlords will tell you this. Ireland has absorbed immigrants in the past and will do so today. Look at the Statutes of Kilkenny in the 1500′s, an early version of apartheid laws that failed, an attempt to keep English settlers and Irish apart. Look at the former King’s/Queens County, i.e. Offaly/Laois. I doubt the original Pilkingtons in Offaly were native Irish, yet their descendants made fine hurlers.

    Eamon Dev, well he wasn’t born in Ireland, his father was allegedly a De Valera although who this person was doesn’t seem clear? It seems he escaped execution in 1916 as he had or could claim American citizenship, as he was born abroad. have a look at this:

    De Valera was born in the New York Nursery and Child’s Hospital in New York City in 1882 to an Irish mother; he stated that his parents, Catherine Coll de Valera Wheelwright, an immigrant from Bruree, County Limerick, and Juan Vivion de Valera, a Spanish-Cuban settler and sculptor, were married in 1881 in New York. However, exhaustive trawls through church and state records by genealogists and by his most recent biographer, Tim Pat Coogan (1990) have failed to find either a church or civil record of the marriage. Furthermore, no birth, baptismal, marriage or death certificate has ever been found for anyone called Juan Vivion de Valera or de Valeros, an alternative spelling.

    Where are you getting this Spanish Celt stuff?

  32. Observer

    Rob, I happen to know the De Valera Family. The Spanish were celts in the area where the De Valeras hail from which neighbours closely to the Basque region, you need only look back to before the romans conquered Spain.

    I am very aware of the fact he wasn’t born in Ireland…… What really matters is the blood descendance not the location of birth. James Larkin was born in Liverpool but does that make him a scouser or James Connolly just a Scot.

    I doubt it…… As for the those in the england team with Anglo names who were born elsewhere they are still English by descent and to alot of people that is within the same category as an indigenous Englishman which is what matters the most. How are the Whites in South Africa….Africans? They certainly don’t have African Customs like the Massai Mara but european.

    Mike Catt is an example of a Foreign-Born Englsihman and F W De Klerk is an example of the Dutchman Diaspora. Their community don’t originate from the place and didn’t intermarry with the Zulu’s or the xhosa so you can’t put them in the same category as…

    The Pilkingtons who would have intermarried with the Irish Population like e.g. De Burca isn’t a irish name but Norman French that was gaelicized.

    There are only a few exceptions in the English Cricket team who are either British-born/ Non-Native e.g. Monty Panesar or completely “Naturalised” Citizens Owais Shah.

    My original arguement was about how as the Immigrant population grows the less effort they will make because they do not feel the need.

    I lived in the North of England for 20 years and it is very marginalised, you won’t find that many cricket teams that are ethnically mixed with South-East Asians or Native English. I wouldn’t make that up because it is a fact because the population is so disproportionate where I lived.

    If you lived in the UK…… which i can’t possibly comment if you did. You’ll likely share my view point unless if you did…. probably in the south? You’ll find the demographics are more reflective of the UK population and not as marginalised.

    BTW I wouldn’t look at the UK in Awe, because it is a very segregated society and is becoming more like Apartheid South Africa and that is what many British people believe. It was on the front pages of Broadsheet and Tabloid papers as short as 2 years ago.

    The UK Statistics showed from a Government Survey that 77% of British people wanted a halt to all Immigrants. And if Immigration on the massive scale that has happened in this country continues we will be a minority in our own country by 2050 or one source which is probably more accurate 2025.

    We have had more immigrants arrive here in 10 years per head than France or America had in 50 years.

    That is why I hold my concerns

  33. Rob

    Observer, If you read my original posting I stated that as an immigration community grows it intermingles less, i think that is the same point you are making? As for sport well just look at the mix of the English soccer team, its awash with all backgrounds, Rooney (Irish), Lampard (French?), Ferdinand (Carribean/Anglo-Irish – his mother was a Lavender), Walcott (Carribean) Look at the no. of immigrants playing in the Premiership.

    I don’t have the stats but i think the ‘flood’ of immigration is over. There was an enormous decline in asylum claims in the last 2/3 years. In reality there were economic migrants, now that the economy is declining here I don’t think we will see those numbers again. The new Immigration Act will also tighten things up.

    In essence I don’t see the British problems re. immigration replicating here.

    Re De Valeras, do you know the original family living in Spain then? Historians seem to be unable to trace the original Senor. Fair play to you for tracking them down.

  34. VincentH

    Until very lately, there was 150,000+ of the Irish population, unemployed. And none gave much of a shit about it. Large areas of the big cities and large towns were in exactly the same position as in the eighties, seventies or for that matter the sixties. And the reason nothing was done about this situation was the terror of wage inflation. Much better to get agency workers from the eastern states, and keep those considered scum in their reserves. That were the exact reverse of gated communities. But the vast majority were held in the smaller towns and villages where the policies of various dept of government prevented all movement except that which allowed them to decamp to the same life in the UK.
    Hard workers and willing are some of the terms used to describe those who moved here recently. Terms used to mark the Irish in the US and UK when the native population were seen as expensive.
    Racism in the hatred of those of a different origin is something we should be experts. And what happens in much of the UK is not the same thing. Sure there are attacks on those who are seen as different but in most of those cases it would not make any difference which difference, in that if it was not west Indian black, the victim might be someone living on a canal-boat.
    While we continue to mis-name what may become a problem, by calling it racism. We will blunder into the same situation as elsewhere in the world.

    On the DeValera issue, what is much more interesting is how did he manage to get an education, neither Rockwell or Blackrock are noted for their willingness to educate cottagers. And twenty or so years after the CSSp established themselves from France it would have been unbelievable. The Jesuits had a history on this, but the Holy G’s barely recognised any below the rank of Duke.

  35. My Lost Generation

    I cannot wait to see these greedy investors sweating under the pressure and lose it all, it is going to be delightful. My partner and I are 30 year old, no debt, some savings! no mortgage; could not buy because of the people mentioned above and the lack of regulation leading to unreasonable speculation. I am delighted! No mercy, bring on the downturn!!! I think I will save a bit more money and buy a nice flat in Paris in 2 or 3 years. Good luck to these idiots. What goes around then definitely comes around, even in economics! That is a solid and simple rule of economics, maybe the underlying one behind Dave McWilliams theory. Pity nobody listened to him when he made that tv programme…

  36. SpinstaSista

    Many of the immigrants here are having children now. Let’s hope that the children of immigrant couples, Irish-immigrant parents and Irish parents can integrate, work and socialise together. The Irish have always integrated well abroad and are known worldwide as a welcoming people.

    Integration is particularly important for a country with a relatively small indigenous population (<4m before immigration) where the birthrate of the indigenous population is falling. It appears to me that some immigrant groups have stronger family values and have more children than the indigenous Irish. How do they afford it? Most Irish people nowadays can only afford two children max thanks to commuting and mortgage costs.

  37. SpinstaSista

    Many of the immigrants here are having children now. Let’s hope that the children of immigrant parents, Irish-immigrant parents and Irish parents can integrate, work and socialise together. The Irish have always integrated well abroad and are known worldwide as a welcoming people.

    Integration is particularly important for a country with a relatively small indigenous population (<4m before immigration) where the birthrate of the indigenous population is falling. It appears to me that some immigrant groups have stronger family values and have more children than the indigenous Irish. How do they afford it? Most Irish people nowadays can only afford two children max thanks to commuting and mortgage costs.

  38. Observer

    “Observer, If you read my original posting I stated that as an immigration community grows it intermingles less, i think that is the same point you are making? As for sport well just look at the mix of the English soccer team, its awash with all backgrounds, Rooney (Irish), Lampard (French?), Ferdinand (Carribean/Anglo-Irish – his mother was a Lavender), Walcott (Carribean) Look at the no. of immigrants playing in the Premiership.

    I don’t have the stats but i think the ‘flood’ of immigration is over. There was an enormous decline in asylum claims in the last 2/3 years. In reality there were economic migrants, now that the economy is declining here I don’t think we will see those numbers again. The new Immigration Act will also tighten things up.

    In essence I don’t see the British problems re. immigration replicating here.

    Re De Valeras, do you know the original family living in Spain then? Historians seem to be unable to trace the original Senor. Fair play to you for tracking them down.”

    Hello Rob, yes there are alot of Foreign players in the premiership- So many in fact that there is now plans to have a limit of them because there are so many. Chelsea for years had no english players in their limeup but the FA and FIFA put an end to that by passing a law stating that there should be a minimum of 4 idigenous players per side in the premiership.

    To be honest with you I wouldn’t class Wayne rooney as a worthy example of an Irish Background or the Gallagher Brothers- They fit into the category of Brits unworthy of their Irish Descent….. the utter rejects of our tribe.Their behaviour being the factors for that statement.

    And Yes I do agree, the more the Immigrant population grows they won’t intermingle with the natives but the names above either are so ashamed/ignorant of their background they made the effort to try and be as english as possible probably more out of shame (Rooney as an example) than the natural want……. because they might have been bullied before about their background and this pressure influenced their decision. If that bullying didn’t occur I’m sure Rio Ferdinand would be playing for Jamaica instead of England since his family originate from there.

    If I were you also I wouldn’t hold my breath that we would escape Britain’s Mess of Immigration, the new act would need to have been much tougher in order to prevent that from happening. Trouble will occur in the future and a film named “V for Vendetta” I think portrays a shocking and realistic vision of the future if this issue remains ignored and the already huge unsustainable level of migrants already living here…. Very Nasty and Scary Stuff.

    Also to Mention, I think the Historians you refered to looked in the wrong part of Spain or the wrong part of the globe because the De Valeras were Cuban Sugar Plantation owners and that were Vivon De Valera came from….. You’ll find them there still, and the family resemblance to Eamon Dev is unquestionable. The branch I know which are in Ireland have the pictures in their album.

  39. Conor


    Why should the current situation be about FF having to refloat itself. Politics in Ireland has grown stale since FF was elected on a semi-permanent basis since 1932. Perhaps it’s time somebody else took centre-stage in Irish politics. We have tried out FF on many an occassion which ultimately ends in disaster whether in terms of corruption or pandering to one sectional interest or the other. We have tried out FG/Labour or ‘anti-FF’, but essentially the same for all intents and puurposes, with the end-result being embittered in-fighting and childishness – even ‘Garret the Good’ could not break the cycle of disagreement.

    We have had a great boom in Ireland over the past decade or more. FF have been lucky on a demographic basis and on the basis of ever-exapanding consumer debt, that an initial turn-around of bad fortunes had turned into a prolonged economic expansion. Now we enter the dark days of a prolonged decline in house prices; property speculation having been the primary cause of the empty growh of the Irish economy after the initial slowdown in 2001. Unemployment soars, interest rates rise, mortgage and loan availablity declines and we are left with a precarious situation we, nor any other economy has ever been in before; recession without the possibility of any kind of demand or supply-side intervention. This is something we have to simply leave up to market forces.

    FF sold us out to the intersets of the builders, auctioneers and estate agents for the last half-decade if not more. Thousands of hard-working families; both working class and middle class now stand to lose their jobs, their homes – everything, in the name of sectional interest.

    The time has come for a more stable political party on the scene, not just one of catch-all populism. Ireland needs a political party with real values. Ireland need an indepentent social democratic party; one which is neither tied to FF or FG. Ireland neeeds a social democratic party to defend against instability and sectionalism. Ireland neeeds an re-invigrated, independent Labour party to defend the interests of the nation as a whole. The Labour party does not need its values to be assigned to it by FF or FG, but by the intrests of its members and the nation as a whole.

    An independent, centre-left, social democratic party will provide the conditions necessary for stable, diverse economic growth. No one sector of te economy will be relied upon for our future success. Every school-child in Ireland knows not to put all of their eggs in one basket, so why do the middle-aged Dáil deputies think this is a good strategy. Because they do not have the interest of the electorate at heart, all they have is their own selfish ambotion at heart.

    A real centre-left government will transcend all of this nonsence and provide a stable, democratic government for many years to come. A real alternative government will provide individulal choice for the electorate. A real alternative government will provide opportunity for the many to proseper. A real alternative government will end the obsession in this country of ours for bricks and mortar and will concentrate on building real assets, real growth opportunities, real change.

    A real government would never have alowed this state of affairs to occur. A real government would never have re-introduced fear and economic-panic back into the mids of the electorate. People of Ireland, I urge you to make your voices hear in demanding a proper alternative to the present FF/ occassional FG/Lab situation. We need real centre-left government, not far-left fairy-stories promised by ‘champagne socialists’ or pandering to the builders’ interests. We need to bring democracy back to the people and stability and sense back to the economy.

  40. Martha

    “As the feel good factor for the average Joe evaporates with ongoing house price falls, the temptation to see the mega rich as culprits rather than heroes will increase.”

    We (the Irish masses – include me out) didn’t see the money-grabbing Catholic Church and its FF cohorts for what they are (the first time around) which is precisely why your Average Joe & Mary were so easily deluded by the Celtic Tiger. The sins of the parents fall on their children…

    Excellent article, David.

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