July 27, 2015

British prosperity will drive our recovery

Posted in Sunday Business Post · 140 comments ·

I am on Shaftesbury Avenue in London, quite shocked. I have just put my card into an ATM to get £200 and realise that it has cost me nearly €300. I was aware that the British currency was rocketing, but this exchange rate difference is extraordinary and is brilliant news for Irish exporters.


We should do a deal with the British, fix the exchange rate here and simply transport Britain’s industrial base to Ireland and hit the restart button.

Of course, I am joking, but there is a startling divergence between the British economy, our biggest trading partner, and the eurozone economy that Official Ireland pretends is our biggest trading partner.

Employment in Britain is growing for a start. As George Osborne claimed in his recent budget, Yorkshire has created more jobs than France.

Thankfully, the Irish economy is not a European economy in any meaningful sense. We are an Anglo-American economy with a Franco-German currency grafted onto us.

Despite politicians and senior civil servants going over and back to Brussels all the time, we are actually part of the Anglosphere which maps a giant global arch from Dublin to London, across the Atlantic through North America and down to Australia and New Zealand.

This is our world. This is where we trade, where our investments come from, where our people live. It is an interlinked web of culture, language and family.

Granted, there are some significant differences, but if we are honest, these differences are dwarfed by commonalities.

Economically, when the Anglosphere does well, we do well. Period.

In the past five years, Ireland’s economy has been dragged upwards by Britain and the US. Ireland’s youth have sought opportunities in booming Australia, Britain, Canada and the US. We head to Boston or Birmingham, not Brussels to look for work. These are the facts.

We are the only eurozone country that actually does more trade outside the eurozone than within it.

But this type of anomaly describes much of Irish economic policy – it’s an economic policy made up without much reference to the actual economy.

However, thankfully for us, our major trading partner – Britain and the US – are motoring and they have dragged Ireland out of the mire and put us on the road to recovery.

Ahead of the election, the government’s line is that EU-imposed austerity sorted things out and led to some ‘magic’ recovery.

This is not only untrue, but economically impossible. In reality we do €1 billion a week worth of trade with Britain and its growth drives our growth.

As we head into 1916 anniversaries, we should be down on bended knee thanking the Brits for picking us up and dusting us down in the past few years.

I know this is unfashionable and not pro-EU; even after all these years, there is still an anti-London narrative of Official Ireland.

So what happens next in the British economy is crucial for Ireland and is more important than what happens in Germany, France or any other eurozone country.

On the surface, Britain is flying. Retail sales are booming, unemployment is half our rate, the budget deficit is falling and the housing market is strong. London continues to suck in enormous amounts of capital from the rest of the world.

But there are some problems that we in Ireland should like the British to address, not least because their prosperity is our prosperity.

What gives economies their underlying strength is if they are productive and this means if the people and the capital used in the economy are being used to their best and most productive.

Here Britain has a problem. Productivity has been falling for a long time there. Declining productivity has been a problem across the western world in the post-financial crisis period, but it seems to be a particularly severe problem for Britain.

In the league of the world’s seven most advanced nations, Britain is behind every one except Japan.

This means that Britain is not getting the most out of its workers and its capital and you can see this in the fact that British wages are not rising and the fact that it continues to run large current account deficits.

Some people argue that the reason British workers haven’t been as productive as their continental or American counterparts over the past few years is that British business never regarded the slowdown in the economy post the 2008 crash as permanent.

Rather than fire people straight away at the first sign of a wobble in demand, British employers kept their workers. This explains why unemployment in Britain didn’t increase nearly as much as expected after the financial crash.

This implied that companies seem to have preferred to retain workers but have worked them less hard, hence the decline in productivity.

In the years ahead, there needs to be massive investment in Britain – public and private – to push productivity upwards. The British government knows this and so too do British companies.

In fact, British companies have among the lowest ratio of debts to profits in the world, so there is no capital constraint on British corporations.

In a world of mobile capital there can be few more attractive destinations for innovative and high-tech investment.

Britain has four of the top ten universities worldwide, generating world-class academic research. This is evidenced in the disproportionate number of British-based Nobel prize winners in science.

With the City, Britain has the deepest capital market in the world, dwarfing New York. This implies there is lots of capital in Britain looking for a home.

All told, Britain is well placed for the years ahead. For this we should be grateful because – despite the rhetoric of 1916 and all that stuff – our two economies are still profoundly linked. We forget that at our peril.

  1. Over to you Pat Flannery.

    • Antaine

      subscribe :-)

        • Pat Flannery

          Brian Lenihan and Brian Cowan might have done better for Ireland if they had not read your stuff back in September 2008.

          • McCawber

            They could have done a lot better had they read his stuff before September 2008.
            He warned them of the iceberg ahead but like the Captain of the Titanic they just plowed on.
            So far it’s been established by the politicians that nobody warned Bertie, Brian, John and any other politician involved of the disaster their policies would lead to.
            Is there anyone among you who seriously believes there wasn’t enough evidence available in the public arena, never mind less public, to suggest that the government was sailing into very dangerous waters.

        • Pat Flannery

          David, will you now publish on this site the email you sent to John Gormley on the night of the guarantee?

          We would all like to see the “David McWilliams option” because it is now clear that you argued in favor of a full guarantee rather than nationalization and that your view seems to have swayed Brian Lenihan and Brian Cowan on that fateful night.

          • Antaine

            If they listened to one economist and made their decision they are more stupid than I imagined.

          • Hi Pat

            I really find this hilarious that you believe that the one man who consistently warned of the coming crash years in advance when there was room to do something about it wasn’t listened to for 10 years and then was suddenly listened to for 10 days, and then not listened to again.

            Do you seriously believe this narrative?

            I told you and everyone who cared to listen that the “Irish economic & banking system was set up to fail” and by doing nothing, the State simply ran out of options in the end. That’s the sum total of it.

            As for nationalising, the difference between that and a “temporary guarantee” which I thought and (still think) was the only option, nationalising means you crystallise losses today; whereas a temporary guarantee buys you time to see what you can do – and of course you can rescind it and burn the bondholders in an orderly fashion without having a bank run.

            We bought time and amazingly did nothing!

            Hardly the fault of a man who has never been inside the Department of Finance and was 100% on the money about the crash and its consequences.

            You don’t seem to realise that all the options taken in 2008-2012 were the consequence not cause of our economic mismanagement.



          • Pat Flannery

            You didn’t answer my question: “David, will you now publish on this site the email you sent to John Gormley on the night of the guarantee?”

            Now that Minister Gormley has placed you front and center on this you need to tell the world what exactly was the “David McWilliams option”. This is your site and you own the cited emails because you wrote them. What is preventing you from publishing your own emails here on your own site?

            It is unfair of you to mock my supposed naivety with “Do you seriously believe this narrative?” when I don’t know what that narrative is.

            Now is your chance to make a major contribution to historians’ understanding of that fateful night in 2008. You owe it not only to your contemporary readers but to future generations of ordinary Irish people who have been bequeathed not only an unfair burden of odious debt but a growing number of toxic lies to justify it.

            Publish ALL your email correspondence with ALL members of the Government before and after the historic decision to guarantee ALL Irish banks’ liabilities.

            Your current and future credibility is at stake here. It is up to you. No more ducking and diving. What exactly was the now famous “David McWilliams Option? You don’t need anybody’s permission to publish your own thoughts.

          • “I really find this hilarious that you believe that the one man who consistently warned of the coming crash years in advance when there was room to do something about it wasn’t listened to for 10 years and then was suddenly listened to for 10 days, and then not listened to again.”

            This, to me seems to be what you are actually saying. I’m confused. Why don’t you lay it all on the table in short form so we all understand rather than speculate.

          • Pat Flannery

            Tony: I don’t think David will publish his emails here or anywhere else because John Gormley has accused him of misrepresenting them in his book “The Pope’s Children”.

            If David were to “lay it all out” as you rightly suggest he would have to withdraw his claims in his book. Can you see David doing that? It’s not the Irish way, so don’t hold your breath.

          • Perhaps Pat
            David is not the economist he claims to be but an actor, promoter, author, and businessman.
            Making money and looking after number one is the first priority. He is brilliant at that and we should recognise his genius in that respect.

            We are not going to get a real economic debate, it is self defeating..

  2. Deco

    Britain means business. Britain is being honest about the weaknesses in it’s economy. And it is addressing them. Mainly through hard work.

    Brussels means face saving, because the business model of Brussels is “expand and pretend”. Brussels is refusing to admit to Brussels being the source of the PIGIS mess. In fact Brussels even has the arrogance to ass u me that the solution to problems created by Brussels, is “more” Brussels. And Ireland’s establishment are full committing to this idiotic face saving exercise.

    The ECB is also playing pretend with respect to the entire debt model of economic expansion that it has played with since Trichet took over at the helm. It should be now obvious that the ECB is using monetary policy to make up for deficiencies in the balance sheets of governments and even economic sectors of the economic system. This is absurdity. It is also “socialism for the well connected”.

    Britain is serious about addressing it’s productivity bottlenecks. We see this with the current cross-rail project in London. When complete it will make a massive difference to the entire SE of Englan economy. And there are plans for an improvement in connectivity between Yorkshire, Machester, and Liverpool. We also see it in the T5 move in Heathrow.

    In Ireland, the issue of DART U has been thrown aside (forever), because slush funds are needed to bailout dodgy political outfits. Internet policy in Ireland seems focussed on preventing people get access, or charging them levies for access, and redistributing the money to a state propaganda organ. The DART-U would cost less than the bailout of that “systemic” bank, INBS that 95% of the population never dealt with. Arcane work practices, and organizational stupidity prevent ireland making use of it’s rail network for freight purposes. We see this in particularly in Munster, where lorries fill the roads moving raw materials and products for the food industry.

    We also have the annual nonsense-fest that is the McGill summer school. It consists of state made millionaires giving “lectures” (the official term, actually) concerning “fairness” and “equality” concerning the rest of the population (who incidentally are paying the highest marginal tax tax rate at the average industrial wage, bar possibly Greece) for such nonsense.

    This is absolute madness. The participants in McGill are the problem. They are full of horsemanure. And they are the certainty that Ireland will encounter another debt crisis within three years. They are backslapping each other on their individual careers, whilst proclaiming to the rest of us that they know best.

    There is French “dirigisme” which is suffocated France at the moment. And then there is Irish “dirigisme”. And the Irish version is sloppy and amateurism. Because the unions here are even worse than in France. And the delusions are even higher.

    Ireland currently is leveraged to the Nasdaq, and the Social media boom. Money has been flowing into the Nasdaq listing for five years, and in turn some of that has flowed into an investment into Ireland as a location for profit accounting ofr Nasdaq members. 80% of the listing does not make a profit to justify the valuations, using the Shiller PE ratio average. Take a handful out, and the profits amongst the others are scarce. When the bubble bursts, the investment flow will stop. And it will be run for the exits time.

    In other words, it is all nonsense again. And the Irish state has congratulated itself on being leveraged onto this.

    The Irish government system has also being congratulating itself on the way in which it runs administration in this country, whilst the debt climbed by 75 Billion Euros.

    This also nonsense.

    Britain is looking at it’s productivity, it’s cost base, and it’s competitiveness. Ireland is not. In fact the morons in charge here will shortly lambast Britain, with a series of tired old cliches, and praise for any numpties in Britain who refuse to grow up and act responsibly.

    WHEN Ireland goes bankrupt, again, there will be a flood of money into British banks in NI, into Euro accounts.

    Note : I say “when” not if.

    Whatever will the smug millionaires in McGill, in control of Irish “dirigisme” say then ? Will they congratulate themselves, or will they say that nobody could possible have seen it coming ?

    • McCawber

      Your if and when are very dependent on the mix of elected representives in the next Dail.
      FF and SF have one thing in common, party before country.
      So remember that when they’re beating the patriotic drum in next year’s 1916 celebrations.
      Maybe they’re right too, Alan Dukes put country before party and the people spat in his face. Look in the mirror and stop blaming the banks. The politicians want us to blame the banks for everything.
      In fact the politicians are about 80% of the problem and we elect them. They let the banks do what they liked and still do.

      • Deco

        We are at the point, of approaching a “when”, and only a “when”. Ireland is the most indebted country in the planet compared to GNP, and number 2 after Japan compared to the “questionable” GDP statistic.

        No combination of phrases can avoid the fact that there is a serious problem with the manner in which the state is organized (sic) and run. No amount of deflection, will prevent a debt reckoning.

        I do not blame the people. If we see the IW debacle, we can see that the people are fed up with the bungling, the waste, the sweat heart deals for union insiders and the pervasive incompetence.

        The people are lied to, on a 24 hour basis by a media that refuses to see scandals, and that greeted this crisis, with the mantra “soft handing”.

        • McCawber

          I don’t necessary disagree with the thrust of your argument but I’d prefer a glass half full approach.
          For example what about a few suggestions that would either prevent, delay and/or at least ameliorate the impact of your when rather than your “End of the World is Nigh” narrative.

          • “Can’t handle the truth”!!!! :)

          • coldblow

            ‘but I’d prefer a glass half full approach’

            Mine is a glass three-quarters empty (or glass quarter full I you like) approach.

          • coldblow

            Also, McCawber, judging from your name and the glass thing, can I concluded that you are an optimist? And can I then deduce that you might be an extravert? I understand extraverts as being people-persons, action-orientated, given to rhetoric and simple (or cliched) explanations and champions of conventional wisdom. Do you mind me asking if this description fits?

          • McCawber

            You’re absolutely right about the speculative thing.
            We have spreads, derivatives, shorting, leveraging, CFDs and as far as I’m concerned they’re all just different names for gambling.
            The stock market and currency exchange should be mainly about providing capital for company’s and the enabling of global trade. Sure there is gamble and risk involved but when you can leverage €10,000 to buy €100,000 well I just don’t get any of it.
            And then we have gold. How much is an ounce of gold really worth.
            You can’t eat gold but you could barter it for food I suppose.
            It certainly has practical industrial uses and its’ attraction as jewellery probably has more to do with history and the fact that it didn’t rust than anything else.

            To me the only real currency is people.
            And as population growth is also in bubble territory is that being devalued too.

    • Deco

      Is it possible for Munster/Wexford/Kilkenny to sort out rail freight ? Especially considering it is an organizational issue ?

      Ireland does not mean business. In fact in some ways Ireland is still firmly stuck, in “British Leyland in the 1970s” mode.

      Or will Ireland wait for bankruptcy to come around for the second time in a decade, before it realises the failure to understand cost economics, and the efficiencies of infrastructure utilization ?

  3. McCawber

    We have the best of both worlds.
    We have all the benefits of a single currency. And they are huge don’t doubt it so don’t be so quick to throw it away.
    I quick like to hop on a plane to Belgium and not be gouged by a bank for exchange costs which are quite real and quite expensive.
    We have extremely beneficial links with the US economy AND as David is pointing out –
    We have Britain.
    We have a common language – The most important language in the world.
    To copperfasten our links with Britain and hedge our bets (something the Irish are very good at) we should seek to reactivate our Commonwealth membership. The reason we should be doing this is that if the UK were to leave the EU they will be seeking to reinforce economic links with their Commonwealth partners.

  4. Deco

    I look across the (narrow, confined) spectrum of the Irish media.

    All I see are opinions masquerading as facts. I see many commentators who are certain of the opinions being the reality. And there is so much consensus. And very little study of the underlying conditions. And no understanding of the assumptions. And practically no serious analysis.

    I do not know how many times I have heard the absurd phrase “Debt to GDP ratio”. The debt is real. GDP is made up from accounting tricks.

    In the Irish media, I see intellectual insolvency everywhere. And an utter determination to avoid the type of logic that is needed to solve anything.

    This always comes to a very ugly end.

    • McCawber

      Debt/GDP is a ratio and so long as the accounting is consistent (tricks or otherwise) then the trend is important.
      And yes there is unaccounted for debt.
      However if you want some practical suggestions as to how you can do something for your country try these.
      Join a political party, preferably a non socialist one.
      Attend RD clinics on a regular basis and tell the TDs what you think is wrong and why (In the national sense).
      Surprisingly they are interested in hearing new ideas.
      TD’s are people who are basically good at getting themselves elected/re-elected they lack most of the skills and knowledge necessary to run a country.
      My own suggestion is that every TD (Maybe even county councillors) should be required by law to do a course similar to the one David offers here (Once every 5 years).
      TDs need to be educated about how to run a modern day economy.
      For example, most TDs have an appalling lack of knowledge about running a business and need to be educated.

      • Deco

        Well, this my approach to improving matters. I am being honest about it. I am discussing it in a frank manner.

        And that is what we usually do on this website.

        And that is what I wish to do. I do not see any such debate occurring in the Irish media, or the Irish political spectrum. And I don’t take either seriously. If I did, I would not be making the points that I have made.

        If you wish to debate the state of the economy, debt, productivity, the performance of the state, etc. then that is fine.

        If people are having a better quality discussion, then that is progress. If people object to better quality discussion, then I understand perfectly well. That is a threat to some interests. I am very alert to this.

        But this is about the public dialogue being opened up, and not about the public dialogue being subsumed to the needs of political parties, banks, or the state. And that is what I have seen. The evidence of this is the “consensus” opinion. And now there is a “consensus” opinion currently, is to pretend all is well. I have looked at what is propping it up.

        I have also looked at the mindset prevailing in the media currently. And it is the same mindset that prevailed in the buildup to the last disaster.

        The intellectual conditions are still building to another debt disaster. The debts are higher. The state is even more extended.

        Ireland is another Greece. Look at the debts. Look at the manner in which the state operates. And in Greece, there was an official mindset that prevailed in the run up to the debt disaster. It said, things are not really that bad. The politicians know what they are doing.

        Is it possible to re-interpret the current debt levels, and the current level of state ineptitude, in a positive light, so as make the current consensus look much less misleading and ridiculous ?

        I acknowledge what I cannot change. And the right to not waste my time on that.

      • Mike Lucey

        “My own suggestion is that every TD (Maybe even county councillors) should be required by law to do a course similar to the one David offers here (Once every 5 years)”

        Great suggestion! A possible problem might be that senior civil servants would not be too keen on organising this for TDs. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yes_Minister

  5. Mike Lucey

    Maybe Gay Mitchell was not too far of the mark when he was proposing that Ireland should ‘Join Commonwealth in exchange for united Ireland’

    Maybe he should have included an additional reasoning along the lines of what DMcW outlines?

    First item on the agenda, a tunnel between Ireland and the UK!

    When I first saw these suggestions coming on-stream I thought the costs were exorbitant and prohibitive but what’s a measly $23.5bn these days when we see figures of $235,000,000,000++++ on the wall?

    A physical railroad link to the UK combined with Commonwealth membership might also help to sort out the ‘Northern’ problems as Gay suggested.

    It looks like most Irish people would like to share a cuppa with QE II and PP. ‘Poll shows how Queen was taken to Irish hearts’

    How many would consider having a cuppa with too many of these? http://www.dulminis.nl/europe/hog.htm

    • aidanxc

      A tunnel between Ireland and the eurozone would be more useful though excessively expensive. Who knows what type of taxes the British will be applying once they pull out of Europe so spending 23 bn on that project would be a complete waste. The idea of joining the Commonwealth is risible – why should we join of club of dictators, despots and dysfunctionals. Seriously… any other bright ideas?

  6. Pat Flannery

    David is guilty of the worst sin an economist can commit, a flawed analysis.

    He clings to a British myth that London is still the center of the world and America is a mere British colony. He says “We are an Anglo-American economy with a Franco-German currency grafted onto us.” There is no such thing as an “Anglo-American economy”. He totally misunderstands the role of America in today’s world by reducing it to a mythical relationship with its colonizing power called the British Isles of 250 years ago.

    He seems unaware that American businesses see Ireland as an American satellite within Europe and see Ireland’s growing separation from Britain as a plus. I wonder if he has ever attended an IDA presentation in America. That is their pitch.

    As a long-time Irish-American familiar with both American thought and Ireland’s economy, history and culture I was repeatedly hired by the IDA to give cross-cultural lectures to companies such as Hewlett Packard and Intel as part of their growing investment in Ireland. I was graciously hosted and well paid by those fine companies. I think I gained some understanding of how they each viewed Ireland. It was definitely not as part of “an Anglo-American economy”, quite the contrary.

    The reason Irish “politicians and senior civil servants [are] going over and back to Brussels all the time” as David writes, is not because “we are actually part of the Anglosphere which maps a giant global arch from Dublin to London …” but rather as (sovereign) representatives of the giant American multi-nationals that have colonized the banks of the Liffey, much like the Vikings did over a thousand years ago. Their rationale for choosing Dublin rather than London is the same, they did not want to deal with the insular-minded Brits.

    Maybe this is connected to a growing antipathy towards America among surplus Irish who have difficulty getting U.S. Green Cards. They seem to think they should be able to walk into the U.S. as they can walk into Britain. Is that part of this “Anglosphere” myth portrayed by David? He should live in America for a while. I can assure him it is no longer a British colony. That was 250 years ago. It is a global microcosm.

    In any case all his anglophile musings are as doomed as the British reinvasion of the U.S. in 1812.

    His “As we head into 1916 anniversaries, we should be down on bended knee thanking the Brits for picking us up and dusting us down in the past few years” is not only pathetic, it is sad. It is the product of several lost generations during the 20th Century, destroyed by a narrow education system dominated by religion and fear, on both sides of the denominational divide.

    I am glad I escaped the lost generations since 1976, the year I got my U.S. Green Card enabling me to become a U.S. citizen five years later, on the very first day I was eligible to do so.

    Far from going “down on bended knee thanking the Brits” I bless the day I picked up that U.S. Green Card at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin. If I had stayed I might have ended up lost like David. I was after all educated in London as a qualified accountant and much sought-after in anglophile Dublin. But to quote Ronald Regan (whom I voted for in 1984 btw) “the fact that I was born in a stable does not make me a horse”.

    David’s economic analysis is flawed from its very hypothesis. He completely misunderstands the American perspective on Britain. But more importantly his anglophile writings hurt Ireland. If I had told my American cross-cultural audiences the nonsense McWilliams is spouting here, companies like Intel and HP may well have had second thoughts about locating in an independent member of the European Union, called Ireland. If they had wanted to Britain they would have gone to Britain.

    • McCawber

      It’s fair to say that Americans view Ireland in a totally different light to the way they view England (or England views us for that matter)
      However we can have it both ways and that is all David is suggesting.

      • Pat Flannery

        David is suggesting a lot more than having it both ways. He fails to see Britain as our competitor for American FDI, as any IDA official would confirm.

        David’s way is backwards. He would reverse all the magnificent achievements of the IDA under successive Irish governments.

        And while I’m at it, there would be no Irish Peace Process or Good Friday Agreement if the Americans had not forced it on the Brits. Without Bill Clinton and George Mitchell the Irish and Brits would still be killing each other. “We forget that at our peril”.

        • McCawber

          I almost forgot too that when Irish people couldn’t get jobs in Ireland they went to England and got jobs there. Or that when we went looking (or were forced to accept one)for a Bailout, England lent us Billions outside the bailout to assist us. I’ve no doubt there was self interest involved but it still tells you how important we are to them.
          Sure there is history but what’s the point in living it the past.
          Divide and conquer is a lesson we are very familiar with. United we Stand is something we should embrace.

        • SLICKMICK

          Ireland = America’s bitch. Fair comment ? American investment acts as a magnet for multi lingual staff to set up shop in dublin and drive housing costs through the roof. Lower wage employment isn’t viable unless it pays @ least € 11 an hour. No wonder irish adults are amongst the oldest on the planet to leave their parents homes. Pathetic. A nation of mammy’s boys and girls.

          • coldblow

            The problem (or one of the problems) for me is that we are stuck with Europe and all that goes with it (including the Euro and water charges) because if we left Europe the US multinationals would pull out. It’s tricky. It is surely not sustainable though, is it? And then what?

    • Thriftcriminal

      Err they did go to the UK as well, HPLabs in Bristol, Analog Devices in several locations, Xilinx in Edinburgh, Synopsys in Reading, the list goes on, and seems on the increase from the number of IC design related job opportunities listed in the UK. In fact the only reason they come here is a favorable corporation tax rate, they dress it up as another thing altogether as it is not the done thing to base the decision solely on tax, but that’s the real reason. And then they have to import all their employees due to the lack of appropriate experience here.

      • Pat Flannery

        Thriftcriminal: thank you for that. You underline my point that we are in fierce competition with the UK for FDI.

        Our economic future depends not upon capitulation to the UK as David suggests, but in sharpening our competitiveness such as keying our education systems to creating the kind of employees needed by the multinationals we seek to entice here.

        Most of the recent emigration was due to this national failure. I wish David would use his writing skills to point that out rather than constantly stressing our dependence on the UK.

        • McCawber

          We waste a fortune every year TRYING to teach school children a dead language ie Irish.
          I doubt very much that this is done for the benefit of the Multinationals.

          • Mike Lucey


            Irish is not ‘a dead language’. Its just a much unused and abused language.

            I do agree that the current methods being used by the DOE is a waste of time and money and in most cases counter productive.


          • coldblow

            We waste a fortune every year trying to teach many of them anything.

            Just to clarify, are you saying we should ditch the cupla focal for the benefit of foreign investors?

          • DB4545

            Mike Lucey

            It’s a beautiful language but just reflect on the language we’re using for this debate. An Irish American Comedian can gain fluency through immersion in a year and consider the billions wasted on the language trying to force people to use it. You have to want to learn it out of love it can’t be forced or beaten into you by some knuckle dragging Christian brother.

        • Thriftcriminal

          Ah, so your strategy is to roll with the facts, incorporating them into your anti-brit narrative. I smell dogma.

      • McCawber

        US companies invest in Ireland for a lot of reasons not just to do with tax.
        Reliable power supply in part due to a very incidence of power interruption due to thunderstorm activity (We’re in a low activity zone)
        Well educated employees.
        Stable political system.
        We tick a lot of boxes.

        • coldblow

          Does ‘language’ include a smattering Gwaeilge? Does ‘well educated employees’ mean we *are then* teaching children in the approved manner? Is the ‘stable political system’ the one over in Germany? We are indeed well trained in ticking boxes. I think that leaves thunderstorms and tax.

          • McCawber

            Wouldn’t it be great if we could run our affairs as well as the Germans seem to be able to do.
            Gaeilge is a total waste of money and was long a very negative influence on many of our citizens.

          • coldblow

            The Germans are running our affairs and we can see the consequences. One of them is Irish Water. I visited Trier four or five years ago. Our hotel was a stone’s throw from the city centre but it would talk all night to get to and from it as there were so many pedestrian crossings you had to stop and wait at, even if there was no car in sight. From my own point of view this really borders on the insane, and I include Irish Water in that remark. (Actually setting up IW crosses that border.) I would have thought that there was a more negative influence from drink, our ‘iniquitous social system’ (Crotty), forced emigration caused by economic failure (Crotty, Lee), joining the EEC, cute hoor politics and a lot of other things.

            I was looking up Cathal Ó Searcaigh and The Fairytale of Kathmandu the other day and came across an interesting article by Anthony Cronin, about an arson attack on a British Legion social club in Wexford a long time ago. He says this was the only case of ‘ostracisation’ he had ever heard of. ‘If there were others they were on the everyday grounds of class and social position; class loyalties and identifications being always more important in Ireland than any other kind.’


            I have never heard the argument made before that Gaelic was a negative influence on many Irish citizens. Please elaborate. Are you talking about Irish Protestants?

    • Deco

      Pat, thanks for the info.

      The problem is that the central core of the Ireland Inc. business model (cheap corp tax) is easy enough to replicate, and we have not been addressing our cost base, or our operational efficiency.

      In fact it seems to me that there is a perverse determination from some quarters to completely undermine those aspects. To cause us to lose competitive impact.

      • McCawber

        It’s called Health and Safety.
        If all else fails that’s your go to.
        A simple enough example.
        According to the latest Electrical regulations you are not supposed to wire a new socket in your house unless you are a certified electrician.
        This sort of thing is pushed for by the unions to generate jobs for their members and has nothing to do with H & S but that’ll be the excuse trotted out to justify it.
        It’s just a restrictive practice in another guise and it seems to be government policy or else H & S is being ABUSED as a means of creating jobs?????

        • coldblow

          You are right about health and safety. We got a stove put in last year and they told us that they needed to put a vent in the wall. I told the fitter’s mate, who was doing this bit of the job, that it was the last thing we needed as it was only adding to the draughts. He replied that it was an EU requirement. So you are right, H&S is being abused, but I don’t think it is just for cynical gain (though it is that too) but rather a wider psychological syndrome. Or what Deco might call an ‘intellectual’ deficiency.

    • “When American troops planned to attack Great Britain by invading its colony Canada, Americans believed that Canadians would welcome them as liberators. However, rather than welcome American troops, Canadians successfully repelled the American invaders.”


      A slight change of perspective on the war of 1812 Pat. Because US Fenians attacked and burned York, AKA Toronto today, Canadians went South and burned down the White House.!!

      “Some historians note that the charges of impressment of American seamen into the Royal Navy were exaggerated and that the real issue driving the United States to war was British support of Native Americans in conflicts with the U.S. This is what pushed Southern and Western senators, particularly the “War Hawks” Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun, toward war.”

      From what I read, the US declared War on Britain because of a complex of issues including that the US was blockaded by France and Britain to restrict trade. Seems the tactic rubbed off on the US to be used extensively today.

      “Both Britain and the U.S. decided to stop fighting because 1) neither side expected to win easily and 2) most of the reasons the war started (trade restrictions and impressment of U.S. soldiers) were an indirect result of the Napoleonic Wars, which Britain had won. After the defeat of Napoleon, the reasons for fighting essentially disappeared.”

    • coldblow

      ‘destroyed by a narrow education system dominated by religion and fear, on both sides of the denomination divide.’

      If this is what you were telling your audiences they were not getting a very good insight into Irish history. I think the evidnece points towards ‘destroyed by sectional interests, ‘an iniquitous social order’ (to use Crotty’s phrase) and under-development caused ultimately by property in land in the context of capitalist colonialism’. Changing the education system wouldn’t have (and won’t) made any difference. I think Joe Lee, in his History of Ireland, says that the educational system was quite rational.

      Also, you must have had an awful lot of influence over those multinationals if they would have pulled out on your advice.

    • GIS

      When the inevitable fiscal union comes about, and corporate tax rates are eventually harmonized across the Eurozone to current French / German levels (around 30 per cent..slightly higher in France!) I wonder how much longer those “fine” giant American multinationals, eg. Intel, HP, etc will grace the banks of the Liffey???

  7. aidanxc

    This old chestnut again David??? Seriously, you need to get a new economic mantra.

    The perils of having an over-dependence on one trading partner is well known, I am sure you studied it in school. The percentage of our exports to Britain has been declining for decades and will continue to do so – this is both natural and healthy for the Irish economy. We actually export more to the euro-zone than to Britain. Around 16% of our exports go to the UK but around 34% of our imports come from there – the imports percentage figure is much higher as a lot of international companies will serve Ireland out of their UK branches.

    The notion that we should tether our cart to the UK horse is naive and reeks of some post-colonial hang-up. International trading markets are truly global now and we should be encouraging Irish exporters to diversify and serve all markets. That means going after Asian, South American and African markets as well as the more established ones.

    We have no say in how sterling is managed but we do have a say in the euro. The euro is 16 years old and has become the second reserve currency of the world. It will take time for it to settle in and we shouldn’t take a short term decision regarding a long term project – that sort of gombeen thinking has gotten us nowhere in the past and will not in the future.

    If a rising UK market helps Ireland then great, let’s capitalise on it without doing anything stupid. We are one of the most open economies in the world and a lot of our success as an exporting nation is due to the fact that we have diversified our export markets, moving away from the UK and embracing new, non-English speaking markets. We need to continue to do so. We need to get to a point where less than 10% of our exports go to the UK (that will happen in the next 8-10 years). That is a good thing as it reflects a growing ability to develop & sell new products and services that have truly global appeal rather than narrow UK focused ones.

    So David, get over it. The Ireland-UK link continues to weaken. Both on a trade and cultural level. Your granny might have married a Scot but it’s far more likely that your daughter/son will marry a Pole or an Italian. It’s called globalisation and you can’t stop it.

  8. Pat Flannery

    aidanxc: “Around 16% of our exports go to the UK but around 34% of our imports come from there – the imports percentage figure is much higher as a lot of international companies will serve Ireland out of their UK branches.” I don’t know where you got your figures from but they sound about right from my personal research.

    As an economist David should be pointing out how Irish entrepreneurs can build lucrative new import businesses that would avoid being served out of UK distributorships. We should learn to view the British market as any other international market not something we are subordinate to.

    I fully share your hope that within 8 to 10 years less than 10% of our exports will go to the UK “reflecting a growing ability to develop & sell new products and services that have truly global appeal rather than narrow UK focused ones” and would add my own hope that within that same timeframe less than 10% of our imports would come from or through the UK.

    • Antaine

      In a previous life I was a service engineer for a pharmaceutical equipment distributor. I noticed a lot of the equipment which came from Europe had UK distributors so we had to go to them and they then provided us with spare parts, info etc.
      Could we take out the middleman in any way there to reduce imports from the UK or is this the way the manufacturers want things to run?

  9. Pat Flannery

    Antaine: No it is not the way manufacturers want things. They respect and understand individual countries’ sensitivities. We just don’t assert ours.

    Can you imagine a French company demanding and being granted the sole distributorship for Belgium or Holland? Can you imagine Israel being granted a sole distributorship for Egypt or Lebanon? Yet that is what we Irish accept as normal every day.

    I have been to many U.S. trade shows especially the big electronic ones in Las Vegas and was constantly appalled at how the Brits lie to manufacturers that Ireland is part of the UK in order to get our distributorship. I called and appealed to the Consulate in San Francisco on one occasion only to be ridiculed by the sycophant West Brit culture of our Consular Service. McWilliams is not alone.

    • Antaine

      That’s interesting to know. I always thought it was ridiculous and that it just added another layer of cost to the end product for the customer. Shame about the consular service being idiots.

      • Tony

        It doesn’t necessarily add another layer of cost (except for perhaps increased shipping charges). A distributor in Ireland will add as much margin as a British one (if not more given the higher cost base).
        But it goes the other way too. There are Irish companies that have distribution rights for the UK. My brother’s company handled British distriibution for a Spanish company from their offices in Tallaght. Through a warehousing and distribution deal with a British courier, they never saw or handled the product, but took a 15% margin.

  10. Sideshow Bob

    From the CIA World Factbook page on Ireland


    Exports – partners:

    US 19.6%, UK 16.9%, Belgium 13.7%, Germany 7.7%, Switzerland 6.3%, France 4.9%, Netherlands 4.5% (2013)

    So the Eurozone accounts for 30.8% of Irish exports minimum. The tally above only mentions the highest 6 individual countries on the list. It exudes 33% worth of Irish exports, of which a considerable chunk has to be going other Eurozone countries…so somewhere between 40% and 50% is likely heading for the Eurozone.

    This has been pointed out before on here.

    • EugeneN

      The figure is 64% for Europe. Since that includes the UK we should take it out and the Europe-UK figure is 50%.

      So it’s

      Europe-UK = 50%
      USA = 19%
      UK = 14%

      Belgium-Luxenbourg is almost as big as the UK, but thats probably the entreports.

      Heres a good site:


      WE clearly aren’t in t

      • EugeneN

        Sorry, hit too soon.

        We clearly aren’t in the AngloSphere economically, although we are a european centered nation with more than a usual range of export destinations, with the US and the UK being important too but Europe more so.

  11. Afternoon Gents

    Thanks for all the comments. Digesting them now. Hope all is well.


  12. E. Kavanagh

    I’m as pissed of as anyone with the Germans and the Euro Zone issues; but having said that, I just don’t see an “Anglosphere” and the numbers don’t support it. Irish exports to Canada amount to less than 1%, and just over 1% to Australia. New Zealand isn’t even in the top 20 nations; whereas Mexico comes in at 19 with 0.63%! The US at 19% and the UK at 14% are definitely the biggest players, but they are two completely separate nations. While no single continental European nations meets those figures, the total for Euro Zone members are higher the “Anglosphere”: about 40% to 35%.

    If the UK and US were doing crap, and the Euro Zone were doing well, then we’d still be fine.

    The big flaw in the Anglosphere as an economic entity is that there is clearly nothing tying those economies except language.

    • Grzegorz Kolodziej

      Even bigger flaw (and I am writing this rather as an advocate of Ireland being part of the Commonwealth) is that the English speaking world does not seem to be able to generate their own highly skilled workforce. Just looks at the stats regarding top IT specialists in the world (not to mention PISA ratings). Slovakia has more of them 8 times bigger UK (and that includes those who they imported from abroad):


      It’s a cultural phenomenon too – turning upside down the old Anglo-Saxon model of upbringing based on delayed gratification and voluntarily adopting a model based on Harlem district of New York (instant gratification, drugs, one-parent family model, etc).
      Apparently Japanese new generation is like that too…

  13. Tull McAdoo

    Here is a contribution I made to a similar discussion on this forum, what seems like such a long time ago now.

    1. jim says
    Irish economic policy pushed through by the PD/FF administrations of the last couple of years has been one of
    1. Low tax,
    2. Low wage to productivity,
    3. “Competitive” in the sense that a larger proportion of profit per unit cost could be repatriated i.e. The Anglo/American model.

    We found ourselves at the mercy of the dollar’s fluctuations and their (Anglo/American) economic cycles more so than the rest of Europe because of our exposure to it. Unlike Britain, we were tied to the Euro as a currency and ECB interest rates over which we have no control. This was most evident when we needed to raise interest rates to dampen demand at the very time ECB were cutting rates and visa versa. We had ceded control to Europe and found ourselves falling between two stools so to speak.

    We were caught in what I would call a ripple effect, i.e. high when Europe was low and low when Europe was high. Out of sync. on both sides of the equation. While this hasn’t much effect on the owners of capital who can hedge their exposure (if their prudent) it has a huge effect on wage earners as they are less equipped to deal with these fluctuations.

    What we needed to do was to use the readily available credit to smooth out the ripples and improve the lot of the wage earners as a whole and not allow it to be hijacked by the insiders for their own self-interest.

    We failed and ran up a huge debt on day to day spending. We compounded the error by going back to bail out some of the insiders with the bit of savings we had put by. That being said, it is my contention that the weight of the present recession should allow a smoothing of the imbalance between Europe and the Anglo/American economic cycles.

    If we play, our cards right this time we as a nation should be able to act as a bridge or conduit if you will between the two conflicting ideologies and reap the benefit, which I hope, will not be hijacked this time.

    David is familiar with Dubrovnik’s unique historical position re. The Turks, Rome, and we could use a similar model. We are uniquely positioned to do it.

    January 1, 2009, 3:18 am

    So on that historic note, I will say say take it away Sona and Goodnight Ireland , Sleep Well….. Jarabi


  14. McCawber

    While we are at the I told you so I put together a 2 pager just prior to our entry into the EZ.
    The main drive was to ensure we joined the Euro with the Punt rate as high as possible.
    My fears expressed at the time that the lower the rate we used the more likely we would we see asset inflation and consequent wage inflation.
    Needless to say I didn’t predict 2008 or anything like it.
    BUT even then to somebody who is neither an economist or any other financial persuasion the risks were there to be seen, if you wanted to see tham. The government of the day fell down on the job badly, very badly.
    They can point the finger at whomsoever they like but the buck stops with the man at top and no amount of squirming, blustering or bluffing will ever change that fact. Bertie you were that man.

    • Deco

      Actually, it was Ruairi Quinn who decided that we would join the Euro, before the details were even known.

      In fact, policy was in such a straightjacket, that we did not even look into the details.

      And as a result we joined a club that gave us boom and bust.

      Ahern gave us something else – a massively oversized, patronage overweighted, inflexible, unworkable state system.

      And it has still not been fixed. It is even more wasteful than the Greek system.

  15. “I was aware that the British currency was rocketing, but this exchange rate difference is extraordinary and is brilliant news for Irish exporters.”

    I am not aware that the British currency is rocketing but I AM aware that the EURO has fallen a lot recently compared to the US dollar and the UK pound.

    When the value of the pound is compared to the US dollar there is little change since 2008 at approximately US1.55 to the pound.

    Current gyrations have seen the US dollar strengthen compared to most other currencies. OR is it that most other currencies have declined due to the economy and the US dollar is seen as the best of a bad bunch.

    BUT then again as all countries manipulate the value of their currencies higher or lower who is to tell what the correct value really is.

    The manipulation does not end there as all markets are now interfered with. Government agents such as the working group on financial markets and the Federal Reserve enter the bond markets and stock markets.

    Not to forget the ultimate money of silver and gold being under severe manipulation on order to disguise the value of fiat currencies. Nothing in this economy is the way it is presented by officialdom. This economy is the world economy. All national economies are interconnected whether desirable or not.

    Here is a report outlining the manipulation with fact and evidence. There is nothing of substance on which to base a sound decision.


  16. The US has used Ireland Inc as a Euro-Hedge Strategy,working in concert with the UK. For the USuk/UKus incubus-succubus it’s a win-win situation and always was.

    If the Euro had worked, Canary Dwarf on the Liffey would be Euro Satellite of City Of London / Wall St. The Euro has catastrophically failed, the UK is leaving the EUro address the productivity gap which David discusses. Ireland, like Greece, has a choice of restoring Sovereignty by leaving the Euro or jjoining either the NeuDeutschmark or the LatinEuro2, depending on whether Dragi or Schauble win. The USUK -Franco -Prussian Empires have used Ireland in their geostrategic Great Game (Europa Version).


    As per comments by Tull /Deco and others, we exhausted this discussion years ago on this blog.

    Regards from Santorini – awaiting the #EuroVolcano to blow.

    • McCawber

      The history of Irish economic management is one of boom and bust ie poor economic management. Sure other countries have similar problems but that doesn’t excuse what we have been doing.
      Regardless of the currency we use we’ll still boom and bust unless we change.
      That means spending within our means and having long term strategies that look past the next general election.
      That comes back to the maturity (or otherwise) of the electorate.
      The attitude of the electorate, fostered it has to be said by the politicians, is “I want it and I want it Now”.
      Changing our currency will not change that.
      The only way that I see these attitudes being change is through our education system. Teaching young children and adolescents the virtues of good monetary housekeeping.
      And here’s something to think about for the education system.
      Define what is – “A good politician”

      • Deco

        Look at Irish Water. It is mismanagement, and a consensus stitchup.

        The electorate hate it. And are completely unimpressed.

        How many voters voted for the current government on the assumption that their management of the Siteserv debacle was what the people wanted.

        The people are being let down repeatedly by politicians who serve everybody else but the public interest.

        Blaming the electorate is dishonest. The options in front of the electorate are the problem.

        Has one of them, even one of them discussed the size of the national debt in an open and frank manner ?

        Even more appalling, has even one media organ mentioned the uncontrollable growth in the national debt, in spite of the Nasdaq boom, supposedly lifting the Irish economy.

        The contents to the Dail, all believe in boom and bust. If they didn’t the Irish media would crucify them.

        We will get financial management lessons. A translation of the lessons currently being taught in Greece.

        I don’t blame the people. I blame the “leadership”.

        • McCawber

          Of course the electorate are to blame.
          But I didn’t always think so until they got the chance to disband the senate and missed the one chance they’ve had in 90 years of misgovernment to tell the body politic we think you’re doing a sh.t job.

      • A contradiction in terms.

  17. aidanxc

    Kids are dying on the streets of cholera, the army is about to launch a coup and we are choking on pollution and poisoned rivers…

    Well, we’re not really are we?

    So, I’d love to see a little less whinging and a bit more calm, measured reflection.

    Ireland has come from being one of the poorest countries in Europe to being in the top 10 or 20 in the world or almost every positive metric you’d care to mention. No 13 on the World Peace Index, no 18 for quality of life, no 11 for education etc. So everybody get a grip and stop moaning. We’ve come a long way despite the incompetence of successive governments.

    There is still plenty of room for improvement – our political system could do with tweaking but even more so we just need a better class of politician. We, the people, have a big role to play by taking responsibility for our decisions and playing a constructive part in society/economy. The boom/bust wasn’t just caused by bankers or politicians – people, i.e. you and me, our brothers, sisters and friends paid stupid prices for assets that just weren’t worth it. We need to take it on the chin and accept our complicity in the disaster.

    Ireland needs to paddle its own canoe, it needs to have a global, rather than regional, strategy and develop its cultural and commercial alliances across the globe. In parallel, it needs to invest heavily in education and innovation while focusing on making the country a great place to live – not just economically but socially and culturally also. So, no thanks, not a Little England as David and some commentators would have but a vibrant, independent and confident Ireland that can stand shoulder to shoulder amongst the nations of the world.

  18. Deco

    If David is saying that Britain is more likely to get it’s act together, and that Brussels is not, then David is 100% correct.

    However, the path that I see in front of Ireland, as a consequence of 15 years of continually living loosely, and squandering with liberal abandon, is a path already passed by Greek.

    Ireland is another Greece in the making.

    And Sweden is another Ireland in the making.

    • aidanxc

      Britain is slipping into the shadows of global economic power. Their potential withdrawal from the EU and the fragmentation of the UK (with Scotland eventually leaving) will further diminish its power. Their perceived economic strength is built almost completely on the finance industry but finance is highly mobile. The eurozone for all its limitations still produces actual things that people want to buy and has a massive pedigree in manufacturing and design. The UK manufacturing base has disintegrated since the war and they have bet the house on finance – it’s working at the moment but is very vulnerable to global political shifts (for a local example see how the IFSC has shrunk to a shadow of its former self).

  19. McCawber

    And Roisin Shortall and her merry socialists want us to copy Sweden.
    One of you is right.
    Are we into a damn close run thing here. ie We’re not as bad as you think and Sweden is worse that is recognised.
    One thing I would be interested in would be an article from David on the differences between Public Debt, Corporate Debt and Private Debt.
    For example Public Debt can be increased in a sustainable way but what are the limits. And in reality should borrowing only be undertaken for capital investment?
    Private debt has to be paid down eventually.
    Corporate debt is about return on investment but I really don’t understand anything about it.

    • Deco

      Irish socialism – high taxes, no results.

      Swedish socialism – high taxes, some good results.

      Sweden is in trouble because of it’s housing bubble. And because of it’s banks. It is highly leveraged. With one big Anglo in the middle of it all, taking dangerous risks, and getting away with it due to low interest rates.

      When it fails, it will end the “northern Europe = thrifty, Southern Europe = lazy” stereotype (which is a load of nonsense anyway).

  20. McCawber

    It’s 1960 and quite a few years earlier and quite a few years later.
    Irish citizen sits leaving cert.
    Irish citizen passes all exams except Irish.
    Irish citizen does not get Leaving Certificate.
    Irish citizen has to emigrate cos there are no jobs in Ireland.
    Irish citizen has no certificated formal education.
    Irish citizen starts at bottom of rung.
    Our government hamstrings it’s own citizens.
    The above applies to said citizens even if they remain in Ireland.
    So Irish citizens screwed by own government – sound familiar.
    Thus endith today’s history lesson.

    • Total waste of time that language. They can preserve and record it for historians and if they want to study it then that’s their business but leave me out of it.

      • aidanxc

        Such an attitude reeks of an inferiority complex. The gombeen behaviour of aping our former colonial masters is clearly alive and well in some areas.

        • McCawber

          Yep and the Irish language is a very good example of that “Little Man Syndrome” you speak of.
          We’ll show them we can have our own language.
          Well we haven’t and we don’t and we should get over ourselves and stop wasting large amounts of taxpayers money on it.

        • Inferiority complex aidanxc? You’re mixing me up with someone else my friend. That’s if your comment was actually in response to mine – it’s hard to know in this shambles of a format. Best wishes.

    • aidanxc

      Since you are going back in history why don’t you go back to the time of British rule in Ireland – the profound and generational impact of their corrosive and violent impact on Ireland resonated well after independence and still has an impact on Ireland today. Up until the early 19th century Ireland was devoid of a middle class thanks to the control of credit which was primarily provided to the Anglo-Irish to maintain their estates. The economy and society here was predicated on concentration of assets, credit and political power in the hands of a select few. To undo the damage cause by such sectarian governance was always going to take generations. Not only economically but also socially and culturally. The inferiority complex caused by this mental and physical occupation of our country can still be found today. The idea of recommending that we tether ourselves to the UK in some manner is akin to advising a child to go live with the pedophile that abused them.

      • McCawber

        There is a large Irish presence in Britain and David is hot on tapping into the Diaspora and rightly so.
        Many of them are proud of their Irish heritage – Yes proud and don’t suffer from any inferiorty complex because they are not looking for an excuse to justify failure.
        As for your last comment – FFS.

        • aidanxc

          Only a fool would think that any other nation has our interests at heart. We have to stand on our own two feet and not be a second class state – FFS.

    • Grzegorz Kolodziej

      “Irish citizen passes all exams except Irish. Irish citizen does not get Leaving Certificate.”
      Was that common?!

      We had compulsory Russian at schools, starting from 4th grade, yet in most schools teachers would turn a blind eye (unless they were absolute commi sadists) and I think (maybe it was different before 1956 thaw) that Russian was not compulsory on the leaving cert, you had to do 2 foreign languages but you had a choice; French was quite fashionable (you would have failed the cert though if you could not integrate properly – I remember most people were petrified when differential coefficients kicked in when we were around 14; and failing for males meant 2 or 3 years in the army immediately, usually 600k from home; but I think the level of maths is lower now in Poland, as everywhere else apart from Asia – most 1 year math students would fail pre-WWII math leaving certs…).

      As a result of that teachers understanding that everybody hated the whole f..g thing for obvious reasons, very few Poles speak any Russian; in fact it’s probably more common to meet fluent Italian speakers in Poland than Russian (just comparing that to Irish).

      That comparison of Slovakia to the UK in codemasters statistics below should have been 5 times (a propos maths lol); I was thinking of German population (Germany did shit in those statistics) – was that Freudian lapse of the tongue?

      • McCawber

        I also neglected to mention that you couldn’t get a job if the Civil Service if you didn’t pass Irish and for all I know that may still be the case.

        • coldblow

          It has long stopped being the case. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that if you have fluent Irish in the Civil Service it would be wise, if you are ambitious for promotion (and, boy, are they), to keep it quiet. I think you get 10% extra in exams if you can pass a basic proficiency test (I’m not sure, it shows how much I care) but I suspect that is worth very little, if anything. Come interview, if you come across as a Gaeilgeoir you damage your chances (except in a tiny handful of places where you need to be fluent). The best advice would be to play down any language skills, unless you want to be asked to do translation jobs. Breandán Ó hEthir wrote about the one man in every Irish town who knew Irish, ‘you should go and speak to him.’ Sure enough, there was one of these in my wife’s home town, who fitted into the prescribed ‘oddball but respectable’ category.

          It would probably need a psychiatrist to explain why there is such a widespread antipathy to the language, and not only among the less intelligent, probably involving terminology such as affective transfer (I’m making this up). I’d be interested in heary Grzergorz’s view, as an outsider, if he were to study this. What was that crowd called about fifty years ago, the Language Freedom Movement? I think even John B Keane might have been involved.

          Perhaps everyone should learn Chinese. Then, as Michael Hennigan (Finfacts) observed on the Irish Economy blog, you will be able to understand them when they tell you to f**k off!

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            “I’d be interested in heary Grzergorz’s view, as an outsider, if he were to study this.”
            I have such a backlog with everything and eyes with dark rings around them from lack of fresh air and computers screens that it is hard for me to follow up all the comments on time nowadays.

            All I can say is that my opinion is split when it comes to Irish.

            On the one hand everything you do, every language you learn that you won’t use, takes your time and occupies the precious mental space in your mind. I know that because I was learning – I consciously do not write – I learned – 1 language which I never used (Esperanto) and 2 languages which I only used in academic work and even then only twice – ancient Greek in Attic dialect and Latin (in Latin I was quite fluent – I even wrote one letter in Latin as a joke; in Greek I never made sufficient progress).
            So that would be an argument against learning Irish. The second argument would be that I truly doubt that there is any person in Ireland who speaks Irish as his or her first language. How would I back such a provocative statement?
            Well, if someone disagrees, let that person sit for one day and translate the following excerpt from Russell and Whitehead’s “Principia Mathematica”, p. 59:

            “In some cases, we can see that some statement will hold of “all nth-order properties of a,” whatever value n may have. In such cases, no practical harm results from regarding the statement as being about “all properties of a,” provided we remember that it is really a number of statements, and not a single statement which could be regarded as assigning another property to a, over and above all properties. Such cases will always involve some systematic ambiguity, such as that involved in the meaning of the word “truth,” as explained above. Owing to this systematic ambiguity, it will be possible, sometimes, to combine into a single verbal statement what are really a number of different statements, corresponding to different orders in the hierarchy. This is illustrated in the case of the liar, where the statement “all A’s statements are false” should be broken up into different statements referring to his statements of various orders, and attributing to each the appropriate kind of falsehood. The axiom of reducibility is introduced in order to legitimate a great mass of reasoning, in which, prima facie, we are concerned with such notions as “all properties of a” or “all a-functions,” and in which, nevertheless, it seems scarcely possible to suspect any substantial error.”

            To that you can say that not not every native speaker is a logician. But this argument can be refuted by a simple reminder that every well-educated English native-speaker would probably have come across with words used in that excerpt (and what about mathematicians who claim to be Irish speakers?).

            If someone thinks my argument is unfair, I challenge any person in Ireland to do this – translate these two sentences into Irish; a truly bilingual person should do it instantly or at least less than 5 minutes without a dictionary (this is a romantic poet Adam Mickiewicz on the nature of the Poles, from his poem “The Forefathers”:

            “Our nation is like lava. On the top it is hard and hideous, but its internal fire cannot be extinguished even in one hundred years of coldness. So let’s spit on the crust and go down, to the profundity!”

            So as you can it’s time to stop deluding ourselves that an Ghaeilge is not dead.
            Second argument:
            Look at translations statistics. In category “target language” Welsh is ranked impressive 38. So that’s a living language; more texts are translated into Welsh than into Ukrainian or Indonesian. Where is Irish? Nowhere. Ireland does not count even when it comes to translations into English (in Ireland) – it is beaten even by Albania and Iceland; let alone Irish.

            On the other hand though…

            I do not think that Irish should be abandoned. Hell, I would even bent my views and say that Irish should be subsidized (i.e. courses, translations, theatre, etc). Why? For a simple reason – do you want to be indistinguishable from the Yanks? It is bad enough that there is no regional cuisine in Ireland – everywhere you go you’ll eat the same unless you are willing to pay something like 50 euro for two people or talk to someone who is 100 years old (I did). It is equally bad that


            personally that accent does not grate on my ears too much as I hear it every day and probably have traces of it myself, but for God’s sake – no regional cuisine, Yankee accents everywhere, second English division matches in every pub as if yous were still an English colony (and I say it as a proponent of Ireland joining the Commonwealth – but bringing their its own culture, and not as a “second class” England!), and almost no translations into Irish compared to Wales’s translations into Welsh?

            Irish being compulsory makes that even worse. Someone in the government should really study failures in teaching Russian in Estonia or Poland. If anything, what would do good for the Irish language would be if it was banned; that would revive the interest of young people. Occupied Poland had death penalty in WWII for illegal classes and yet underground university flourished under the German occupation:


            More than that, a guy called Tadeusz Kantor, who created what was “The Dead Class” – the best theatre play in the world in 1977 – said that having survived the occupation – he illegally staged a play “Balladyna” in a private flat – his theatre gained intensity Western colleagues lacked (he used the metaphor of “having to bang his head against the wall”)

            So yes to Irish, no to compulsory Irish.

            This was my opinion as an (domesticated) outsider.

          • coldblow

            Off the top of my head, without looking anything up: ‘Is cosúil ár náisiún le carraig leáite. Tá sé crua ar an mbarr agus gránna ach ní féidir na lasair taobh istigh a mhúchadh fiú agus dá dtabharfaí céad bliain fuaire dá iarraidh. Caithfeadh muid seil ar an gcrústa sin agus gabhfaidhmid síos faoi, go domhain go dtí an grinneal.’

            About three or four minutes.

            A good native speaker would be able to do this more quickly and idiomatically.

            The problem is there are very few of those left now although there are still a few who speak it more easily than English, of which the poet Michael Hartnett wrote,

            ‘Finding English a necessary sin,
            The perfect language for selling pigs in’

          • coldblow

            Just to add that you wouldn’t find anyone able to translate the Bertrand Russell quote into Luxemburgish. The locals would turn to either standard German or French, yet it is undoubtedly the language of everyday life.

            For all its faults, if compulsory Irish was dropped they would use the time to teach rubbish like gender studies.

            I like Latin myself. At school the rhyme was handed on from year to year: ‘Latin is a language as dead as dead can be. First it killed the Romans and now it’s killing me!’ Yet, when it cam to A levels and I had to choose three subjects I was on the verge of taking geography. Geography! At the last moment I went to find the Latin master and asked him if he’d teach me Latin A level instead. He agreed on condition that I found another pupil to join us. I am grateful to the language if it were just for that alone.

          • coldblow

            And just while I’m at it, like Columbo, I wouldn’t put much faith in the ability of translators of other languages to render it well either. I have read many English books in foreign languages. It is an obsession of mine – my wife is far, far better at learning languages but she lacks my all-consuming zealotry. The reason I choose English books in translation is because I think most (if not all) that is most worth reading is in English and also because translations are easier than original texts where writers too often seek unusual words. It is really striking how often basic mistakes are made. One of my favourites is the Catalan translation of Le Carre’s Tailor of Panama, which I will read again if I can pick up a cheap second hand version of the English original. It’s actually a good and enjoyable translation, just that the translator gets the idiom wrong so often to wonderful comic effect. This happens in all translations to some extent. I am also amused by the inability of literal-minded European translators to resist the temptation to meddle with the text. If, say, the English author exaggerates something they feel they have to soften it (‘Ach, zat eez zo stoooopeeed!’). This is even funnier. And then there’s the tranlators who insist as rendering ‘about three miles away’ as ’5.6 kilometers’.

            We both need some sleep I think!

          • coldblow

            They must think English language authors are simple. God love them.

  21. DB4545

    Like a few above have mentioned this subject has been done to f**king death. We’re obsessed with the Macro which we can’t control at the expense of the micro which we can influence. Let me explain briefly if I can. I’m an accidental landlord on a micro scale. My mother lived in an old decent sized house near Dublin City centre. It was so badly insulated winter or summer you could hang sides of beef in it. My brothers and I put our resources together some years ago and turned the place into two warm town houses. The Ma lives in one and the other keeps her in a little bit of comfort. Occasionally I have to look for and vet the new tenants . The rent is the market rate. Now it’s that time again. Lot’s of people looking and three illuminating stories of Dublin property reboot 2.0.

    Prospective Tenants A. Three young Irish born professionals. Two work for the big four accounting firms. It ain’t Dublin 6 by the way it’s Dublin 8. They (barely)have the deposit and rent and split three ways it’s still a big chunk out of their salaries. They might laugh in five years time but not now and I’ve seen the payslips.

    Prospective Tenants B. A family. Non EU medical professional trying to get his qualifications recognised. Currently claiming welfare and housing benefits. Can pay three months rent cash upfront and is willing to pay 25% over the market rate for reasons that are as yet unclear to me.

    Prospective Tenants C. A family? EU National from an ethnic minority who are fast gaining a reputation for industrial scale begging and pickpocketing throughout Europe. Currently claiming welfare and housing benefits. Again can pay three months rent cash upfront and again is willing to pay significantly over the odds for reasons that are as yet unclear to me.

    How did we get to a situation where three young professionals fresh out of College can be outbid in the rental market by people who have contributed zero to this economy yet are lavished with benefits funded by the Irish taxpayer? Who’s policing the welfare system that allows this insanity? Who’s policing the beggars and pickpockets whose ill-gotten gains are directing impacting on the ability of Irish taxpayers to compete for housing in the rental market? This is the Irish Water fiasco all over again. Adding to the cost of already overburdened people instead of fixing the f**king leaks in the system. I’m opting for Tenants A.. but someone under pressure won’t. Fix the f**king micro..before we become Greece.


    • Grzegorz Kolodziej

      Liquidation of rent allowance system (or transforming it into the UK style system, still expensive and driving property prices up but at least more fair), which only drives the prices up, would put the family A at advantage over B and C. Simple, yet I am yet to meet someone who would publicaly advocate it.

      Prospective tenant A:
      Dublin, 1913. Paddy is an unskilled worker. His wages are 18s a week.
      He pays 2s 6d for rent and 2s for fuel, light and heating. Only one third of his wages go towards rent and energy.
      Prospective tenant B:
      Dublin, 2006. An acquaintance of mine who I want name is on one of those bogus disability scheme for having anxiety (that should come with complementary books of Heidegger, Sartre and Camus). He or she pays almost nothing. Most of his or her money is invested in Guinness brewery and half pounders. The rich are getting richer, he or she repeats after People Before Profit. Free travel pass for him or her and his or her friends.
      Prospective tenant C:
      Dublin, Rathfarnham, 2006. Me. Up to 12 hours working week. More than half of my salary (white collar type of work) goes towards rent, energy and paying racket money to mafia currently operating under the name of Dublin Bus. Never claimed rent allowance in me life.

      Is that fair?

      • DB4545


        No it’s not fair but it is an insane,reckless,incompetent and needless waste of taxpayer funded resources. I wonder does this go on to the same extent in other EU Countries? I know it may be considered by some to be peanuts compared to the wholesale theft of taxpayer assets in other areas such as Nama etc. But these are resources that could be deployed for education, hospitals, policing etc.

  22. ” I have just put my card into an ATM to get £200 and realise that it has cost me nearly €300. ”

    Welcome to the flip side of a depreciated currency. Exports may be easier to sell but imports have just got 15% more expensive. You have noted the inflationary effect of a depreciated currency. The depreciated currency caused by a lack of productivity attempted to being boosted by a surge in the production of new money.

    Inflation is always a monetary event–Milton Friedman. Any perceived growth in the UK or US is a nominal recording in an inflated amount of currency not reflected in the real economy counted in units of production. eg, The dry Baltic index is down, commodity sales have dropped like a stone (barring the PMs which are showing record growth in ounces or tonnes sold) and electrical usage is steadily declining, etc.

    The collapse in the Chinese stock market is a precursor to a world wide burst bubble event.

    Who Ireland aligns with matters not. It is time to look after ones self and ones kin. Part of that is having a sovereign country with a sovereign currency and selling surplus goods or services to the highest bidder. Fortunately Ireland can feed itself, has plenty of water, and can export its surpluses as the California drought puts the price of food up by annual high double digit inflationary figures. The farmers will be thanked.

    • McCawber

      Not so sure you are right about the Chinese Stock Market’s impact.
      Given what has happened already I’d have expected Armageddon already and the fact that it hasn’t happened is surprising to the great unwashed like myself so there must be more to it.
      Begs the question – Who is exposed (other than the Chinese themselves) to the Chinese Stock market and are my pension funds invested there.

      • Not so much the interconnectivity, although it is there, but the fact that all markets are manipulated and highly leveraged.
        Losses on the Chinese market cause deleveraging which demands liquidation of other assets to pay the bills.

        China is interconnected with its imports of commodities and exports of finished goods all over the world. Lack of demand in western countries results in diminished demand for commodities which in turn affects economies in places like Canada and Australia which in turn slows demand for finished goods imported. We are in a declining economic cycle propped up by excess money printing that has resulted in overwhelming debt levels.

        The great reset approaches quickly.

        As far as your pension fund is concerned, they are probably under funded as the interest rates are so low there is no return for fixed income funds. All bonds and stocks are in bubble territory. Just because they have not busted yet does not mean anything except that the inevitable is delayed by excess QE

      • Grzegorz Kolodziej

        That’s because much less Chinese hold their savings in stock market than people in the US. China has more gold in private jewelry than Switzerland in their banks (and I am not just saying it, there are stats to back it up)

  23. [...] • Madrid’s Podemos-Backed Mayor Saves 70 Families From Eviction (TeleSur) • British Prosperity Will Drive Ireland’s Recovery (David McWilliams) • Imposing Losses On Hypo Bond Holders Illegal, Says Austrian Court (FT) • The Costly, [...]

  24. “Indeed, Ireland’s economic recovery, such as it is, is almost wholly based on Britain’s – like some kind of parasite, feeding on the pig’s belly…

    For countries such as Ireland and Spain, Britain’s refusal to play the same game has proved a God-send, providing a growing source of external demand to offset the absence of it at home.”

    “Those new flats down the road from where I live are one manifestation of such inflows. Another was last week’s purchase by Nikkei of the Financial Times. The £844m paid will count as inward investment, helping to offset Britain’s import bill.

    But there is only so long you can keep selling off the family silver, or otherwise building up overseas liabilities. The UK is living off borrowed time – and money.”

    “The UK is living off borrowed time – and money”


    • StephenKenny

      Were this just a short term thing, to deal with the post-2008 downturn, then it would be understandable, but this ‘borrowed time and money’ has been going on for at least 20, and some would argue 35, years.

      Having a major, if not the major, global financial centre, the UK has by far the most sophisticated in-house skills for creating debts in ever and ever more imaginative, and forms which are not part of the declared statistics.

      Anyone who’s tried to buy a private pension over the last 7 years, would have started to see this. The cost of a £20,000 a year pension has risen about 2.5 to 3 times.

      The rates are about one third of what they generally are, as a result of the UK having the lowest interest rates in 350 years. Without out these interest rates, the UK would be a land of exploding, un-payable, debts.

      Hiding debt cleverly is fine, but they don’t go away.

      • McCawber

        There’s an old saying. If me aunt had balls she’d be me uncle.
        The lower the interest rates the more you can afford to borrow and the sustainable is that borrowing.
        But you have to be prudent obviously and the British government is certainly trying to move in the right direction.
        The issue for Britain and Ireland is will we get the time we need to get our houses in order before the next big thing.
        The US holds the answer to that question.

        • StephenKenny

          The last 20-30 years seems to show that the relentlessly increasing borrowing goes into speculative sectors, rather than productive sectors. There’s an entire generation who have only known this state of affairs, and the longer it goes on the more the speculative activities grow at the expense of the productive.
          It has got to the point where governments increasingly agree that the FIRE sector is the critical sector, at the expense of all others. Yet for these sectors, the vast majority of their activities require ever increasing debt, just to stand still.
          It damages the economies by orienting then towards speculation, and by spending money that no one has created (yet).

          • Grzegorz Kolodziej

            I am just a bit worried that with the wrong kind of austerity (same level of public spending – in fact public spending as a percentage of GDP has increased in austerity Ireland – and much higher taxes; rather than lower spending and lower taxes, combined with the worst kind of FDI – property speculation – we are on a course to repeat the very, very moderate success of Latvia’s recovery…


          • StephenKenny

            I agree – this seems true in most European and N. American countries – i.e. all export markets and sources of FDI.

          • McCawber

            You’re absolutely right about the speculative thing.
            We have spreads, derivatives, shorting, leveraging, CFDs and as far as I’m concerned they’re all just different names for gambling.
            The stock market and currency exchange should be mainly about providing capital for company’s and the enabling of global trade. Sure there is gamble and risk involved but when you can leverage €10,000 to buy €100,000 well I just don’t get any of it.
            And then we have gold. How much is an ounce of gold really worth.
            You can’t eat gold but you could barter it for food I suppose.
            It certainly has practical industrial uses and its’ attraction as jewellery probably has more to do with history and the fact that it didn’t rust than anything else.

            To me the only real currency is people.
            And as population growth is also in bubble territory is that being devalued too.

  25. Pat Flannery

    Former Government Minister John Gormley has just thrown David McWilliams under the bus at the Banking Enquiry. He attributes authorship of the banking guarantee decision to David and called it the “David McWilliams option”. He pointedly contradicted McWilliams’ account of their email communications at the time of the guarantee and introduced those contradictory emails into the Banking Enquiry record. This revelation may explain some of David’s contradictory positions on this site.

    • McCawber

      Amazing – He and his ilk didn’t listen to David and some of his ilk when they warned of the bust long before it happened and when there was still time to get us that “Softish Landing”.
      I didn’t like the bank guarantee but when I look at the alternatives well to paraphrase Churchill I wouldn’t like to try them.
      As an aside my daughter was looking to buy a property in 2006.
      A person, I know well, who was involved in the construction industry advised me in 2006 not to let her invest in an apartment.
      This nobody saw it coming sh!£e is pure and utter BS. Nobody listened and nobody wanted to listen – Do you hear me Mr Politician. Try listening instead of talking.

    • StephenKenny

      It’s also worth remembering that David McWilliams recommended (in the kitchen, if my memory serves) that there was a bank guarantee but only for a very limited period. An orderly wind down is vastly preferable to a crash and burn.
      Unfortunately, as with almost every other country, the fiction of the Too Big To Fail has become the norm, giving us permanent bank guarantees.

      • Grzegorz Kolodziej

        I always partly defended DMW in the front of my friends who say that he advocated bank guarantee (I would not, but provided there would have been a total cleansing) while Sinn Féin voted for a larger scale bank guarantee and their supporters (who in general read little or only history) do not believe when I say it! Not that I think Sinn Féin government would be better or worse…

      • McCawber

        Without a bank guarantee would Irish savers have been exposed to the haircut that Cypriot savers were made to suffer (Notwithstanding the somewhat “dodgy” nature of those savings)?

        • paddythepig

          Of course they would.

        • McCawber

          That bank guarantee was the greatest thing since sliced bread so.

          • Self insurance.
            The bank guarantee is a depositors guarantee against a default of the bank. The funds for this will cover maybe 2% of the deposits guaranteed. If the banks go down it is simply another debt held by the taxpayer to favour a few fellow citizen’s savings.

            Better to have no guarantee. Then the depositor is on notice that their funds are at risk.We see they are anyway, so the guarantee is an illusion. Then depositors will be more careful where funds are placed and banks good practices better examined.

          • There is no prosperity in the real economy. Only in the manipulated paper one.


            “To start, let me just correct a mistake I made last week, in reporting that the world’s third largest gold miner, Anglogold Ashanti, lost $3 billion in the first half of 2015, and announced the intention to lay off 53,000 employees, or 35% of its workforce. As it turns out, said announcement was far uglier than I indicated; validating, in spades, what I wrote in last week’s “mining Armageddon” – as in reality, it isn’t just gold mining that’s suffering, but the entire mining industry. The reason being, it wasn’t AngloGold Ashanti that made the announcement, but “big brother” mining outfit Anglo American plc.”

            “Speaking of plunging – I get to again write of my two “favorite” topics, Greece and China. Regarding the former, here we are three weeks after the supposed “saving” of the Hellenic republic, yet the only money that has changed hands is the €8 billion the ECB printed, added to Greece’s debt load, and promptly paid itself back with. As for the rest of the €86 billion Greece needs to survive a few more months, it hasn’t even been discussed yet – which is probably why the Greek stock market remains closed (although the National Bank of Greece’s ADR is trading at an all-time low); Greek banks, while “opened,” remain heavily capital controlled; and oh yeah, the Greek economy is in free fall, as new estimates suggest that since said Greece’s “saving,” retail sales have plunged nearly 70%. Yes, 70% – meaning whatever “bailout” number one has in mind, it probably needs to be dramatically increased.”

            “As for the Chinese “stock market” – which for the second time in eight years has been clumsily hyper-inflated by its moronic Central bank, it’s become even less “freely traded” than the “Dow Jones Propaganda Average”; or, for that matter, the Dow’s sister “last to go” markets, paper gold and silver. To wit, despite furious, blindly overt PBOC support, Monday’s historic 8.5% plunge in the Shanghai exchange was followed with another 1.7% decline Tuesday. And if not for this morning’s PBOC-sponsored “Hail Mary to end all Hail Maries,” it would have been another day of horror for China’s 258 million, massively hemorrhaging retail margin accounts. Which, by the way, was matched “dollar for yuan” by the U.S. PPT’s prototypical goosing of the “Dow Jones Propaganda Average” ahead of today’s FOMC boondoggle – “dead ringer” algorithm and all; as has been its modus operandi for years, if not decades.”

  26. https://atlas.media.mit.edu/en/profile/country/irl/

    Ireland’s top exports appear to be highly technical in chemistry and medicine.
    top imports are petroleum and aero industry and mendicaments.

    • Grzegorz Kolodziej

      That kind of specialist stats are time consuming to find, so thanks for the link. I am lost though – we are one of the leading investment hubs for pharmaceutical companies (is that why Ireland has the second most expensive medicines after Greece :-(?) and yet the second thing we import most are medicines?! So we have the worst of both worlds?

      With exporting human and animal blood – wtf?! And you cannot even sell your blood in Ireland (in socialist Poland they would give you an absent-in-the-shops bar of real chocolate for donating blood). Is it due to a large Goth community in Ireland?

  27. http://www.gata.org/node/15601

    Here is info on central bank manipulation of the monetary system. On their own behalf of course. That is why you owe them money and not the other way around.

    Now is the time for Ireland to be rid of the central bank system and revert to currency, debt free from Treasury. Revoke the majority of the debt as odious debt (a legal concept) and pay off the rest with a national currency.

    The resulting positive government balance would enable the revocation of income tax. That would attract all kinds of business and a produce a joyous prosperous country where there is a future for your children and your children’s children. .

  28. McCawber

    I’ll be honest.
    I never thought the Dail Bank Enquiry would ever amount to much.
    But they’ve proven me wrong.
    Admittedly it’s taken a while but they have finally identified the person most responsible for the crash.
    It’s our own David McWilliams, take about sir.

  29. coldblow

    McCawber, I may as well add a little now I’ve started. There is more width down here.

    Douglas Hyde, who grew up in my mother’s part of Roscommon, and the Irish Texts Society has one of his books in their series. From the preface: ‘Almost all the men from whom I used to hear stories in the County Roscommon are dead. Ten or fifteen years ago I used to hear a great many stories but I did not understand their value. Now when I go back for them I cannot find them. They have died out, and will never again be heard on the hillsides, where they probably exsisted for a couple of thousand years; they will never be repeated there again, to use the Irish phrase, while grass grows or water runs. Several of these stories I got from an old man, one Shawn Cunningham, on the border of County Roscommon, where it joins Mayo. He never spoke more than a few words of English till he was fifteen years old. He was taught by a hedge schoolmaster from the South of Ireland out of Irish MSS. As far as I could make out from him the teaching seemed to consist in making him learn Irish poems by heart. His next schoolmaster, however, tied a piece of stick around his neck, and when he came to school in the morning the schoolmaster used to inspect the piece of wood and pretend that it had told him how often he had spoken Irish when at home. In some cases the schoolmasters made the parents put a notch in the stick every time the child failed to speak English. His son and daughter now speak Irish, though not fluently, his grandchildren do not even understand it. [This must have been written before Independence, after which Gaelic was taught in the schools. My great grandfather was a native speaker but could not understand the 'school Irish' of his grandchildren, my mother's cousins, and probably vice-versa.] He had at one time, as he expressed it, “the full of the sack of stories,” but he had forgotten them. His grandchildren stood by his knee when he told me one or two, but it was evident they did not understand a word. His son and daughter laughed at them as non-sense. Even in Achill where, if anywhere, one ought to find folk-stories in their purity, a fine-looking dark man of about forty-five, told me a number of them and could repeat Ossian’s poems, assured me that now-a-days when he went into a house in the evening and the old people got him to recite, the boys would go out; “they wouldn’t understand me,” said he “and when they wouldn’t they’d sooner be listening to the lowing of the cows.” This, too, in an island where many people cannot speak English.” [Hyde discusses the extinction of the language.] All the world knows that bilinguists are superior to men who know only one language, yet in Ireland everyone pretends to believe the contrary… But from a complexity of causes which I am afraid to explain, the men who for the last sixty years have had the ear of the Irish race have persistently shown the cold shoulder to everything that was Irish and racial, and while protesting, or pretending to protest, against West Britonism, have helped, more than anyone else, by their example, to assimilate us to England and the English, thus running counter to the entire voice of modern Europe, which is in favour of extracting the best… The people are not the better for it either, for one would fancy it required little culture to see that the man who reads Irish MSS., and repeats Ossianic poetry, is a higher and more interesting type than the man whose mental training is confined to spelling through an article in United Ireland.’

    I have a soft spot for folk stories and the mindset behind them. One of my favourite passages in any language is the introduction or preface to the Grimms’s Fairytales.

    It was a similar story in other countries, such as Wales. How Green Was My Valley gives a good example from popular fiction. Years ago me and the wife took a public bus from Llandudno in towards Bangor direction. The cheery driver made it clear that he did not approve of the Boshie natives who insisted on speaking Welsh. In later years we gave a lift to a young man hitching a lift out towards the Dublin mountains. Ireland were playing England at rugby later that day and he, a native speaker, made it plain what he thought of the English (though he didn’t directly mention my Sarf East London accent). Didn’t bother me, I hate rugby no matter where the players come from.

    There is a nice account in the late Daniel Laumesfeld’s La Lorraine Francique about the German dialect spoken in the eastern strip of Lorraine in France, identical to the language of daily life just across the border in Luxemburg, but dying in out in France. He describes the moment, when he was about ten years old and the family was returning from a holiday in Spain, his parents had asked him and his younger brother a question in that language, the one they had always used in house, and they had replied in French, shamefacedly.

    If you look up Rozenn Clips on YouTube you will get a Breton woman of about my age who describes how while growing up her brothers would continue to use their language out on the farm but the girls at home would, encouraged by their parents, speak French. When she was a teenager there was a protest group in her age group in the spirit of the times (early 70s) and she started speaking Breton at home. Her grandparents were pleased but the response of her parents was, at least at first, critical. I think this is typical of everywhere.

    One image that has remained in my memory over the years was from a documentary about the arrival by plane of the White Man (from Australia) I think in a remote Pacific location. A black and white film of the event showed them running in terror as the plane landed. In the documentary that footage is played back to them, many years later, in the village hall and the same natives who had fled screaming are seen convulsed with laughter at their earlier foolishness.

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