Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Does Ireland Have A Future?

That was the title of a talk given by Maurice Walsh at the RSA in London last week. For some reason the title of the talk bugged me: it connotes a patronising concern for an errant child rather than a genuine concern for a friend. But, that said, the tone and content of the talk and subsequent discussion expressed more the affection of friends than the condescension of 'superiors'.

The talk didn't contain a lot that was new (which isn't really a criticism, as it seemed mostly aimed at bringing a British audience up to date on what has happened), but there was something that I didn't understand. In his talk Maurice observed that what was missing from the Celtic Tiger boom was 'some idea of what Ireland would do once it got wealthy' (at the 13:45 mark in the podcast). I have to say I have no idea what this means. Has any country in history ever had an idea of what it would do 'once it got wealthy'? There are certainly plenty of economic and other analyses of what happens when countries experience a sudden surge of growth - and the problems that can arise (the 'resource curse' etc) - but the absence of a shared idea seems a bit obscure to me. Maurice will be elaborating on his thesis in The New Statesman later this month, so I'll watch out for it.

That said, there was one new thing that I learned from his talk. I hadn't realised that Newfoundland had made such a hames of governing themselves as a quasi-independent Dominion (economic implosion etc) that the British Government had to rescue them in order to avoid 'financial contagion' spreading to other Dominions. Sounds familiar. Of course, everyone at the RSA was too polite to point out that the largest population group in Newfoundland are of Irish descent.

That would have been patronising...

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