DUBLIN — While doing research on folk beliefs in Ireland in the early 20th century, an American anthropologist asked an elderly woman if she believed in fairies. “No, I do not, sir,” came the seemingly decisive reply. End of story? Not a chance. “However, they are there anyway,” the lady continued, perhaps wryly trying to make fun of her overly-earnest interlocutor. This well known anecdote might in fact be apocryphal, and though the supernatural is long gone from Irish popular culture, there is a mystical tinge to the country’s recent economic boom-to-bust saga. From the mid-1990s to 2007, Ireland’s economic growth changed a nation of emigrants into one where around 10 percent of the population were recently arrived immigrants, many from Eastern Europe. Growth ranged from 5-10 percent over a 15-year period and Ireland acquired the “Celtic Tiger” moniker after a Morgan Stanley economist compared the transformation of the North Atlantic island with the Asian Tiger economies of South Korea, Singapore and Taiwan. Since 2008, however, Ireland’s GDP has contracted by 14 percent and its unemployment rate is now around the same percentage. One Asian country that was never close to joining the Tiger ranks was Burma. The country’s military rulers are known for their attachment to bizarre economic thinking, some of it apparently based on numerology or other esoteric notions.
The tale could begin, “During the short reign of the Ritalin King cameth the downturn. . . .” During his six-month EU presidency, Nicolas Sarkozy laced into any number of challenges with a typically hyperactive gusto and self-importance. The spirit of the Sun King may have been whispering in Sarko’s ear, as he put his own stamp on Louis XIV’s famous motto…”L’Europe, c’est moi.” When time came to pass the EU crown to Prague, the Frenchman threatened to boycott the handover, after unsuccessfully pushing for self-serving alternatives to existing EU mechanisms.
DUBLIN — Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern announced yesterday that he will step down next month after accusations of corruption. Ireland achieved record economic growth and peace with Northern Ireland during Mr. Ahern’s 11-year tenure, but an ongoing inquest into the prime minister’s personal finances has undermined his record. When Mr. Ahern became prime minister in 1997, Ireland was three years into a period of soaring economic growth and employment. One year later, Mr. Ahern left his mother’s funeral to finalize Northern Ireland’s Good Friday peace agreement. Tony Blair, the British prime minister at the time, praised Mr. Ahern’s role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland. “He will always be remembered … for transforming relations between Britain and the Irish Republic,” Mr. Blair said.