Who sank the Celtic Tiger? Fintan O'Toole gives us his take in 'Ship of Fools'
Friel was talking about the Irish language, but his metaphor applies to the Irish political system, too.
What we have in Ireland, argues famed Irish writer Fintan O’Toole, is a 19th century Tammy Hall style of politics ill-equipped for the 21st century. It is, he suggests, time for an upgrade.
O’Toole, who’s latest book Ship of Fools tells the story of the rise and fall of the Celtic Tiger, grew up in Dublin in Crumlin, in a working class housing estate where his father was a bus conductor and his mother worked as a cleaner at The Irish Press. Like many other men of his age and background the Christian Brothers taught him, and his memories are typical of the experience.
“It was pretty brutal. It’s become a cliché I suppose, but the Irish educational system in general was pretty violent,” O’Toole tells the Irish Voice.
“I don’t want to generalize about it. There were some absolutely lovely people, but the atmosphere was pretty brutal and corporal punishment was standard. Kids had the s*** kicked out of them for no good reason, not that there is any good reason to do that.
“There was at least one prominent sexual abuser on the staff. It was all part of that culture that we’re acknowledging and beginning to face up to. It wasn’t pleasant, but it wasn’t unusually unpleasant compared to most working class schools growing up at that time.”
These days O’Toole, a columnist with The Irish Times, is often referred to as the head boy of Irish journalism. Few other critics have written about contemporary Irish culture, politics and society with his level of engagement and insight. That’s why his latest book can be found among the top five bestsellers in Ireland.
“It struck me that on the surface there are very narrow economic factors that led to the creation of the Celtic Tiger and to the unraveling of it. But those narrow terms don’t explain as much as we often think they do,” he says.
“We also have to look at the broader society and culture in a larger sense. The assumptions people make, the way they think and the way they act. It’s very underestimated, the extent to which the Celtic Tiger was also made possible by cultural circumstances.”
Economists don’t like to talk about feminism as an economic force, but changes in Irish society gave women more mobility to enter the workforce. The typical Irish family size has dropped from five or six or seven kids down to one and two.
The rise in access to education also had an enormous impact, opening up Irish society and making it more attractive for inward investment.
“The strange thing was the way in which you had all this remarkable change -- Ireland became the most globalized economy -- attracting high tech industry and the leading multinationals in the world,” O’Toole says.
- An open letter in strong defence of capitalism.
- Sarah Palin is saving Christmas
- Racist incidents in Ireland up by 85 percent...
- Gay teacher fired from Catholic school after...
- Virginia governor slammed by doctor over...
- Irish drugs mule to escape full trial and...
- Nelson Mandela was against IRA decommissioning.
- Top Christmas Irish ads that will be bring...
- Irish radio presenter suspended after anti-Isra
- Hollywood star Gabriel Byrne brands new Pope...