Ireland is the new Wunderkid of Europe
Wall Street Journal hails new economic miracle
For every action in Ireland there is an opposite and equal criticism. Indeed, if cynicism was an Olympic sport, we’d be untouchable.
But while the national mood of mourning continues to fester, the international media has begun to cautiously cheerlead our economic performance as we struggle out of the doldrums.
“Never mind the crushing grip of domestic austerity or the ravages of tightening monetary policy, the Irish economy is growing,” wrote the Wall Street Journal this week commenting on what it sees as “Ireland’s economic miracle”.
A few weeks earlier The Financial Times even suggested that “Ireland’s unexpected economic comeback” could provide the blueprint for other struggling European economies.
While dour forecasts dampen expectations around the eurozone, the pulse of the Irish economy is proving stronger and stronger.
“Ireland's gross domestic product expanded by 1.3pc in the first quarter over the quarter before, boosted by strong exports,” highlighted the Wall Street Journal. “Continued export growth since suggests the Irish economy's recovery is entrenched. In June, Ireland's trade surplus came in at a record €4.08 billion, up 8pc on the previous month.”
Yet, in Ireland there are few cheerleading or even acknowledging the success so far achieved in nurturing our ailing economy back to health.
Yes, our recovery is still fragile, but nonetheless it is the envy of many of our neighbours who are fearful of slipping back into recession.
The problem is we are too busy, as Patrick Kavanagh once noted, sailing in “the puddles of the past” to be optimistic about our bright future.
So, while we were being described as economic wunderkids in the international press, former Taoisigh Bertie Ahern and Brian Cowen were being dragged back through the mud by the founding president of the University of Limerick Dr Ed Walsh for handling the Irish economy like “intoxicated joyriders.”
However, attacking the well-documented exploits of Ahern and Cowen at this stage is tantamount to shooting fish in a barrel. It is time to move on.
It is hard to imagine, even though Arsenal got a 8-2 drubbing from Manchester United at the weekend, that Arsene Wenger will allow his side wallow in defeat. His and his team’s focus will immediately go to the next match.
Like a boxer that has been knocked down and received a mandatory count, it is vital we stand up and fight rather than licking our wounds and live in fear of defeat.
While the fundamentals of the Irish economy remain strong, the key lies in consumer and small business spending. The problem is that when confidence is low people don’t spend. Thus economic pessimism can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
George Orwell in his 1946 essay Politics and the English Language, wrote, “Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”
But it is not only politicians that can weave a false reality out of thin air. The media also plays a part in fabricating a reality that is not broadly true.
When the foreign press used images of piebald ponies, homeless people and ghost estates to try to capture modern Ireland during the visits of President Obama and the Queen, they were rightly criticised for their one-dimensional portrayal. But now the Irish media seems to have followed suit. No news may be good news, but open an Irish newspaper or tune in to the broadcast media and it won’t be long before you are tempted to cry a river.
Yes, there are people out of work and living in dire straits. However, this is not the norm and while their cause needs to be championed their plight should not be used to conjure a picture of a ‘down and out’ Ireland.
It may not make great headlines in the current climate, but it looks possible that Ireland could well be the star economic performer of Europe over the coming years. But it appears no one wants to shout about it too loudly.
Paul Allen, is Managing Director of Paul Allen and Associates PR, www.prireland.com.
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