After a few days in Ireland promoting my book 'An Irish Voice,' I am winging my way back to the U.S. with some fresh perspectives on the country.
The first is that the end of the Celtic Tiger may not be all-bad, despite what most newspapers proclaim.
There is a deep sense of crisis in the country, of course, but also some real and honest discussions taking place as to why the Tiger died and where the country needs to go next.
Tough decisions have to be made, but I believe there is a determination to face up to the harsh truths that will see the country through the worst of this vicious recession.
This ability to face adversity is an Irish trait honed through the centuries. A few years back, many Irish I talked to thought the country walked on water and that hard times were gone forever. The new reality has exposed that fiction – and many of the people who pushed it the hardest.
Like the self styled expert in America who claimed the Dow Jones would triple in value shortly before it crashed, the false prophets have fallen hard.
The death of the Tiger has exposed many of the self styled elite to well deserved ridicule when the reality of how they were actually making their money has been revealed. Loans to cronies, real estate sweetheart deals, stock speculation has all come to light – and about time
Bernie Madoff has nothing on some of those shysters.
There is a new realism around too. For too long some of the high flyers were celebrated like ancient Gods, with every pronouncement listened to with great awe. The emperors had no clothes and they have finally been found out.
The fall to earth of such people is better for the country. They added nothing but flim flam.
The second is that the Irish people are finally having an honest conversation with themselves. There is now a focus on the important discussions in Irish life.
It is no longer a game of your house is less expensive than mine and look at my holiday villa, but a real root and branch review of what is important in Irish life.
There is a hankering for a simpler life, for things to cost what they should, not what someone can get away with, for job creation based on merit not on jobs for the boys, for honest politicians who tell the truth and banks who consider fairness not old friends as the criteria for lending.
A lot has happened in Ireland since the Tiger crashed, but despite the tough times, the cutbacks and the shortages, the spirit of the Irish endures.