Ireland one of the poorest countries in Western Europe

The Ha'penny Bridge, over the River Liffey in Dublin's city center

It appears that Ireland's high flying bankers, politicians and property developers may have cracked the secret of time travel: because between them they have ensured that Irish per-head income has returned to 1997 levels, according to a new report published by the Department of Finance last week.

Ireland's disastrous banking collapse and subsequent bailout has seen incomes drop to below the EU average, making the Republic one of Europe’s poorest nations. It's a spectacular fall from grace for the former Celtic Tiger.

The new report, titled 'Strengthening the Capacity of the Department of Finance: Report of the independent review panel,' published on March 3, says that Ireland has retreated to pre-boom levels of personal income.

"In 2007 incomes peaked at 114 percent of the EU average,' the report says, adding, "Just two years later, Irish incomes were once again below the EU 15 percent average and in 2010 are estimated to be eight percent below the average with only Italy, Spain, Portugal and Greece recording lower levels of income."

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