Irish President Michael D Higgins has slammed the greed of the Celtic Tiger era and described the boom times as ‘an aberration’.
The country’s newest leader told guests at a function in the Irish embassy in London that his people had put money before community.
He claimed: “The values of the Irish economy over the last 15 years were an aberration where individualism was trumpeted over community and where people behaved like they were at a day at the races.
“When I became President we were after years that I like to regard as an aberration in the Irish experience where for a decade and a half people had decided to value other people in a very materialistic way.
“Individualism had replaced a great deal of the wider sense of collectivity and community. I like to think it was an aberration because there was nothing inherently Irish about it. People imitated rather than created.
“People spoke about what they were worth, rather than asking others to judge them by their performance and their efforts and what they did.”
Speaking at the end of his two day visit to London, President Higgins admitted he was annoyed and frustrated by the change in values in Irish society during the Celtic Tiger boom.
“There is no point in anger, although it is justified, in being frustrated – and there is nothing as useless as cynicism,” stressed President Higgins.
“Let us close the chapter on all of that and talk about our future, one based on what we remember as the best of ourselves.
“The good news is that if you take one year with another, our trade is in surplus. There is growth in all of the things that matter – in agri-business, in trade and services, increasing numbers of tourists. It is just the hangover from our period of madness.
“We have resiled to the real economy and we have decided that we will leave over the view of the economy as being like at a day at the races.”
The President also spoke of the need to improve trade links with Britain, the largest market for Irish food exports.
“The recent years of economic turmoil has drawn attention to the deep interdependence of our economies and it was recognised when the British government came to the assistance of Ireland in the economic package,” he said.
“Last year’s visit by Queen Elizabeth II to Ireland both symbolised and confirmed that one of the longest conflicts and source of difference between two countries has become one of the great friendships of today.
“Moreover I believe that the impact of the visit extended well beyond these islands as its message of reconciliation and hope for other places which are experiencing conflict rippled across the world.
“The modern, confident relationship between our two countries has provided a context in which increasingly each of us recognises the mutual importance of the relationship, all the more important as both countries have faced the challenge of economic downturn.”
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