The widespread positive coverage of Ireland’s economic recovery after the IMF/European Union bailout has been challenged in a stark New York Times lead feature written by reporter Liz Alderman.
The picture painted is of a shell of a country hollowed out by emigration, unemployment and crushing tax burdens imposed by massive government austerity cuts.
The Times quotes an economic expert making the point.
“Ireland is the closest thing to a success story that European leaders have,” said Simon Tilford, the chief economist at the Centre for European Reform in London. “But it doesn’t really stand up to scrutiny because there’s been a huge fall in the domestic economy and living standards.”
It quotes a former successful businessman John Donovan, now forced to move back into his mother’s tiny house after his business collapsed, as saying: “The Irish people have endured a horrendous time,” Mr. Donovan said. “The government must take their foot off the neck of the nation.”
The article says Donovan has been reduced to shooting pigeons for food and grilling them outdoors to reduce his gas and grocery bills.
“I do that just to live,” he told The Times.
Ireland emerges from $93 billion bailout this weekend which, The Times notes, has become a cause of celebration Europe-wide as it is seen as a success story.
The Irish people seem to agree in general with a new opinion poll showing support for the government’s policies growing.
The Times notes that the bill to bailout Irish banks has cost $13,000 per Irish citizen.
The Times also focuses on Martin Brennan and his wife , a middle class couple who say that they “have nothing left over,” at the end of the month and they, like almost every couple they know, are underwater with their mortgage. He works in a hospital, she as a university administrator.
Formerly middle class people they work with are going to soup kitchens for meals. “People are eating cornflakes for dinner,” he said. “Economists say it’s an urban legend. Tell them it’s for real.”
Emigration has seen 200,000 depart the country since 2008, otherwise unemployment would be far higher than the latest 12.8 percent figure.
A bright spot is that the economy added 58,000 jobs this year and the deficit has shrunk to 7.5 percent of G.D.P. from 30 percent in 2010.
However, The Times points out that homelessness is up nearly 20 percent since 2010 and 66 percent are not paying their mortgage on time, 60 percent of job seekers have been out of work over a year.
The formerly successful businessman John Donovan, who is now living in his mother’s house, used to have a five bedroom house, boats and a car.
He requalified with a master’s degree in law and business but of the 1,583 résumés he sent out, only four interviews materialized.
“There were jobs, but no one wants to hire a 55-year-old,” he said. A friend gave him a building site internship at $30,000 a year, not much more than the dole, “But I want to work,” he said.
“The government, in a moment of madness, has burdened every man, woman and child with a debt we may never escape,” he said. “We are on our backside.”
Brennan, the hospital worker, says the same thing. “We’ve already tried to live five years on nothing,” Mr. Brennan said. “If they push things much more, it’ll kill us.”