Prior to the arrival of the now defunct and rather ominous tiger that mysteriously found it’s way into Ireland in the mid 1990’s, Ireland was in possession of a much more valuable offering to the outside world and that rather priceless offering was “Celtic pride.” Every year a bounty of tourists from all corners of the globe would flock to the little island of the green to savor a wee taste of the mystical Irish charm - a gift bestowed upon the ancient Celts by the Gods, in exchange for them to never complain about the rainy weather.
Now that the tiger has high-tailed it to only God knows where and who even knows if indeed he will ever set foot in Ireland again - or want to for that matter - Ireland is left to pick up the pieces from an era lost to the unfaithful promise of wealth, prosperity and future bliss. All would not be lost if indeed Ireland could somehow trace itself and it’s people back to the pre-tiger years. But when you have been fooled into believing that so much was yours, and now all of that is gone, it’s never going to be easy to ask or to expect a nation of people to smile and pretend like the last seventeen years or so never existed.
It was all too real to be mistaken for a dream - it’s definitely a nightmare now. The biggest problem facing Irish life today, as everyone there is so desperately struggling to make sense of the financial mess that most Irish people have found themselves in - is their unwillingness to take on any of the blame for their own false illusions of wealth. They simply lived and spent way beyond their means. To this day, most Irish people will tell you that it was the banks and property developers that got Ireland into the present mess that it finds itself in. A deep-rooted bitterness and a most alarming lack of pride to be Irish is what today’s young Irish have adopted and chosen to portray to anyone who is still interested enough to notice.
Ireland’s tourism board, “Bord Failte,” is trying desperately to revive what was once Ireland’s chief industry. Irish Americans, who once flocked to the land of their ancestors, in search of where their freckles and red hair first came from, seemed to lose interest in an Ireland that now boasted of being financially better off than America. A recent article showed where Ireland was now spending more in advertisement, trying to attract Chinese visitors to Ireland over Americans. It seems the entire world is opening up to the massive potential that China has to offer - even the Irish.
The strength of the euro against the dollar is also not helping Ireland, as perhaps more Americans would take advantage of the bargain incentives Ireland is now offering to tourists today. America and Ireland are still in a very tight knit relationship. In fact, American Corporations have more of their money invested in Ireland than they have in the rest of the world combined. Ireland is ideally situated at the gateway to mainland Europe and it is still very attractive, as an ideal place to do business in.
Once leading world economies begin to see themselves out of this rather long and drawn out recession, Ireland, with it’s well educated and young workforce will no doubt be an ideal country to invest in again. There is no doubting that Ireland still has some tough and lean years ahead, especially when you consider how financially beholding they are to both the IMF and the European Central bank. There are those that claim that Ireland will never be the same again. And of course it wont ever be the same again but hopefully it will be better. Just like every other country around the world, Ireland too has found itself facing lot’s of social issues and the powers that be are not yet sure as to how best to deal with some of these issues.
Crime and drug related incidents are rampant in the inner cities and also the big rural towns. Even some of the most rural villages are being greatly exposed to this crime due to the governments attempt at re-generation of the inner cities. In this, they are moving troubled families from the city housing projects and they are moving them into state sponsored housing in the villages. This has riled the villagers and it has forced many of the older people living in the more rural areas - some of them moving out of homes that have been in their family for generations but out of fear of being broken into in the middle of the night, they are taking up residence inside the villages. In many ways, Ireland is at a place where it has never been before and there are some very difficult choices to be made all around. It might help, that Ireland is no longer dictated to in large part by the Catholic church.
Irish politicians today, seem to be able to make choices that do not need the approval of the church. In fact the Catholic Church and Irish politics seem to be heading in different directions. There is no doubting, that no matter what - a new Ireland is going to emerge out of all this. Whether or not this new Ireland will be one of promise or a failed idea that has gone terribly askew. We will just have to wait and see.