Scary stories from a lovely place
Guest post (Stephen Reid)
My Irish nationality has always been a good thing for me, but lately being Irish has taken on other connotations. In Decemeber we (Ireland) found ourselves engulfed in the blizzard of media hype and political rhetoric on Ireland’s sorry financial state. The eminent bail out by the European Union is all but complete.
I emigrated from Ireland in 1999 to South Africa and ultimately Johannesburg. Each year from 2000 to 2005 I would go back and visit my family during the December holidays. Although I loved seeing my family something began to irk me about Ireland and its people. Ireland was in the throes of the Celtic tiger – an unprecedented economic boom. It saw the economy of Ireland grow exponentially, much like the southeast Asian tiger economies from where it had gotten its name.
This rise in prosperity brought about a massive change in the standard of living in Ireland. Where previously Nissan Micras and Ford Fiestas had ruled and BMW had been a rare sight on the streets of Dublin now around every corner came Mercedes Benz and Jaguars. The house prices sky rocketed. The Irish people seemed to believe that this growth would last forever or at least not spectacularly crash and burn. But they were wrong and so here Ireland is, up the river without a paddle.
I think this whole thing will be good for Ireland. There’s nothing quite like being humbled, losing a bet, being wrong about something you absolutely thought was correct. It stops you in your tracks and makes you think perhaps I’m not invincible and perhaps I could be wrong.
I guess that was the reason I no longer fitted in when I returned to Ireland because if anywhere is more likely to give you a bigger perspective on life, that place is Africa and boy had it given me perspective on what the real value of money is. So in essence I got the reality check 10 years sooner than the rest of my countrymen. Reality checks are unpleasant so why do I think this one will be good for Ireland?
Ireland has always been a nation of survivors. We survived the Vikings and learned to live with them. We survived the Normans. We survived colonisation by the English and came out with our language and culture still intact despite centuries of oppression. We survived being the poor backward cousin of Europe and sent our children all across the globe when we had no work or money. And we will survive the current humiliation and loss of sovereignty.
And in ten years when our children look back and ask us “What did 85 billion euroes buy us?” I hope as a country we’ll be able to reply “Our soul”.