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Sad stories as Irish leave home; and a reminder not all governments as useless with the economy as Cameron’s

Posted on 6 October 2012 | 11:10am

Good fun as ever in Ireland yesterday, with a seminar on alcohol abuse with politicians and policy experts, a meeting with the See Change and Headline campaigns against mental health stigma, a tour of twitter HQ and then off to the Late Late Show.
Great to meet up again with retiring (in both senses of the word) Irish rugby star John Hayes, his wife Fiona, and our fellow guest, author Joe O’Connor. But the section of the show that made the biggest impression on me was the interview with members of the audience emigrating to Canada, and with Canada’s immigration minister, Jason Kenney, who is visiting Ireland and Britain to call on skilled workers to head West.
He did a good job selling the country’s appeal, but two things struck me – first, how refreshing it was to hear a minister making the positive case for immigration as an economic benefit. Second, how his analysis of Canada’s economy (on the day there was more good news on the jobs front for their bigger US neighbour) exposed the myth peddled by the UK government that our economic woes are uniformly shared worldwide, and that we are doing as well as other G8 countries.
So the minister put in a good performance. But the really powerful interviews came from those in be audience who had decided Ireland had nothing to offer them, and were taking up the offer to go to Canada.
The younger ones seemed really up for it, saying they would miss friends and family, but sensed a great adventure ahead, just as so many Irish people had in previous  economically challenging times.
But one chat with a married couple from Limerick in their early 40s, with two young children and two old grannies they were leaving behind, was moving to the point of heartbreaking had interviewer Ryan Turbity pushed it further than he did. He asked the woman if she had ‘made peace with her decision’ and though the lips said yes, the eyes and and the body language said something else.
They will go, and everyone who watched will wish them well. But the mood sat very oddly with the decision of Time magazine to put Taoiseach Enda Kenny on its front cover this week, with the headline ‘Celtic Comeback’.
I hope it proves to be true, and that one day the couple from Limerick come back too. Forces beyond their control were forcing them to make a decision they never wanted to make and for all the minister’s friendly words about the warm welcome and good opportunities they will get, it was a sad encounter.
Meanwhile back in the UK this morning I skim read the pre Tory conference coverage and see the shambles of strategic failure as a group of random ministers make random points, and David Cameron tells us once more that because he owes a debt to the NHS he can be trusted with its future. He can’t, not least because the Hunt he has put in charge of it seems more interested in changing the law on abortion, and has still to explain why he did not want the NHS in the opening ceremony of the Olympics.
  • Anthony Byrne Irl

    Saw that couple and through the TV one could sense it was a hard decision to make and one there were doubts about. Sadly allot of people I know have rented out their homes and have moved to either Canada, New Zealand or Australia. It really is an unenviable decision to have to take.

    About Time Magazine featuring Enda Kenny, yeah it does seem somewhat premature to be titling the editorial “The Celtic Comeback” but I really think its a good PR coup – the Irish Government (The IDA) does a great job of attracting foreign Industry to Ireland – so, this feature/article might reenforce their endeavours.

  • Olli Issakainen

    One the eve of the Tory conference Jesse Norman writes in the Guardian that “the UK economy is actually doing better than the consensus would have it”.
    Well, IMF thinks that the UK economy will shrink 0.1% this year.
    According to plan A it should now be growing 3%.
    Britain needs growth of 1.5% to just stand still because of rising costs.
    Businessmen and economists who previously backed George Osborne have now lost faith in him.
    For the past century average UK growth has been 2.25%.
    Current account figures tell that Britain is in red by record £20.8bn.
    Fitch warns that AAA credit rating is at risk due to poor economic performance.
    Corporate tax returns are lower and public sector borrowing higher.
    UK´s deficit will be higher than Greece´s in 2013-14, £126bn or 7.8% of GDP.
    Debt will not be down as a percentage of GDP by 2015/16.
    Deficit will not be eliminated by 2015.
    Deficit has widened 22% this year.
    Borrowing by the coalition will go up £600bn – £150bn more than the forecast.
    Borrowing in August was record high at £14.41bn.
    Plan A achieves nothing as household debt increases to £2tn due to cuts and tax rises.
    And by cutting capital spending Osborne causes huge long-term damage.
    Austerity does not deliver GROWTH.
    Government´s entire economic policy has been a failure.
    UK economy is 4.3% below 2008 peak. UK is in depression.
    Private sector has not come to rescue. Economy is shrinking and tax receipts falling.
    QE has only benefited the top 5%.
    We need investment and DEMAND.
    We need public investment and growth package. Even Mitt Romney now admits that free markets need regulation to work.
    But the Tories are locked into neoliberalism.
    Conservatives are now ECONOMICALLY LIBERTARIAN in a country that is not.
    This is why the Tories will lose in 2015 if they do not change direction.

  • As an irish person now living in England this was an interesting blog post. My mother is canadian as well.

    It is very sad to see a return to people having to leave Ireland in order to make a living.

    A very different reason for people leaving Ireland is that often women go to England to have abortions. Jeremy Hunt’s desire to reduce the time limit for abortions to 12 weeks would make it extremely difficult for irish women to obtain abortions.

    Obviously it would be much better if Ireland were to reform its legislation on abortion, however the society is saturated with religious beliefs (like Jeremy Hunt) which make this impossible at present.

    So I hope that Jeremy Hunt’s wishes never come to pass.

  • Anonymous

    How stupid can people get. I think Enda Kenny and every other Irish person need to receive a mauling like Barack Obama received from Mitt Romney.
    I have Irish blood myself so can speak freely. The “stupid irish” moniker has never bothered me in the slightest. But today, as a nation, it is richly deserved. Here is why:
    In the past Irish people have left for the USA and England.
    In modern times they leave for Canada, and to a much larger extent, Australia. Yet the politicians, journalists, and people get away with a cranked up version of the Labour garbage about a ‘global’ financial crisis.
    Why does no one in Ireland say “hey our bullshit policies didn’t work, but those in Canada, Australia, not to mention Iceland and Switzerland did, so let’s copy them”?
    The best, but still feeble, defence I’ve heard from this in Ireland is “Yeah but Canada is beside America thats why they are doing so well, we’re stuck to the Eurozone.”
    1. There isn’t much difference in how badly USA and Eurozone have done.
    2. How many Irish people are moving to Mexico? Or Cuba? Or does policy perhaps matter a bit more than location?
    Understand if you don’t want to post this Alastair (or whoever moderates this), I’ll submit a calmer version, but its a subject close to my own emigrant heart.

  • Dave Simons

    One of my brothers lives in Australia and he’s not so upbeat about the economy as you. But then he’s there and you’re here. Did you also mention Iceland? I seem to remember a lot of people lost a lot of money from investing in certain Icelandic banks – not so long ago? You didn’t mention China, the world’s current winner. Are all these Chinese people I meet on a daily basis tourists or are they students and employees? Why come to this crisis-stricken neck of the woods? ‘Global financial crisis’ obviously doesn’t affect every nation state equally, and the relative winners aren’t necessarily winners because they have sensible governments who could see it coming and did the right thing in time. One of the principal characteristics of capitalism is that there is no overall long-term planning, just a random set of individual units of varying size taking mostly short-term self-interested decisions – putting their rivals out of business being primary to their decision-making policies. The ‘garbage’ about a global financial crisis is not just Labour spin – I think it extends a bit further than that. I was in a bookshop near Harvard three years ago and the shelves were fairly dripping with theses about the global financial crisis. I didn’t realise the British Labour Party had such an influence on American academia.

  • wise monkey

    Alistair . I am totally in agreement with you that Osbornes has little idea what he is up to and of the shambolic Tory communication but your economic analysis really lacks balance. Canadas economy is doing well for several reasons. One of them is that it didnt lose one bank during the financial crisis. Not one. Unlike the UK that saw half its high street banks need bailouts and a bank run for the 1st time in 150 years. Not one mention of who was to blame for that. (Ed Balls in case you forgot)

    Canadian banks still have the balance sheet strength to lend. Our banks dont and will be constrained for some time to come regardless of who is in power.

    I know you are partisan. Its one of the reasons I read the blog. Try and keep the insults to intelligence down a little though.

    I will say one thing for Balls though. If it wasnt for his 5 Euro tests your ex boss would have taken us in and you wouldnt have had to travel to Ireland to do that

  • Anonymous

    I forgot, meant to point out yesterday, that I think those people in the “Stop the War” movement, who are entitled to their opinions and hold them deeply, they should look to see the reception Alastair gets in Ireland, and that Tony Blair gets. Yes there are a handful of hippies who protest, just as there are a handful of Irish people who don’t drink – but the majority retain warm affection for what the Blair administration did to end the troubles. In a way they did help to “Stop a War” of their own. So let’s have a bit of fairness.
    Incidentally if you look up Tony Blair’s performance on the original late late show in Ireland with Ryan Tubridy, it is excellent. As was Alastair’s original one though I cannot find it on youtube.

  • Niamh

    New Labour all over Irish radio today Alastair! Heard your interview on Newstalk at 9:15 this morning…you talk such sense. Then switched over to RTE 1 for 30 mins at 10, and Jack Straw is on promoting his new book…. Not a bad morning all in all!!

  • Anonymous

    You’re better than this Dave, I’ve seen it.
    Your brother is in Australia. I am here. All my friends apart from two from when I was at uni in Ireland have emigrated from Ireland. My group of friends there was only about half uni students, more builders, and many of those uni folk became builders as that was where the money was. Just because I have taken a different route is no need not to feel sorry for them and their families.
    Your brother isn’t so optimistic about Australia – remind me again, is he here or there?
    Regarding long term planning in capitalism, if you are a company, you still try to cut costs and be as productive as possible, and build up reserves to see you through bad times. Thats what my company did. If only countries took that approach. To be honest, I know that you yourself know this is a silly argument, there isn’t a country in the world who is so free market and capitalist that it doesn’t plan.
    Back to our companies – companies with low costs, productivity and reserves can ride market storms – and the same for countries. Some countries experienced a downturn. Some had recessions. Some had short recessions. Some had near depression conditions. Some simply had slightly slower growth. Which were we? Which were Ireland? And why couldn’t we have been one of those who had slower growth, or a short recession then recovery? Hint: you won’t find a marxist or keynesian country among the examples of how to ride the storm.

  • Angela

    It is difficult to accept the notion that Lundbeck,
    producers of controversial SSRI antidepressant medication, should be publicised
    in Ireland for supporting the Reduce Your Alcohol Use Campaign.

    A recognised consequence of using SSRI antidepressants is alcohol
    craving. This is a very clear and present danger and can in turn lie at the
    heart of uncontrolled and disorderly behaviour when the victim combines alcohol
    with these mind-altering medications.

  • Dave Simons


  • Anonymous

    China is neither Marxist nor Keynesian, or at least not in the Keynesian sense – you could argue that is it genuinely Keynesian ie it has been running surpluses, it is a creditor nation, which enables it to spend without damaging itself in downturns. That is what Keynes believed in – but not what Balls, Brown, Darling etc believe in.
    But Marxist?! Its tax rate is 18%!
    Its authoritarian, but not communist.
    I would be quite happy for us to follow the economic policies China has been following rather than our own, but they would be considered too capitalist not only for Labour but for the Tories too.