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The Celtic Tiger ten years on: missed opportunities

June 2018 issue of Working Notes (no. 82)

We still live in the shadow of decisions made ten years ago when the Celtic Tiger died spectacularly, according to the editorial of the June issue of Working Notes, the policy analysis journal of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The issue is dedicated to remembering this last decade. The editorial stresses, however, that the current issue is not concerned mainly with econometrics. Instead it turns to geographers, environmental philosophers, media scholars and literary experts – people who can open up “vistas for reflection and opportunities for discernment” which are lost “when we imagine that economic history is about the economy, not the people who constitute it”.

In the lead article, Geography professor Cian O’Callaghan looks at the self-deceiving narratives we have told ourselves about the years of the Celtic Tiger, how we merely went too far, were a bit excessive – “We all partied,” as Brian Lenihan infamously said – but that the economic habits of the Tiger years were fundamentally sound. Thanks to delusions like this, O’Callaghan argues, government policy since the crash has focussed on bailing out the financial institutions rather than their victims – ordinary households. It has not acknowledged the chronic danger of the “debt-based homeownership model” which fed the Tiger, and as a consequence Ireland remains haunted by the ruination caused by the crash. The social ills are multitude: empty houses, ghost estates, evictions, family homelessness, the hiking of rental rates, the non-availability of mortgage credit, and so on.

Other articles in the issue examine Ireland’s sluggish response to the climate change crisis (another post-Tiger missed opportunity), the chronic failure of the press to produce a credible framing for the housing crisis issue, and the incisive way in which the literary fiction of the last ten years has presented insight into the lived experience of the years during and after the Tiger, thus offering an alternative symbolic language with which to frame the phenomenon.

This current issue of Working Notes introduces a new format – smaller, easier to read and easier to carry about. All of the articles in this month’s issue, as well as many articles from past issues, may be accessed in full on the Working Notes website. Also, for more content from the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, including podcasts, policy papers and longer-analysis reports, take a good look through www.jcfj.ie.