Christmas Carol Thoughts

Jan 2nd, 2009 | By | Category: Ireland

Sitting in the National Concert Hall with the members of our junior choir and their assorted parents for an excellent production of A Christmas Carol should have been a buoyant start to the year.  The musical, with its tale of the redemption of the character of Scrooge, should have set an optimistic tone, but stepping onto the street in the light of late afternoon, there was a mood of melancholy.

The auditorium for a large scale production on an afternoon when many were still on holiday was at most half full.  Knowing nothing about the economics of the theatre industry, I asked a friend in the next seat why there were not more people.  “Maybe it’s the corporate cutbacks”, she suggested, “maybe they are not providing employees with tickets to take their families to concerts.  Or maybe it is that people don’t have the money or, if they have the money, they are afraid to spend it”.

I sat in the auditorium through the intermission, trying to comprehend what had happened to the country.  If one of the premier venues cannot sell very modestly priced tickets for a usually popular show that must have cost a large amount to stage, then how much worse might things become? Tickets had been so discounted that two of the best seats in the house could be bought for the price of going to a League of Ireland football match (and even the most ardent fan would hardly claim that Irish soccer was the most professional of experiences).

A year ago, the banks’ economists were insisting there would be a soft landing; a year before that, it was still boom time.  In a matter of months, we seem to have gone bankrupt.

Staring at the ceiling, with its array of sound and lighting equipment, it seemed odd that a country that could manufacture the most sophisticated computer equipment in the world, could not find, within its ranks, people who could lead us out of the downward plunge.  Surely it could not be beyond the wit of people who could build €1 billion production plants to think of a way out of our situation.

Amongst the mediocrity of Irish politics, there must be some who could sit down and say, “This is where we are.  This is where we want to be.  This is how we will get there”.

Ensuring people have work; guaranteeing the safety of their homes; sharpening the focus of public spending to safeguard essential services; these are not rocket science, yet there seems no voice explaining that a national plan has been developed.

The melancholy of the empty seats was completed by the news that Tony Gregory had died.  No matter what one thought of his politics, he spoke the truth fearlessly.  There seems now hardly a voice left to say that another way might be possible; but out there somewhere, there must be someone who has the answer.

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  1. Ian, although I am in the hosebuilding industry and am at the sharp end of the recession, what really brought home to me today how things really are was when I walked into what was left of Woolworths in Exter to see the last few remnants of goods,work desks, chairs and shelving waiting for a buyer….very sad….I shopped in ‘Woolies’ quite a bit, especially toys!!!and will always remember the Woolworths in Bridgwater back in the sixties…..proper wooden floors and display cases full of sweets!!!!!!!

  2. Les, Bridgwater branch had an authentic feel! I don’t understand how Woolies could go under, any I visited always seemed busy. The world seems to have gone daft and there seems no-one able to pull things together.

  3. Listening to the radio this morning there was a report on Newstalk about the recession and the journalist was reporting how “masses of shoppers from the Republic were by-passing the January sales in the south and continuing to travel North to shop and Irish revenues were down, thus pushing the south into a deeper recession” I felt as I listened that the “public” were being blamed for this – that we as consumers should “do the right thing” and pay 40 or 50% more for an item including 21% VAT and be happy to do so, in order to help our country out of a hole.
    The government INCREASED our VAT in November and continue to bail out bankers who feather their own nests while small retailers and family owned businesses go under.
    Having said that, retailers here need to take some of the blame for the northern exodus, they need to adjust prices to reflect the stronger euro and if it means taking a hit on profits now, so be it – it will swing back into their pocket when they buy new stock to replenish the shelves.
    I disagree with the arguments that southern retailers have higher costs than the UK (apart from real estate) they are better off, as most of the goods imported come through a UK distributor, therefore even if prices are fixed a year back, the weaker pound makes stocking the shelves cheap.
    I’m back to work tomorrow and I’ll be at my desk all of this week adjusting my prices down in an effort to encourage shoppers, I’m buying cheaper – I’m happy to pass this on to my customers.
    Here’s a plug – Sale now on at!!
    My rant over!

  4. The ‘feathering of nests’ that has gone on in the middle of the crisis has been astonishing! Imagine the Anglo guys taking a bonus!!

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