A hopeful week for Ireland?
Well, not if you read the economic policies of the newly inaugurated president of the United States.
Behind the glitz and rhetoric, Obama’s economic policies are deeply nationalist. Anyone reading the election manifesto should have noted ominous signs for an Ireland that has been deeply dependent on US multinationals bringing jobs here, in preference to locating them in the United States. Obama is quite specific in stating that preference will be given to American companies that have American workers:
End Tax Breaks for Companies that Send Jobs Overseas: Barack Obama and Joe Biden believe that companies should not get billions of dollars in tax deductions for moving their operations overseas. Obama and Biden will also fight to ensure that public contracts are awarded to companies that are committed to American workers.
Not much prospect of salvation from that quarter, then.
So where do we look for help?
There is a danger of talking the country into a downward spiral from which it would take a generation to escape. Boris Johnson sees such danger in England, “I’m not saying that I can see the green shoots of recovery but there is a risk of us all starting to sound like a millennialist suicide cult.” Should the Mayor of London listen to some Irish voices he would be convinced that Ireland has gone far down the millennialist path and that the entire population was in imminent danger of taking a lemming like plunge off the cliffs of Moher.
So where’s the hope?
Maybe in traditional business doing traditional business; in the places that didn’t rise far in the boom years not falling far in the crash years.
Encouragement today came in a conversation with a self-employed electrician who spoke of there being no shortage of ‘bread and butter’ work. No big contracts, but plenty to keep a man going for as long as he wished.
Then there was the conversation with the businessman, who manufactures clothes and acts as an agent for other manufacturers, who travels the length and breadth of Ireland visiting outlets.
“How was Christmas?” he asked retailers in West Cork last week.
“Down about 7%”, they said, “but not too bad; not too bad at all”.
Little places that had not risen sharply, were not so fearful about falling sharply; their traditional, established clientele would carry on shopping with them in the lean years, as they had through the boom years. He is bound for Kerry this week, expecting a response there similar to that in Cork.
Ireland is going to have to find its own way out this time. There will be no money from America and Europe is broke. Enterprise and hard work are the only options left. The BMWs and the Mercedes Benz may disappear; perhaps the best we can hope for is “not too bad”, but when you listen to the voices, “not too bad” would not be too bad at all.