Associated Press
Irish Minister for Finance
Brian Lenihan

The ‘Celtic Tiger’ Falls on Tough Times

June 30, 2008 03:55 PM
by Anne Szustek
Ireland’s economy has been thriving for more than a decade, but now there are indications of the first fall in output since 1983 and first net emigration since 1990.

30-Second Summary

Ireland’s vigorous economic expansion over the past 20 years has earned it the moniker “Celtic Tiger.”

The transformation from one of Europe’s poorest nations to a high-tech upstart beckoned foreigners to the Emerald Isle. The country has seen 7.2 percent annual growth for the past decade, partly due to “buoyant labor markets,” writes the Financial Times. When eight Eastern European nations joined the EU in 2004, the number of immigrants to Ireland was in the hundreds of thousands.

But there has been a 3.3 percent jump in applications for unemployment benefits during May and a report from Irish think tank the Economic Social Research Institute predicts that GDP will decrease 0.4 percent this year. Some Irish are recalling the country’s recently humble economic standing.

Irish Finance Minister Brian Lenihan called the ESRI report a mere “wake-up call.”

But as Llewellyn King writes in The Globalist, Ireland’s culture tends toward fatalism, including the country’s economic health. Already, pundits such as RTE radio host Pat Kenney are saying “it’s time for Ireland to rediscover its recessive gene.”

As long-time residents contend with bearish economic indicators, the Eastern European immigrants, whose lower wages helped make Ireland’s original upswing possible, are returning to their home countries, welcomed back by upstart “tiger” markets.

Of the immigrants, restaurateur Vincent Mullen told the Wall Street Journal, “I couldn’t afford to be in business without them.”

Headline Links: Ireland sees economic slump, decline in immigration

Audio: ‘Rediscovering its recessive gene’

Background: Ireland’s gloomy economic indicators

Reaction: Interview with Irish Immigration Minister Conor Lenihan

Historical Context: Ireland’s rise over the past two decades

Opinion & Analysis: Ireland bracing for recession

Related Topic: ‘What Does Irish “No” Vote Mean for the EU?’


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