Ireland News Update – October 2012

IRELAND GIVEN THE RUN-AROUND BY EU OVER DEBT DEAL

The ongoing saga regarding the restructuring of Ireland’s bank debt has taken a number of major turns. In June the Irish government triumphantly announced that a deal had been brokered whereby some Irish bank debts would in fact be paid for by a new European Union mechanism. A ‘game-changer’ and ‘seismic shift’ were some of the terms used at the time.

In the months that followed though the realization of exactly what this involves seems to have dawned on the Germans who recently emphatically stated that the new mechanism would only apply to future bailouts (aimed at Spain and Italy in particular). The same German government then made noises to the effect that the EU would continue to ‘work closely’ with the Irish government on the issue before rolling back even more and conceding that Ireland was a ‘special case’ and that a deal could still be done.

This is very dangerous political ground for Enda Kenny’s Fine Gael government. Ireland is on schedule to be the first EU country to exit the bailout program and be able to borrow on the strength of it own sovereign credibility in the bond markets. The country has successively met every target imposed by the EU/IMF/ECB troika of creditors that the country has used to keep the lights turned on. On the other hand it is this very success (if that is the right word) that is putting Ireland further down the list of European priorities.

With Greece, Portugal, Spain and Italy all in trouble there is simply no motivation for the EU to address a very small peripheral Irish economy that is actually on the road to recovery. It is not as if there are Greek-style street protests or threats of a sovereign default emanating from Ireland to focus EU minds.

It remains to be seen whether this ‘gently does it’ approach from Fine Gael works in securing a new deal for Ireland. If it does not, and if the Germans simply reiterate that only future bank problems can be dealt with by the new EU approach then it will be a bitter blow and not just to Fine Gael and its Labour Party partners but also to an Irish public reeling after four years of austerity.

That really would be a ‘game-changer’.

STATISTICS REVEAL CHANGING FACE OF IRISH RELIGION

The Central Statistics Office has released more figures from the 2011 census that has highlighted the changing makeup of religion in Ireland.
* The number of agnostics or atheists has increased dramatically and now represents 5.9% of the population
* Catholics represent 84.2% of the population, the lowest percentage ever recorded
* Muslims account for 1.1%
* Non-Christian religions in Ireland account for 1.9%

Other highlight from the 2011 census include:
* There were 42,854 more females than males in the State in April 2011
* Immigration by Irish nationals was 19,593 in the year to April 2011
* Immigration by foreign nationals in the year to April 2011 was 33,674. The largest groups came from Poland, UK, France, Lithuania, Spain and the USA
* Total housing stock grew to almost 2 million homes, of these almost 290,000 were vacant on census night giving a vacancy rate of 14.5%
* Over half a million (514,068) Irish residents spoke a foreign language. Polish was by far the most common, followed by French, Lithuanian and German

IRISH CREATOR OF DRACULA IS REMEMBERED

The continuing interest in the Irish writer Bram Stoker is again in evidence with the news that a very rare first edition of his most famous book is expected to sell for close to 10,000 Euros at a London auction. Additionally a new exhibition has been opened in Dublin to celebrate the life of one of Ireland’s most neglected writers.

IRISH SOCCER TEAM HAMMERED BY GERMANY

As if the trouble being experienced by the Irish government with the German government was not enough! The German soccer team hammered Ireland 6-1 at Landsdowne Road to underline the problems facing the Irish team in their quest to qualify for the world cup in Brazil in 2014.

In a group containing Austria and Sweden as well as the Germans the best that Ireland could realistically hope for was always going to be qualification through a runners-up place. With Sweden drawing 4-4 in Germany the aftermath of the Irish win in the Faroe Islands by 4-1 was occupied with speculation about whether manager Giovanni Trapattoni would be sacked.

In the end the FAI have kicked the problem down the road. The manager will stay and try to get us through the group. In reality the Irish soccer association could not afford to sack the experienced Italian, having only recently awarded him a new contract. Defeat to either of Sweden or Austria in the next two games could spell the end of the road though.

About the author

Michael Green Michael Green is Manager of The Information about Ireland Site

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