Fullosia Press - St Pat`s Day*|
Rags to Riches and Back Again Ireland Today
In the mid-eighteenth century, the English Parliament passed a bill whereby the English could export their cows to Ireland but the Irish could not export their cattle to England. It was the application of a system known as mercantilism and the Chinese are applying it today with their undervalued currency. As England industrialized and population grew, Ireland became an impoverished agricultural backwater.
Even independence did not change matters much. In the 1920s, the Irish erected high tariff barriers especially against the British but domestic demand in such a small market was not sufficient to stimulate growth. In the 1950s, the economy was still stagnant and true to tradition 400,000 Irish emigrated thereby depriving the land of labor and talent. In 1970, along with Denmark and Britain, Ireland joined the European Common Market (now EU) and change set in. Ireland thus transformed itself from an agricultural country to a hi-tech country dependant on trade, industry and investment and is one of the richest nations in the OECD.
GDP (national output) and GNP (national income) rose significantly due to the repatriation of profits and royalty payments made by international companies. In the 1970s population increased by 15% and annual growth was 4%. In the period 1995-2000 growth was so high that some spoke of the ‘Celtic tiger`. 1995-2000 growth stood at 10% per annum and 2001-2004, 7% p.a. Inflation rose. Property prices, especially in Dublin rose. In 2002, Ireland became one of eleven European states to launch the Euro. Ireland is now one of the most profitable countries for US investment.
The primary sector now accounts for 5%. It includes mining for lead and zinc and drilling for oil and natural gas. Construction, necessarily cyclical, is a very important sector and investment in building and housing has had a major destabilizing effect on the banks especially as from fall last year. The recent downturn in property prices is creating problems. In December 2007, Welfare Benefits were the highest in the world after Denmark and Switzerland and Senior Pensions are also generous.
According to the Wall Street Journal index, Ireland has the freest economy in the world. In particular, high growth may be put down to low corporate taxes. The EU Commission predicts a growth in the well-trained work force and a good business environment generally. There is a growth predicted for 2011 of 3% after two years of economic recession due to the American and world crisis of 2008. Ireland has recently seen the biggest month-on-month growth in the Euro zone of 7.9%.
The weak area is the solvency of the banks and the high level of household debt. The banks have overinvested in property and cannot pay their shareholders. If they call in their loans, it will trigger off an economic crisis. On the 30th September 2008, the Irish government effectively underwrote these bank loans. However, by November 2010, the government just did not have the money anymore and had to ask for a Bail Out from the IMF/EH and ECB (European Central Bank). They also put forward a National Recovery Plan but with elections in the offing and recriminations in the air, it is hard to know just what measures will be taken in 2011.
The EU/IMF/ECB funding is thought by some to be just not big enough. It could fund the Irish State for three years. The IMF`s report presumes a deficit of €44.8 billion Euros (1€ = $1.36). The Irish government will need an additional €18.7 bn to fund the State and how will that be met? Taxation will only raise €7.5 bn. Will Ireland borrow again or simply float more government bonds?
In any case, Ireland has the job of regaining credit worthiness. Without that, it will effectively mean that Ireland will lose economic sovereignty to its creditors, who will impose their own plan for economic recovery. There are already cries of an economic sell-out. Parties are already talking of renegotiating the debt. This may be possible for interest rates for EU loans but the plan negotiated MUST be implemented say the EU countries.
Over the third quarter of 2010, statistics now out and made public, showed the following. The total domestic sector became a net borrower. Households decreased borrowing (which means people buying fewer houses). Government liabilities increased 10% to £151 bn.
The market has lost its confidence in Ireland`s ability to service its National Debt. Government bonds rose in price to 6% last fall in September and 9% in November. By the end of November, Ireland had been forced to go to the EU/IMF/ECB for a loan (with strings attached). It will not be able to repay the loan at present interest rates of 8.9% p.a. The crisis had been precipitated by a significant drop in bank deposits. In September 2010, these deposits declined rapidly by €125 or 14% of the total. The banks had relied on foreign financing during the boom years of 1995-2004 and suffered from liquidity problems after 2007.
One key gauge to Ireland`s economic health is emigration. People leave when times are tough. Unemployment in July 2010 was 12.2%. Some economists believe emigration could run at 40,000 p.a. or 2% of the Irish work force. Typically, London is still a magnet and the US Embassy is reporting record high visa applications.
Ireland since 1970 has been a rags-to-riches success story with the crunch in November last year of riches-to-rags. Nonetheless, Ireland still has the assets that made it rich. In particular, it possesses know-how and a well-trained work force. The problems that have arisen may be a temporary ‘blip` caused by bank over lending to property speculators. If so, sensible planning can put that straight. However, a firm course is called for and at the moment the whole multi-party system is squawking like delegates to a caucus. Who will pick up the pieces and put the house in order, I wonder?
~ Geoff Jackson
Southern Irish Politics Today
The Head of State of Ireland is the President, whose functions, however, are mainly confined to the ceremonial. Real power is exercised by the Taoiseach or Prime Minister, who heads a Cabinet of not more than fifteen members, who form the executive branch of government sitting in the Oireachtas, the bi-cameral Irish Parliament. The situation, thus, is more similar to that of Britain than to that of the US, which is a meticulous system of checks and balances. Also, the Irish Senate has less teeth and mostly revises bills as does the British House of Lords. Like the Lords, they cannot introduce or change money bills.
The political parties are elected by proportional representation and a single transferrable vote in about five big national constituencies. The result of such a system is to give a very different balance of political power to that in either Britain or the US. Our system has sometimes been called ‘winner takes all` or ‘first past the post` so that 51% is enough to win a seat. 2 x 51% wins two seats, 3 x 51% three seats etc. but if you now take those three constituencies and fuse them, then a hundred per cent could be split 35%, 25% and 20% and the rest so you might now have three winning parties.
Typically, such a system of proportional representation tends to produce a plethora of small parties and Ireland is no exception to the rule. The parties then form coalitions. In America, the recent US mid-term elections saw big gains for the Republicans but most significantly for the right-wing Republicans, which a two-party system tends to cloak.
The largest parties in Ireland are the Fianne Fail, which is a laissez-faire conservative party and the Fine Gail, the party of law and order, pro-enterprise and believing in reward for those, who produce the wealth. The Labour Party is the third party and is center-left. It has never been a majority in government but has been a frequent junior partner in coalitions and has been derisorily called Ireland`s half party. Other minor leftist parties are the Green Party, Sinn Fein, the Socialist Party and, founded in 1985, the Progressive Democrats.
As a democracy, Ireland also has a well-developed system of law. The corner-stone of law is the common law system inherited from Britain, which it has in common with US. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is the highest law officer and the Supreme Court ruling is the appeal of last instance as well as ruling on the constitutionality of laws from the Parliament or Dail. Then there are the High Courts and other courts.
What is very different from the US but similar again to Britain is that the State engages in commercial activities and some big firms are nationalized enterprises. Such companies are organized like private companies and are supposed to book profits. However, inclusive the government bureaucracy, this means that the State employs around 20% of the total work force. It is a very heavy public service sector and one hopes that jobs there could be cut without raising by too much the already double-figure jobless total.
At the moment there is a general election scheduled for the 25th February brought forward from March. Background to, and biggest issue in, the election is the Big Bank Billion Bail that the Irish have just received from their European partners. Fianne Fail will be looking to minimize its losses as shown in poor poll ratings due to the economic crisis 2008-`10 and Finne Gail hopes to supplant them as the largest party for the first time since 1927. However, when the bank loan was negotiated with Ireland, European leaders also met with opposition Irish leaders and it will be hoped that Ireland`s new leaders will set in motion the proposed plans for national reform.
Ireland, which, in terms of area and population, is not even the size of a minor US State, has left a legacy to the world and has recently been a thriving and dynamic new nation within the European Union. Its history is full of Celtic legends and the Celtic language lives on in the Ireland of today. Once a remote island long west of Europe, it has become the heartland of foreign – particularly American – investment in Europe. Despite its recent economic downturn, its people have the spirit, resourcefulness and training, to rise like a Phoenix and continue to shape their own economic and political future. St. Patrick will continue to be remembered as the man, who brought Christianity to Ireland; Ireland as the land that brought Christianity to England and Europe; and modern Ireland as a land of innovation and enterprise.
~ Geoff Jackson
To a promised land and an uncertain future
20. Sleepy Town
Whelks and cockle town
And outside markets
21. Silver Harvest
Fishermen land their wares
On the quay
Silver sea harvest
22. Hidden Moon
Even the moon
Is hid behind sullen clouds
In this westerly of isles
At boats plying their nets
West of Galway
24. Playboy of the Western World
The playboy of the western world
Walked with his shillelagh
From Cork to Donegal
25. Old Ireland
Under the rusty fetters of English rule
Sighs green and agricultural
The sun dips
Under the Atlantic in an unexpected bloody sunset
Trumpeting of Irish freedom
The waves pounded harshly against the rocks, and
The steep crags punched the waves back into the ocean
Like a heavenly fist,
defying the laws of Poseidon.
The boats stayed clear of the incoming tide, dropping
Anchors far into the bay, the fisherman`s
motions moving rhythmically to the dance of the
Undercurrent beneath their swaying boats.
The scene is cloudy mist with land in the
Distance encamped beneath the fog.
A lighthouse gives the crews a faint
Glimmer, a tiny red dot.
Each day nature brings something to our doorstep.
We mould and adapt to the elements in
Order to go about our business,
And sometimes nature lifts us up on a sunlit
Day in a field of sunflowers in late summer,
With bees buzzing in the distance and a light
Breeze teasing the petals.
At other times, the tide is too rough, and
Even the bravest fishermen know when to
Such is the language of wisdom.
And those are the days when it`s best to
Stay ashore in a safe harbor.
Always turbulent world in transition
Calm shift integral to far-reaching
Cultural social economic political restructuring
Heretical beliefs dogmas traditions creeds
Common sense interfaith multiversity fellowship
From materialistic to humanistic growth
Looking beyond self-interest mutual interests
Livelihood education health safety prosperity
Sustainable consciousness challenge closing gaps
Freshwater shortfalls alternative energy sources
Reducing dependence on regionally concentrated
Greed depleting black gold reserves
Moonlight nebula eclipsed sunset horizon
Dominant yin overshadowing recessive yang
Mindful respect for being present
Unconditional love redemptive compassionate forgiveness
Same family disregarding superficial differences
Global awareness non-exploitive material gains
Reverence for soiled earthy matrix
Grounded offshoot roots uniquely alive
Engaging tomorrow`s generation maximum impact
Youthful vision quest freedoms emerging
Spontaneous collective consciousness fostering charity
Enlightened citizens paving future thoroughfares
No Holds Bard Dr. Charles Frederickson
PRIESTS AND POETS
27. Harps and Castles
Harps and castles
And Irish girls dancing in Gaelic step
Cast sullen shadows over a
Green Irish landscape
29. Winds and seas
Spill against land so green
Where Atlantic winds shape even trees
If foam-born Aphrodite
Stepped from baleful green breakers
It would have been on Galway`s shores
31. Irish Dawn
An occluded misty sun
A tear-drop of rain
A burst of bird-song to herald day
32. Danny Boy
When Danny Boy left here
He sent no letters to his Sweet-heart
By post boat
The Moon Howls
The moon howls
at the light
shimmering on the sea
watch it dance
as the mermaids sing
of past loves
along the coral reefs
where color makes its home
under the warm warm sun
surrounded by the open ocean
and even here
the moon howls
where even dots
tiny in size
invisible to our eyes.
St Pat's Day Issue
Main Page *
Rebels and Redcoats * *
Emerald Isles * * * Around The Islands
Isolde was the Irish princess who married the Duke of Cornwall. She fell in love with the minstrel Tristam (aka Tristan) and when her husband found out about the affair both lovers were soon death. Irish legend has it that once the lovers were buried, a rose grew from Isolde`s grave and a vine grew from Tristam`s, and the plants grew together, reuniting them and proving that true love overcomes death.
Through our long years of dreaming to be one
we grew toward an enigmatic light
that gently warmed our tendrils. Was it sun?
We had no eyes to tell; we loved despite
the lack of all sensation—all but one:
we felt the night`s deep chill, the air so bright
at dawn we quivered limply, overcome.
To touch was all we knew, and how to bask.
We knew to touch; we grew to touch; we felt
spring`s urgency, midsummer`s heat, fall`s lash,
wild winter`s ice and thaw and fervent melt.
We felt returning light and could not ask
its meaning, or if something was withheld
more glorious. To touch seemed life`s great task.
At last the petal of me learned: unfold.
And you were there, surrounding me. We touched.
The curious golden pollens! Ah, we touched,
and learned to cling and, finally, to hold.
The legend of what happened on a stormy night at Tintagel is endlessly intriguing. Supposedly, Merlin transformed Uther Pendragon, Celtic warrior-king, to look like Gorlois (another Duke of Cornwall) so that Uther could sleep with Ygraine, the lovely wife of the unlucky duke. While Uther was enjoying Ygraine`s lovemaking, Gorlois was off getting himself killed. The question is: did Igraine suspect that her lover was not her husband? Regardless, Arthur was the child conceived out of this supernatural (?) encounter.
there was darkness such as man had never seen . . .
darkness and treachery,
and the unholy thundering of the sea . . .
In his arms,
who is to say how much she knew?
And if he whispered her name . . .
could she tell above the howling wind and rain?
Could she tell, or did she care,
by the length of his hair
or the heat of his flesh, . . .
that her faceless companion
was Uther, the dragon,
and Gorlois lay dead?
What happened to the mysterious Tuatha De Danann, to the Ban Shee (from which we get the term "banshee") and, eventually, to the druids? One might assume that with the passing of Merlyn, Morgause and their ilk, the time of myths and magic ended. This poem is an epitaph of sorts for the passing of the ancient Celts and their religion and folklore into the mists of time.
In the ruins
of the dreams
and the schemes
when the moon
begets the tide
and the wide
when a star
appears in heaven
and the raven
we will dance
and we will revel
in the devil`s
fen . . .
if nevermore again.
Merlyn, on His Birth
Legend has it that Zephyr was an ancestor of Merlin, the great Celtic enchanter and prophet. In this poem, I suggest that Merlin may have been an albino, which might have led to seemingly outlandish claims that he had no father, due to radical physical differences between father and son. This would have also added to his appearance as a mystical figure. The reference to Ursa Major, the bear, ties the birth of Merlin to the future birth of Arthur, whose Welsh name ("Artos" or "Artur") means "bear." Morydd is a another possible ancestor of Merlin`s. (In the Celtic tongues, "dd" is pronounced "th.")
I was born in Gwynedd,
or not born, as men may claim,
and the Zephyr of Caer Myrrdin
gave me my name.
My father was Madog Morfeyn
but our eyes were never the same,
nor our skin, nor our hair;
for his were dark, dark
—as our people`s are—
and mine were fairer than fair.
The night of my birth, the Zephyr
carved of white stone a rune;
and the ringed stars of Ursa Major
outshone the cool pale moon;
and my grandfather, Morydd, the seer
saw wheeling, a-gyre in the sky,
a falcon with terrible yellow-gold eyes
when falcons never fly.