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Austerity Ireland

Austerity Ireland: The Failure of Irish Capitalism

Kieran Allen
with Brian O’Boyle
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Pluto Press
Pages: 208
Stable URL:
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  • Book Info
    Austerity Ireland
    Book Description:

    Ireland has been marketed as the poster boy of EU austerity. EU elites and neoliberal commentators claim that the country’s ability to suffer economic pain will attract investors and generate a recovery. In Austerity Ireland, Kieran Allen challenges this official image and argues that the Irish state's response to the crash has primarily been designed to protect economic privilege. The resulting austerity has been a failure and is likely to produce a decade of hardship. The book offers a deeply informed and penetrating diagnosis of Ireland's current socio-economic and political malaise, suggesting that a political earthquake is underway which may benefit the left. Austerity Ireland is essential reading for all students of Irish politics and economics, as well as those interested in the politics of austerity and the eurozone crisis.

    eISBN: 978-1-84964-954-4
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations
  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Tables (pp. vii-viii)
  4. 1 Wreckage (pp. 1-10)

    What happens when a government goes to a failed Wall Street mogul for advice in a crisis?

    In September 2008, money was pouring out of Irish banks as news spread about a property bubble that was collapsing. The government panicked, thinking that the ATM machines might seize up and there would be riots on the streets. So they put through a call to Merrill Lynch for advice. The Wall Street giant seemed to be as solid a corporation as you could possibly get. Originally formed as a network of stockbrokers selling to middle class Americans, it had a host of...

  5. 2 The Partners (pp. 11-22)

    Initially, the decision to guarantee the debt of six Irish banks seemed to catch everyone on the hop. The Irish elites had pulled a fast one on their taxpayers and not even the European Central Bank (ECB) appeared to be in on the act. When told about the plan, French Finance Minister, Christine Lagarde, supposedly exclaimed ‘Oh my God’¹ and her British counterpart was reported to be similarly alarmed.² However, the bankers at the heart of the ECB were in far more command of the situation than it first appeared. Whatever the Irish government may have announced, the state guarantee...

  6. 3 The Failure of Austerity (pp. 23-37)

    When the Irish Prime Minister, Enda Kenny, visited Berlin in October 2011, he received the red carpet treatment. There was little talk about the calamitous collapse of his country’s economy. InsteadDer Spiegelsuggested that the German Prime Minister Merkel would ‘be generous in her praise of her guest’.¹ She wanted an example for how austerity was working and Ireland was the good example. If Greece symbolised crisis and political instability, Ireland signified an oasis of calm in difficult times. The implication was that its people would soon reap the economic rewards for their obedience. A similar message was assiduously...

  7. 4 The Reconfiguration of Ireland (pp. 38-57)

    Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff to Barack Obama, had a piece of advice for elites: ‘You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you think you could never do before.’¹ The writer Naomi Klein named this approach the ‘shock doctrine’.² Both were referring to the pattern whereby elites move decisively during a crisis to impose new ways of ruling. Some of these strategies may have been viewed as ‘extreme’ or ‘off the wall’ in a previous era but crises create the conditions for change....

  8. 5 Where Are the Jobs? (pp. 58-67)

    ‘Say “G’Day Mate” this Australia Day for just 15 cents per minute’ proclaimed the giant billboard. There was something funny about its location facing the Centra shop at the junction between Galway and Kinvara in 2011. The bleak, rocky Galway landscape did not usually resonate with an elongated twang, but the marketing managers of Meteor knew exactly what they were doing. Emigration has returned to Ireland with over 200 people leaving each day. The country has reverted to its historic role as a labour ‘storehouse’, this time sending workers not only to Britain but to mining compounds in Australia and...

  9. 6 Will There Be a Roof Over Our Heads? (pp. 68-76)

    ‘Buy your own housing estate at a knock-down price.’ This was the message that 20 potential investors heard when they looked at the Glendale estate in Tullow, County Carlow. The whole estate of 63 houses was put up for sale by an unnamed bank and was eventually bought for just over €10,000 a unit. At the peak of the Celtic Tiger, these fine houses might have fetched €200,000 each and so quite a bargain was had.

    Every major economic crash creates opportunities for businesses who ride out the storm. They function as scavengers who buy up disused factories, machinery or...

  10. 7 Tax Haven Capitalism (pp. 77-108)

    Global capitalism has entered a new era where there are more frequent economic crises. The failure of whole swathes of the system to make a rapid recovery from the crash of 2008 indicates that it faces deeper long-term problems. Irish capitalism, however, is particularly weak and in this chapter we shall examine how it is increasingly reliant on functioning as a tax haven for corporations and wealthy individuals. This will take us on a somewhat technical journey through the complexities of tax evasion. It will also involve some jumps from the Irish economy to the US and back again. Our...

  11. 8 A Change in Political Management (pp. 109-125)

    ‘The Irish are a stoic people and they do their rioting in the ballot box.’¹ This is how the political commentator, Noel Whelan, described the outcome of the general election of 2011. It echoed a claim of former Fianna Fail Minister, Brian Lenihan, who boasted that his government had implemented austerity measures that would have caused riots elsewhere. The Irish have, it appears, a dignified approach and prefer to cause uproar at elections.

    Ireland has a long history of mass mobilisations that focus on parliamentary change. Daniel O’Connell’s Repeal Movement; the Parnellite campaign for home rule; the 1918 vote for...

  12. 9 Why Don’t the Irish Protest? (pp. 126-143)

    Soon after the crash of 2008, a rumour went around that the Greeks were marching to the chant, ‘We are not Irish, and we do not sacrifice ourselves for the rich’. As they marched on the parliament in Syntagma Square in Athens, this cry apparently swelled up from the assembled mass. But while one or two people may have voiced such a sentiment, there was no evidence that it was a popular slogan. This did not stop it being retold many times in conversation in Irish pubs as a way of contrasting the Irish and Greek responses to the crisis....

  13. 10 Are Sinn Fein Ireland’s Radical Left? (pp. 144-154)

    One effect of the crash was to accelerate the rise of Sinn Fein. In the early 1990s, Sinn Fein was almost a pariah party in the South. Its members were visited regularly by the Special Branch, their voices were banned from RTE and its activists were vilified by the wider media. The overwhelming message of official Ireland was that they – rather than the British army or its loyalist allies – were responsible for a war that had cost over 4000 lives. Despite dropping their traditional policy of abstentionism, Sinn Fein could make no headway at the ballot box. In...

  14. 11 Conclusion (pp. 155-165)

    Ireland certainly needs a genuine radical left – and one that will not repeat the betrayals of politicians who talked left wing in their youth and then settled into a comfortable Ministerial pension in their old age. This Left needs to offer a positive vision of a different society that is both practical and realisable. How can it come about?

    The Left has to, first, see capitalism as an outdated system which causes untold harm. It is the most unequal society that has ever existed in history – worse in the distance it creates between rich and poor than that...

  15. Notes (pp. 166-184)
  16. Index (pp. 185-192)