Ireland has received an early Christmas present as it officially ends its bailout three years after having to ask for an international financial rescue. It is the first eurozone country to do that.
The bailout was needed because when Ireland’s banks were about the collapse due to reckless lending, the Dublin government guaranteed not just all savings but also bonds sold by the banks. That – some say foolish – pledge buckled the economy.
Since then Ireland has initiated painful spending cuts and raised taxes, with grim effects on the people. The Finance Minister Michael Noonan praised their resilience: “The real heroes and heroines of the story are the Irish people. They’ve had their taxes increased, they’ve had their services cut drastically.
But he cautioned: “This isn’t the end of the road. This is a very significant milestone on the road. But we must continue with the same types of policies.”
Those are not welcome words in rural Ireland where many are still struggling.
In an antique and craft shop come cafe in Mullingar 50 miles west of Dublin, owner Dermot Holmes said they are still waiting for the economic upturn and he would like the IMF to keep pushing for reforms: “There isn’t even a light at the end of the tunnel, we are still in darkness, and we are still being hammered by all sorts of budgetary constraints. And the IMF – if they stayed – they might help us with these things and force situations to be done quicker, particularly from on high, and that’s what we need to be done.”
So is it a case of the glass is half empty or half full? Exports and foreign investment are up and the cost of borrowing for the state is down, but many of Ireland’s people have yet to feel better about their finances.