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Ireland's 'Celtic Tiger' purring again, but at what price?

brussels bureau

Ireland's 'Celtic Tiger' purring again, but at what price?


After five years of grinding austerity and an international bailout, the Celtic Tiger — as Ireland’s economy was once dubbed — is starting to find its feet.

Growth is forecast to hit 2.0 percent by the end of 2014; the country’s deficit has been slashed and demand for Irish exports is rise once more.

Paschal Donohoe, Ireland’s European affairs minister, said a diverse economy that ranges from agriculture to finance and technology “made sure that Ireland had a number of engines of growth that pulled it through the difficulties”.

Economists say Ireland’s light touch approach to regulation is key in bringing jobs to Irish shores, as well as a 12.5 percent corporate tax rate.

That has proved attractive to international firms such as Google, Apple and Facebook.

“They come here for many reasons. They come here because Ireland is an English-speaking country, in the eurozone, in the single market, with good levels of education, flexibility in the workforce, and also this much talked about factor of a low rate of corporation tax,” said Dan O’Brien, chief economist at the Institute of International and European Affairs.

For example, France has a standard corporate tax rate of 33 percent.

As Ireland hit its spending cut targets, the government was hailed as the poster child for EU-IMF-backed austerity.

The nation exited its bailout programme in December. But at what price for ordinary Irish people?

Ireland’s Central Statistics Office estimates at least 177,000 people between the ages 15 to 24 have left the country over the past five years.

Roisin Peddle is thinking about joining them. She has a masters in journalism but is now contemplating starting her career away from Irish shores.

“I’ve had a number of interviews for various journalism and other things, and it’s become quite apparent that it’s not going to happen in Ireland. So I am thinking about moving abroad probably in the next year, hopefully,” she told euronews.

Many of her fellow students from her masters class have gone to the UK, South Korea, France, or even Australia.

While Roisin says she is weighing up a possible move to Asia, others are committed to staying. A campaign group “We’re Not Leaving” was set up last summer.

Euronews met one of its members, 22-year-old Seamus Farrell.

“I suppose that we kind of had messages from the government that young people are lazy, young people don’t work hard enough, they want to sit at home and they are using as excuses for cutting social welfare payments, and not tackling the unemployment crisis, but unless we start opposing that, we’re going to keep getting hit again and again,” he said.

But with so many young people seeking a better life abroad, this mass exodus looks only set to dampen Ireland’s long-term growth prospects.

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