Regular readers of this blog will know that I lived in Dublin from 1999 to 2007. Deciding to go to Trinity College was undoubtedly one the best decisions I have ever made, and it was a truly magical time. I had the most amazing experiences, and made the best group of friends on earth. I still miss Dublin daily, but must say that I'm relieved by now that I was never earning enough to even contemplate buying a flat or a house. I always wanted to, but they were crazily expensive. The only hope I had of being able to buy one was to win euromillions!
Throughout the time I was living there, Ireland kept booming. Apartment blocks kept going up in every corner of the city, fancy gyms were built, more and more expensive shops, bars and restaurants kept opening... The country seemed invincible. All you heard were good things about the Celtic tiger. It was like a dream and I think most of us thought that whilst the economy would of course slow down, it would remain strong. Ireland would remain a shining light and a glowing example of how a small country could succeed financially. Friends of mine weren't worried about getting jobs after university - they were available in abundance - and the starting salaries were often lucrative, and the type of wage I still aspire to earn even now! But it didn't last... Now, more and more of them are fearing for the future and, for the first time ever, contemplating moving abroad to continue with their careers. This is not how things were supposed to turn out for this generation, and many feel badly let down by the government for not being prepared for the crash.
And boy, how they've crashed. I cannot believe that the reports I'm reading from Ireland are talking about the same Ireland that I used to live in. We have it bad in Wales and the UK at the moment, but the situation in Ireland seems to be a million times worse. Of course, they had a far bigger boom in the first place and therefore had much more to lose than we did. But still...
It's a few months since I was last over in Dublin, but I've booked to go over in May and whilst I'm of course looking forward to catching up with friends, I'm also interested to see how things are in Dublin. If you follow events online or listen to the Irish radio stations, all they talk about is the economy. I know it's the same here as well, but honestly, the Irish seem to be even more obsessive about it. I can understand why, but still, it is frightening how quickly things seem to have spiralled downwards in a country that was blossoming for so long.
It will be interesting to see what will happen in Ireland in June at the European and local elections. I think many of my Fine Gael friends will be very happy, whilst my Fine Fail ones will be severely depressed... I certainly wouldn't like to be in the Taoiseach's shoes at the moment! If you think Gordon Brown has it bad, well you should take a look at Brian Cowen... Bet Bertie is glad he left just before the shit hit the fan!
If FG truly want to succeed in the next general election though they do seriously need to think about changing their leader, Enda Kenny. Whilst the party is doing well, his credibility seems to be as shaky as ever. Ireland needs a new, energetic and forward thinking leader. He isn't any of those and even though FF are performing badly, he doesn't seem to be coming out of it all terribly well...
Time will tell how Ireland will come out of it all. I'm still on behalf of my friends hoping for a miracle. Things had to come to an end at some point - the boom was getting out of control - but I hope Ireland will recover quickly. It remains an inspiring country, and I'd hate to see its new found confidence destroyed by this crash. We used to look to Ireland for inspiration in terms of economic growth. We should also look to Ireland now and learn some valuable lessons.