Wednesday, 24 November 2010

The Celtic Tiger's Roar Turns into a Whimper

Over the last few days, like many others, I've been following the financial woes of Ireland that has resulted in the country receiving a massive loan from the E.U. 

I've been visiting Ireland, mainly Dublin, for over twenty years.  In the early years it was a rather down at heel city, but  what it lacked in modernity and riches it more than made up for with character, warmth and friendliness.  We grew very familiar with the Docklands area, (U2 fans will know why ) which was grimy, partially derelict and oozing history.  I especially remember the smells - coffee from Bewley's warehouse, and curry wafting from somewhere near Hanover Quay, we never did nail down exactly where that smell was coming from.   O'Connell Street was trashy, Temple Bar didn't exist, Bewley's waitresses still wore their black and white uniforms complete with pristine aprons.  Our favourite watering hole was Docker's pub, a wonderful old-time "real" pub, complete with snug, that served the best Guinness and sandwiches in town.  The Clarence Hotel still held tea dances.  And you could bump into U2 members in the street.

Then, Ireland joined the E.U in the 90's, and the Celtic Tiger started stirring and before we knew it the country was booming and Dublin was changing by the month.   The entertainment area of Temple Bar sprung up, O'Connell Street was tidied up, the waitresses in Bewley's lost their smart uniforms, Docker's pub didn't fit the new modern image for Dublin and now is no more.  The main change was all the building, the Dublin skyline became a mass of cranes.  New buildings of steel, concrete and glass lined the quays replacing the old stone structures.  More homes were built than were needed and house prices shot up to an unbelievable level.  But in the process the city was losing something, that innate "Irishness" . 

Don't get me wrong Dublin did need to modernise and the building brought lots of employment for people.  But a boom of those proportions couldn't last and again it seems the banks are to blame for this financial crisis.   And who is going to be hit hardest, yes, as usual the ordinary person in the street.  I consider Dublin my second home and I really feel for the Irish.  But they are resilient people and that Irish spirit will prevail,  they have weathered other hard times and I'm sure they'll get through this.

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