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The 1990s: The Celtic Tiger, Immigration, and Racism in Ireland

Hausarbeit 2004 17 Seiten

Anglistik - Kultur und Landeskunde


Table of Contents

1. She moves through the boom

2. 1990s Ireland: A change in economy and society
2.1 The situation in the 1980s
2.2 The Celtic Tiger: A closer look at economic policy
2.3 Ireland and Foreign Markets
2.4 Ireland, the European Union, and the Single Market
2.5 The effects of the growth
2.6 The Celtic Tiger: Coughing Cat or Purring Engine?

3. Ireland in the 1990s: From Emigration to Immigration
3.1 Refugees, Asylum Seekers and Racism in Ireland
3.2 Figures and Countries of Origin
3.3 Legal Obstacles
3.4 Racism and the media
3.5 Cases of Racism in Ireland

4. Ireland in the 1990s: A Racist Society?

5. Bibliography
5.1 Books
5.2 Newspaper and Magazines
5.3 Web Sources

1. She moves through the boom

The headline “She moves through the boom” is not my invention, but it is basically what this essay is about: Ann Marie Hourianne describes what modern Irish everyday life looks like at the turn of the millennium: Ireland between Londonisation and shepherds, between New York lifestyle and traditional St. Patrick’s Day. This essay is about the other side of the story: The point from which Ireland started its boom in the late 1980s, early 1990s, a country caught in deep depression. There is an account of the political measures taken to turn the development round, how these measures affected the country, and a little bit of economic theory to try and explain these developments on a smaller scale. To round off the economic side of the development, there is also a critical analysis of the phenomenon often called the Celtic Tiger. The second part of the essay is about how Ireland turned from emigration to immigration. Asylum-seekers became a major issue in Ireland in the second half of the 1990s, and the focus in this essay is on separating myth from truth by comparing the asylum-seekers’ and refugees’ situation in Ireland with the situation and figures of other European countries. Finally, the conclusion tries to combine these two areas dealt with in the essay and gives an outlook on possible future developments and action against racism.

2. 1990s Ireland: A change in economy and society

2.1 The situation in the 1980s

The 1980s were the worst decade in Ireland since the 1950s. Economic depression and resulting high unemployment rates tied down any potential for prosperity that Ireland might have had developed over the decade. One of the worst factors was the high national debt Ireland had accumulated: By 1987, national debt had risen to an astronomical sum of £ 22 billion. One-third of all public spending was needed to service the interest on national debt, thus leaving basically no political scope for anything but debt-service.[1] The Debt/Gross National Product ratio indicates by how many percent of a total national income a country is in debt. In Ireland, this figure was at 112.4 % in 1987. In other words, the Irish would have to have worked for over a year without any income at all to pay off their debt. A kind of mindlessness had overcome Irish politicians in the previous years, and they ignored general knowledge that any borrowing should be covered by some probability of being able to pay it back at a later point.

A brain drain in the 1980s meant that a whole generation of highly educated young academics, who lacked a proper perspective in Ireland, had left the country, so the situation in the mid 1980s could be summed up by the following: A country with an exceedingly high national debt, low economic growth, high unemployment (16.9%), few high-skilled workers, and many low-skilled workers were on the dole. Four out of five pounds collected in income tax serviced national debt. Paying the interest on debt threatened to become the only item on Ireland’s national budget.

2.2 The Celtic Tiger: A closer look at economic policy

This brief look at the Irish economy and state budget of the late 1980s shows in a rather dramatic way how big the need for fast and effective action was for the Irish government. Between 1987 and 1997, the government negotiated several Social Partnership Deals with employers, farmers, and trade unions. The Programme for National Recovery was agreed on the 9th October 1987. It was a successful breakthrough, which included moderate pay increase on the one hand in exchange for tax reductions on the other.[2] The Programme for National Recovery was followed by three further Social Partnership Deals: The Programme for Economic and Social Progress in 1991, the Programme for Competitiveness and Work in 1994, and the Partnership 2000 Deal in 1997.

A European trend existed in the late 1980s: Several European economies were at a critical turning point, and there were two different approaches: The first one was a model put into practice in Britain by Margaret Thatcher, the economic approach of the New Right. A harsh and mainly neo-liberal strategy of confrontation against the trade unions, aimed at the very core of wage-negotiation: Battered and weakened trade unions were to take what was given to them rather than acting as representatives on the employees’ behalf. An authoritarian state acted on the employers’ part and protected industry from employees’ demands rather than protecting a population from the concentrated economic force of private industry. Some commentators were rather astonished by Ireland’s development and perhaps even a little disappointed that Ireland had delivered evidence that the economic concept of the New Right was not without alternatives: “This is an Irish miracle. But an example to us all? An uncomfortable one, if you share the conventional Euro-wisdom. The Irish miracle owes nothing to tax cuts, deregulation or privatisation. (…) The main utilities are still publicly owned. Cost inflation has been controlled not by competition or tight money, but by a successful incomes policy.”[3]

The Irish model was similar to the Scandinavian one. It included social partnership deals and saw a government in the diplomatic (but threatening) role of a powerful moderator, who would exclude any uncooperative member from the deal at any time, this model being opposed the union-crushing image of the Iron Lady. The second model was the one used in Ireland.[4] Rather than going into too much detail about Irish economic policy in the late 1980s and early 1990s the next chapter will deal with further factors for Ireland’s boom economy in the 1990s.

2.3 Ireland and Foreign Markets

US-companies made major investments in the 1990s. The IT-sector and the pharmaceutical branch grew especially quickly. It was a good deal for US-investors and Trans-National Corporations (TNCs): Ireland offered a fairly well educated, English-speaking labour-force at a competitive price, tax-reductions were given by the Irish Government on corporation tax rates (10% in 1992), which were already extremely low since tax reform had been introduced earlier on.[5]


[1] These figures bare alarming resemblance to Germany today: 25 % of the national budget are needed to service interest on national debt, the total sum of the German national debt has built up to € 1,3 trillion, for further reference see DER SPIEGEL 15th March 2004.

[2] R. MacSharry: The Making of The Celtic Tiger. The Inside Story of Ireland’s Boom Economy, p.125.

[3] A. Harris, THE TIMES, 13th November 1996.

[4] P. Sweeney, The Celtic Tiger. Ireland’s Continuing Economic Miracle, Dublin 21999, p. 129.

[5] D. O’Hearn: Macroeconomic Policy in the Celtic Tiger: A Critical Reassessment, in: C. Coulter, S. Coleman (eds): The End of History. Critical Reflections on the Celtic Tiger, Manchester 2003, p. 37.


ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Buch)
476 KB
Institution / Hochschule
Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg – Anglistisches Seminar
Celtic Tiger Immigration Racism Ireland



Titel: The 1990s: The Celtic Tiger, Immigration, and Racism in Ireland