Ireland’s Dunnes-loving, cheese-eating unsqueezed middle

Ireland’s Dunnes-loving, cheese-eating unsqueezed middle

I’ve hit Peak Brexit. I can’t stomach watching the nightly political blood-sport that is BBC’s Newsnight anymore.

I can’t listen to self-important Tory politicians, who have somehow risen above their natural station in the Territorial Army Cadets, droning on about being trapped; or Labour politicians for that matter, spouting equally infantile, neo-Marxist drivel.

That’s it. I’m done.

The fall of the Berlin Wall led to the rise of Ireland

The fall of the Berlin Wall led to the rise of Ireland

There’s something exciting and substantial about Berlin. The city exudes history. Bismarck and Hitler are here, but also Karl Marx, Rosa Luxemburg and Angela Merkel. Political decisions taken here often have a far-reaching impact.

In terms of ramifications, who would’ve thought that one of the standout beneficiaries of the fall of the Berlin Wall would be Ireland?

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, the seminal geo-political event of my generation. No one, least of all the CIA, expected it.

Quantitative easing was the father of millennial socialism

Quantitative easing was the father of millennial socialism

Is Ben Bernanke the father of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez? Not in the literal sense, obviously, but in the philosophical and political sense.

As we mark the 10th anniversary of the bull market, it is worth considering whether the efforts of the US Federal Reserve, under Mr Bernanke’s leadership, to avoid 1930s-style debt deflation ended up spawning a new generation of socialists, such as the freshman Congresswoman Ms Ocasio-Cortez, in the home of global capitalism.

Mr Bernanke’s unorthodox “cash for trash” scheme, otherwise known as quantitative easing, drove up asset prices and bailed out baby boomers at the profound political cost of pricing out millennials from that most divisive of asset markets, property. This has left the former comfortable, but the latter with a fragile stake in the society they are supposed to build.

‘Contented classes’ could be biggest threat to Irish economy

‘Contented classes’ could be biggest threat to Irish economy

If asked to list the significant threats to the Irish economy, you might be inclined to identify Brexit, artificial intelligence or the EU approach to our tax system. Or you might think about the shortcomings of our education system, the lack of proper housing or the general cost of living.

Typically, we perceive threats to be part of “the system”, the political class, the banks or some events far away over which we have little control, such as Donald Trump or contagion in global financial markets. And then there are threats to the system coming from radicals who want to force change and lurch to some extreme or other.

What if the most significant threat to Irish prosperity is much closer to home, hidden in plain sight? Could the real menace to Ireland come from what could be called the “contented class”, not from those who want to shake things up?

Can Bernie Sanders fix the broken American Dream?

Can Bernie Sanders fix the broken American Dream?

Watching Sanders this morning, cajoling his troops, emoting his followers and leading them again, it is clear that what underlies his movement and gives him energy is the cause. The objective is to give more and more people access to some of the enormous wealth of this extraordinary country.

“The way he was talking, you’d be mad to rule out another presidential bid in 2020.”

This was my conclusion to an article published following a weekend at the Sanders Institute in Vermont last November. It ran counter to the prevailing wisdom that Bernie Sanders shouldn’t/couldn’t/wouldn’t run for the US presidency again on the grounds that he was too old. If elected in 2020 he will be 79 years old, which would make him the oldest Democratic president ever.

Brexit can’t save unionism. Prosperity might

Brexit can’t save unionism. Prosperity might

Being best man is always a tricky business; being best man at a North-South Co Down marriage in July 1994, came with a whole new set of challenges.

The speech was a minefield. When you are involved in a ceremony officiated by the moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, you are alert to the cultural fault lines between the North and the South, not so much the well-signposted differences, as the disguised incendiary devices primed to go off even when you think you are on safe ground.

The policy that saved the rich and screwed the young

The policy that saved the rich and screwed the young

Ten years ago, faced with mass bankruptcies and the very real prospect of a rerun of the Great Depression, the US Federal Reserve took the fateful decision to unveil a new policy called “quantitative easing” or QE.

This anniversary may seem unimportant but it should be commemorated because the policy of QE changed politics more profoundly than almost any other event or policy initiative in the past decade. Ironically, a policy that was supposed to protect the balance sheets of the wealthy has unleashed forces that may lead to the appropriation of those assets in the coming years.

Ireland has a lot to lose from ‘slowbalisation’

Ireland has a lot to lose from ‘slowbalisation’

Few societies in the world have been so positively transformed by the economic opportunities arising from globalisation as Ireland. Countries get rich from trading, and small countries get rich quicker when they can escape the limitations of their own small domestic market by trading with the rest of the world and getting their message heard beyond their borders.

The heyday of globalisation has been from 1990 to now, although things are changing with trade wars, nativism and protectionism. Countries like Ireland have a lot to lose if the world gets smaller.

State’s fiscal incontinence is deeply worrying

State’s fiscal incontinence is deeply worrying

In the upmarket Johannesburg suburb of Rosebank, I sip a beer. This is an affluent place full of beautifully designed – but heavily-guarded – homes. “Bunkering” is what white South Africans call it.

When you are afraid of going out, you invest in your fortified “bunker”.

This is where you entertain friends, where your kids feel safe and where you can block out some of the more threatening realities of daily life in this teeming metropolis.

Brexit is terrible for Ireland? I don’t buy that

Brexit is terrible for Ireland? I don’t buy that

Seamus Mallon described the Belfast Agreement as “Sunningdale for slow learners”. In the end, Brexit is likely to be “Norway for slow learners”.

Events this week mean it’s now probable that the UK will limp out of the EU in two months with a cobbled-together, Norwegian-style deal. On the face of it, little will change materially until the final trade deal is hammered out.

Except everything has changed.

The ‘Merc index’ shows the Irish property market madness

The ‘Merc index’ shows the Irish property market madness

Few songs capture the power of branding, commercial manipulation and consumer yearning like Janis Joplin’s Mercedes Benz.

With her opening lines “Oh Lord won’t you buy me a Mercedes Benz”, Joplin sums up the “arms race” nature of modern consumerism whereby one purchase, in this case her friends buying Porsches, has to be cancelled out by her getting a Mercedes-Benz.

Why Brexit might not be as bad as feared

Why Brexit might not be as bad as feared

At this time of the year, newspapers are packed with predictions about what is likely to happen to the economy in the next 12 months. Underpinning all these views, whether negative or positive, is the pretence that the economic cycle in some way neatly follows the Roman calendar, as if the economic cycle begins on January 1st and ends at the stroke of midnight on December 31st.

Of course this is not how the economic world works. The economic cycle is impervious to our calendar cycle. Possibly because our human need for order, control and rhythm is so great, we feel compelled to align the economic cycle with the 12-month calendar cycle. In reality, the economy is a much more unregimented creature. The peak to trough of the economic cycle can last years. For example, the US is now in its 10th year of an economic upswing. Similarly, the Irish crash didn’t start on January 1st of any year, and end the following December. It kicked off abruptly and the subsequent recovery occurred slowly, bit by bit, over a number of calendar years.

Why 2018 was such a strong year for the Irish economy

Why 2018 was such a strong year for the Irish economy

This year was an exceptionally strong one for the Irish economy. In fact, 10 years after a monumental crash which destroyed the balance sheet of many hundreds of thousands of Irish people, the position a decade later is quite remarkable.

At the depth of the crisis, most of us wouldn’t have predicted that incomes would be back above their 2008 peak by 2018.

Despite obvious problems in the housing market, overall performance has been pretty good and pretty good is well, pretty good.

We humans have a tendency to undervalue the significance of pretty good. It is always easier to point out what is wrong, rather than appreciating what is right. We tend to allow some notion of “the perfect” to bully “the good”, as if good is the enemy of perfect; it is not.

France’s unrest shows the limits of economics

France’s unrest shows the limits of economics

Two huge rivers, the Rhone and the Soane which converge in Lyon, have been ferrying goods, people and ideas into this majestic city for centuries. The Greeks were here, so too were the Romans. The Romans made this place the capital of Gaul.

When Julius Caesar was assassinated, the recently subjugated Gauls revolted, prompting the Romans to move their city to the high ground over the rivers. From here the city flourished, close to Italy, Switzerland and Germany, absorbing ideas and people from each region.

Examples of these foreign incursions abound. The Gothic cathedral, a symbol of the power of the Catholic church, was extensively defaced by Calvinists from Geneva who took over the city briefly. The silk industry, created by Italian merchants, drove the bourgeois prosperity of the city for centuries.

It is time for a new deal with the multinationals

It is time for a new deal with the multinationals

The arrest of Meng Wanzhou, the chief finance officer and the daughter of the founder of Huawei, one of China’s richest men, by Canadian authorities on spying charges could be a game-changer for the global multilateral trading system. The Canadians are acting on behalf of the Americans here. Washington is pulling the strings.

Huawei is the world’s largest telecom manufacturer, and the second largest smartphone maker after Apple. America accuses it of stealing American technology; most likely Apple’s technology.

Sanders is building a new political movement and could run again

Sanders is building a new political movement and could run again

Burlington Vermont is cold in late November. Huge mounds of recently cleared snow attest to the coming of winter, which in this part of the world, just below the Canadian border and far from the warming influence of the oceans, is long, dark and absolutely freezing.

The shops of Church Street are doing a brisk business in quilted jackets, boots and woolly hats. With its open log fires, law-abiding citizens and reusable coffee mugs, there’s a touch of a little Denmark in North America about this place. That is until you see the row upon row of F-16 fighter jets in the airport terminal.

This is definitely America; but it’s not the America we have come to expect in the era of Trump. Vermont is a tolerant, wealthy, almost Trudeauesque corner of the US. It was the first state to abolish slavery, is home to the hippy ice cream moguls Ben and Jerry, and has returned Bernie Sanders to the Senate for the past two decades.

Why stock in Facebook, Apple and Google has fallen

Why stock in Facebook, Apple and Google has fallen

The share prices of Facebook, Apple and Google have slumped. Apple’s is down almost 20 per cent in a few weeks, and the story for the other two isn’t much better.

Over the past few weeks, the so-called Faangs – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google – have lost $1 trillion in value.

Before examining the situation on Wall Street, let’s step back and examine the process whereby world-beating companies go from rude health to fragility in short order; the process is so much more interesting than the event.

Brexit provides Ireland with a commercial opportunity

Brexit provides Ireland with a commercial opportunity

Rosenthaler Platz in Berlin is a busy hub to the northeast of the city centre. The last time I sat on the U-Bahn here, the train slowed down and then passed through a creepy, dimly-lit and empty station with only East German border guards on the platform. It was the summer of 1989, just three months before the wall came down. Rosenthaler Platz was what was called a “ghost station”. The underground was constructed before the wall went up in 1962 and this was one of the stations which was boarded up when the city was divided. The trains from West Berlin passed through East Berlin, weaving right through the middle of the city, only to re-emerge back into the West and literally into the light.

Today it is buzzing with foreign students, start-ups and cafes that have turned themselves into communal workspaces. In fact, the one I am in, Oberholz provides a vision of what much of work life in the future may be like: semi-autonomous, creative teams working together on a project by project basis, hiring space in a cafe for a limited time rather than being full-time employees with full-time tenancy in a fixed office. Right now this is still only a small minority of workers but it could become the norm.

Want to find the cause of the housing crisis? Look in the mirror

Want to find the cause of the housing crisis? Look in the mirror

Let’s look at the housing shortage through the lens of planning permission objections. We rarely think about the impact on house prices of individuals or groups of individuals opposing planning permission.

Each objection may be legitimate but, in the aggregate, planning objections have a knock-on effect on the availability and cost of housing. Indeed, the trade-off between individual rights and the collective good, so evident when planning restrictions are sought via objections, goes to the very heart of macroeconomics.

Dublin generates 56% of Irish tax, but can’t keep a cent of it

Dublin generates 56% of Irish tax, but can’t keep a cent of it

Mayer Amschel Rothschild, founder of the Rothschild banking dynasty, is said to have declared: “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes the laws”. The implication is that parliaments can talk about laws or indeed change them, but the real power in a country or a city lies with whoever controls the money. Everything flows from this.

The story of Rothschild’s ascent from the closed, embattled, ghetto – the Judengasse of Frankfurt – to the seats of power in London, Paris and Madrid is one of the most fantastic entrepreneurial odysseys imaginable. His ability, courage and daring were extraordinary and he took advantage of exceptional circumstances and world-shattering events.

We have witnessed the Dún Laoghaire-isation of Ireland

We have witnessed the Dún Laoghaire-isation of Ireland

It’s 9am in the Dominican Convent in Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin. A patient column of people runs all the way down the street as far as the Chinese-run New Paddy phone repair shop. The only other shop doing business so early on a Friday morning is May’s Occasions, which is busy selling communion dresses, tiaras and parasols to cater for the last-minute panic ahead of the big celebratory weekend.

Irish citizens might be about to repeal the constitutional amendment on abortion, but no one would lay a finger on our divine right to host a full-on, over-the-top communion, replete with bouncy castles, gazebos and Instagram poses.

Under the bonnet of Trump’s purring economic engine

Under the bonnet of Trump’s purring economic engine

Mystic, Connecticut is one of those beautiful New England fishing villages, all wooden clapboards and two-storey homes. US flags fly from at least half of them. Cars slow down 10 yards from zebra crossings, as young mothers push outsized strollers to organised playdates.

The Mystic river flows into the Atlantic here, and most riverside homes have their own boats, tied up to family piers. People here are ridiculously helpful. Mystic doesn’t do surly. Pumpkins are everywhere, and the colours are gorgeous, but it’s getting cold.

Conor McGregor knows the rules of winner-takes-all economics

Conor McGregor knows the rules of winner-takes-all economics

Over the past few days, I’ve been haunted by Conor McGregor’s face. He is sitting on the mat after his defeat in Las Vegas, dazed. He is looking into the distance, apparently trying to take it all in. Obviously he is exhausted, having been almost strangled a few seconds earlier. The bravado is gone. He is humbled.

But for me there is something else in his eyes: the realisation that everything has changed. Conor is a clever man and he understands the enormity of the defeat. It is not just a sporting defeat, it is much greater.

Why do we tax income instead of wealth?

Why do we tax income instead of wealth?

At this time of year my inbox fills up with emails urging me to attend something called a “budget breakfast” on the morning after the budget. Such events are normally held in the plush offices of well-respected accountancy firms. These chrome and glass financial citadels on the river are testimony to the enormous fees paid by the wealthy to advisers in order to avoid tax.

The tax avoidance industry is one of the staples of the professional classes. And the annual nature of the budget ensures that these fees are fool-proof recurring annuities.

Why Ireland leads in tolerance towards immigrants

Why Ireland leads in tolerance towards immigrants

Is Brexit the new normal? By this I don’t mean simply the act of leaving the EU, but more the quixotic political cocktail of nostalgia, anti-immigration and the impulse to seal off borders from cosmopolitan influences in favour of nativist urges?

All over Europe, from the Swedish Democrats and True Finns in the north to the Northern League in Italy in the south, from the Brexiteers in the west to Orban’s Hungary in the east, the forces of populism are evident and they are not going away.

Why Ireland is economically superior to Britain

Why Ireland is economically superior to Britain

It’s time to talk about England and consider what has happened to the English political centre. The political creature that Leo Varadkar is negotiating with this weekend is completely different from anything in living memory.

We are dealing with an extremely unstable political entity, where the centre has been abandoned to the radicals on either side.

Not too long ago, Tony Blair won three straight elections from the deep centre. Given the fact that the DUP now holds the balance of power, it is important to remember that Blair won his elections with huge 120-plus seat majorities. Blair represented a broad wing of the Labour Party that could be described as its social democratic centre.

Dereliction is legalised vandalism for the property-owning classes

Dereliction is legalised vandalism for the property-owning classes

Let’s talk about urban dereliction. Walk around Dublin, Cork or Limerick and dereliction is everywhere. Close to The Irish Times offices large swathes of Dublin’s south inner city are run down, in need of repair, unoccupied and derelict. And while many buildings may look occupied on the ground floor, once you lift your gaze more often than not the third and fourth floors are falling down.

The same is the case for Cork from where I’m writing today. Walking the length of this lovely city west to east you see something similar all the way from the Mardyke to Custom House Quay, upper floors appear grossly under-utilised and, in the main, vacant. They are certainly not homes or apartments.

Dublin’s housing market not yet ripe for a crash

Dublin’s housing market not yet ripe for a crash

This week the influential magazine the Economist suggested that Dublin’s house prices are 25 per cent overvalued relative to long-term income. The Economist was one of the early sirens last time out, warning loudly about the Irish property market in 2003, so it has good form.

More worryingly, in the list of 22 cities, although Dublin was not the most overvalued capital city, it is the one that has experienced most rapid house price growth since 2012.

In the past seven years Dublin prices have increased 72.9 per cent, compared with 63 per cent for Berlin, 54 per cent for Sydney, 56 per cent for Auckland and 60 per cent for Vancouver. Although cities such as London and Paris are significantly overvalued, the British capital has seen falls in the past year, while Paris has always been expensive and has seen prices rise only 6 per cent in the whole of the past seven years.

The past is a sexually repressed, tax-dodging, country

The past is a sexually repressed, tax-dodging, country

When thinking about the past there is a tendency to remember the big events, the political crises, the economic moments and the newsworthy stories. This approach only tells us so much about the country and tends to offer blurry snapshots of the big-shots. What about the ordinary citizen? This is where survey data is so revealing. The attitudes garnered in survey data are the creed of the country and this value system represents the suite of beliefs that we professed openly.

In 1981, just after the papal visit and just ahead of the 1983 abortion referendum, the European Values Study conducted a wide-ranging survey of Ireland, interviewing thousands of people. The results expose an extraordinarily conservative country, with deep-rooted animosity to people outside the mainstream, a level of moral and sexual conformity that is quite startling, but also a country whose political stability was not taken for granted.

We may be on verge of a global financial crisis

We may be on verge of a global financial crisis

Twenty years ago this week Russia devalued, defaulted and suffered a catastrophic bank run. The chaos opened the door for Vladimir Putin, who emerged from the financial bedlam to drag Russia back from the brink. In mid-August 1998, people in Moscow could not...
The rise of the singleton has transformed Ireland

The rise of the singleton has transformed Ireland

Over the past few years, I have had countless conversations with old friends, who ask, only half in jest, “Do you know any decent men for [such and such a woman]?”

On reflection, when I go through my net of available single straight friends – and exclude the drunks, the gamblers, the eejits, the bankrupts, the libertines or the plain odd – there are very few “decent” men available.

Yet in contrast, there appear to be an extraordinary number of single women out there. This is not just a hunch: it is fact. Nor is this “Mr Smug Married” moralising about people’s lifestyles and who they live or don’t live with. This is about exploring demographic trends that should be taken into account to properly plan our society.

Africa Rising: US may be a powerful country, but it is on the decline

Africa Rising: US may be a powerful country, but it is on the decline

A city of contrasts and deep divisions, Johannesburg is vibrant, beating with the tell-tale dynamism of a massive conglomeration going places. There is a sense of urgency, relentlessness and possibility. It is sprawling, dangerous and chaotic, yet bursting at the seams with optimism.

The story of cities is the wonderful human tale of individual self-transformation. Cities are places you move to in order to change yourself. Jo’burg teems with millions of newcomers seeking a better life, trying to get away from somewhere and propel themselves somewhere else. Such is the narrative of all great urban centres throughout history. It is the story of the established classes moving out, replaced by newcomers hoping to move up.

Seven rules of life to avoid a financial crisis

Seven rules of life to avoid a financial crisis

On this day 10 years ago, Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl was hurtling up the charts almost as quickly as deposits were hurtling out of the Irish banks. Within a few weeks, Ms Perry would go on to sell millions, and the Irish banks go on to lose billions. Yet, even in late July, when they could see what was happening, those in the regulator’s office were still bleating that the fundamentals were sound and the banks were well-financed. That they believed it is one of the most difficult aspects of the sorry saga to digest. 

But they weren’t alone. From New York to Frankfurt, from Dublin to Dubai, banks went to the wall in the biggest boom/bust credit cycle the world has yet experienced. It was on the same scale as the 1929 crash, with the added complication of enormous inter-country leverage, implying that the crash was viciously contagious, jumping not just from bank to bank but from country to country.

‘F**k business’ Brexit could be a gift for Ireland

‘F**k business’ Brexit could be a gift for Ireland

On September 20th, 1988, nine Irish students at the College of Europe took their places in Bruges town hall. We were waiting for Margaret Thatcher to give the opening address for our coming academic year.

What West Point is to the US military, the College of Europe is to the EU institutions. It is the academic entry point for the European Commission, European Court of Justice, European Central Bank and the various other orbital institutions that make up the European project. Security was tight. The IRA were active on the continent. In August, the IRA had killed three British soldiers in the Netherlands. A few months previously we had the Gibraltar killings. Tensions were high. As was normal at the time, the Irish students, all of us only 21, were singled out for special but not particularly invasive checks.

Croatia wins at football, loses in economics – the opposite of Ireland

Croatia wins at football, loses in economics – the opposite of Ireland

Let’s just say it was a long night. All around this village, on an Adriatic island where cars were banned many years ago and the locals amble around at a pace that would make Andalusians look like sprinters, flares ignited, strangers hugged wildly and you could hear an entire country roar.

They say voices carry on the sea. Believe me they do. I am in deepest Dalmatia, Croatia’s rugged and beautiful coast. To see our neighbours’ hearts burst open with pride is truly a beautiful thing because Croatia has been through the mill in recent years.

Don’t worry, multinationals are not about to up sticks

Don’t worry, multinationals are not about to up sticks

This week’s publication of bumper corporation-tax receipts reflects largely increased income from multinational companies. It comes hot on the heels of a regular financial-health warning that, were it not for the multinational sector, this tax wouldn’t be generated.

In June, a report from the Public Accounts Committee recommended the Department of Finance should identity ways to reduce our “over-reliance” on corporation tax. The Irish Fiscal Advisory Council issued a similar dire warning last month.

Ireland needs to nourish its creative class

Ireland needs to nourish its creative class

Yesterday, the innovative US urban economist Richard Florida gave a talk in Cork about the future of cities.

Florida has been at the vanguard of new thinking about how cities, rather than countries, create economic dynamism. The nub of his argument, building on the work of the great urbanist Jane Jacobs, is that cities – where people are constantly chatting, talking, trading with each other – are the bedrocks of innovation.

Why immigrants live in Navan, not Stillorgan

Why immigrants live in Navan, not Stillorgan

There are few better ways to see what the country is going to look like in a generation than from the sideline of an underage football, GAA or rugby match. Children’s sports, alive and well across all codes in this country, give a wonderful snapshot of the different ethnicities living in this large suburban nation.

My son’s football team, on its various travels, has come across outfits made up of well-drilled Lithuanians. They have played against a squad of all-African boys, save for the solitary white goalie – a boy from a Serbian family. And they have togged out against a predominantly Arab club where the back four were all called Mohammed.

Putin is no angel but he brought stability to Russia

Putin is no angel but he brought stability to Russia

In the summer of 1787, determined to show foreign ambassadors the might of Russian power in the newly-subjugated Ukraine, Catherine the Great organised a boat trip down the Dneiper past modern-day Kiev.

Her trusted field marshal, and her lover at the time, Prince Gregory Potemkin, organised a series of mobile villages to appear as soon as the imperial barge, stuffed with foreign dignitaries, came into view.

This time the overheating is different

This time the overheating is different

The Irish economy is not overheating, because the Irish economy isn’t really a distinct economy in its own right. It is a number of smaller economies, some of which compete in the global trading system and some of which are protected and compete within the local or national system. Bits can overheat at different times.

Why Italy had to say goodbye to the dolce vita

Why Italy had to say goodbye to the dolce vita

The last time I was in Rome I hired a Vespa. What a way to see the city. Zooming around magisterial, imperial Rome gives you a false impression of the stalled Italian economy. The view from the Tiber is one of a booming, bustling, important capital of a large, dynamic country. The reality is very different, and this came home to me on a recent off-season trip from Rimini to Rome. Italy is in big trouble.

Our housing problem is an apartment problem

Our housing problem is an apartment problem

In his wonderful 1979 book The Old Patagonian Express – by Train Through the Americas, Paul Theroux notes that you can tell a lot about the state of a country from the condition of its railway stations.

The 21st century version of railway stations are airports. Airports capture the essence of a city or country. Traffic at Dublin Airport has surged from 18 million passengers in 2010 to 30 million in 2017. It’s still one of the best leading indicators of an economy’s vibrancy. If you want to see the human face of the hectic pace of economic activity, head out to the airport just before 6am any day.

Lurid gear and swanky bikes mark cycling as the new golf

Lurid gear and swanky bikes mark cycling as the new golf

Kingfisher’s Kitchen, just opposite the town clock in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow, on a Sunday morning any time after 8am, is a perfect spot for Mamil (middle aged men in Lycra) watching.

Here he is so self-assured, you don’t even have to sneak up on him. Secure among his own species, the normally socially anxious Mamil congregates with carefree abandon. Today, he luxuriates in the bright sunshine, resplendent in multi-hued plumes of bright pinks, greens and blues.

Highly paid bosses make us all feel small

Highly paid bosses make us all feel small

While property prices in the country in general are still 33 per cent off their boom-time peak, property prices in Sandycove in south Dublin are only 5 per cent off their 2007 peak. They are likely to pass that peak by the end of this year and continue upwards.

The acceleration of Sandycove prices versus the rest of the country is what could be termed the “room with a view” premium. Houses that command a view of the sea or over the city lights have seen their value rocket by more than anywhere else in the past few years.

Grinds, an educational leg-up for €3,200 a year

Grinds, an educational leg-up for €3,200 a year

Lately, have you noticed an upsurge in business cards with people’s academic accomplishments emblazoned on them? It is not uncommon to come away from a conference with business cards exclaiming extraordinary educational achievements, even though these academic exploits have nothing to do with the job the hyper-qualified individual is actually doing.

Central Bank covering its backside on overheating

Central Bank covering its backside on overheating

After a particularly hard night, do you wake up and vow: never again? Guilt, maybe embarrassment, dread and self-loathing kick in. You resolve solemnly that you are not going to make that mistake again.

Ireland badly needs a global education business

One of the opportunities Brexit offers this country is that multinational companies, which might have invested in the UK, are now more likely to look at Ireland. If you are the boss of such a company, why would you go to the UK when you worry that your company might not be able to trade freely within the EU – and that the type of EU professionals you hope to employ might not be able to work freely in the UK?

Redbrick Envy – The rise of Phibsboro as the new “it” housing market

Redbrick Envy – The rise of Phibsboro as the new “it” housing market

The wannabe Conor McGregor stares out the window from the Luas at the cut-stone walls of Grangegorman. He wears a baby-blue Adidas and Nike combo, Moncler Polo shirt (top button closed), week-old stubble, fresh skin-fade, double-swallow tattoo on the calf, and no socks. Clutching his personally engraved snooker cue, with Biggie blaring out from his chrome Beats, he is a man going places.

There will be no relief for the squeezed middle

There will be no relief for the squeezed middle

The price of third-level education has risen by 131 per cent since 2005, while the price of computer games has fallen by 63 per cent. The cost of clothes has fallen dramatically in the past decade and a half, while the cost of healthcare has risen exorbitantly. The price of furniture is much lower now than it was at the height of the boom, yet the price of childcare has gone up by 34 per cent.

These are the latest trends in prices and costs in Ireland. What is the reason for these huge disparities and what does this mean for the economy, the electorate, and the political cycle?

The economics of driving a child to school

The economics of driving a child to school

The schools are closed for the holidays and morning rush hour traffic in the suburbs has dwindled. Traffic reports herald this blessed relief. Driving kids to school, and clogging up roads, is a relatively new thing. Our household is at it too on occasion. Indeed, sometimes it’s the only way of getting them into school at all. However, the school-travel trends are marked. According to the census, in 1981, 21 per cent of primary and 8 per cent of secondary students were driven to school. By 2016, 62 per cent of primary-school kids and 41 per cent of secondary students were driven to school.

Dublin is squeezing out low-income workers

Dublin is squeezing out low-income workers

Last week, Dublin was ranked the top city in Ireland and the UK to live in, focusing attention on what makes a make a great city. All over the world, cities are driving economic growth. Ireland is no exception. Dublin is more dominant now than ever before.

Third-level education is yesterday’s idea

Third-level education is yesterday’s idea

Our family is not good at filling out forms. It’s just not our thing. Life would be easier if we had an enthusiastic stenographer in the tribe – someone who loves a form and a deadline – but such a creature doesn’t exist in our immediate bloodline.

Having a baby? You’re an economic clairvoyant

Having a baby? You’re an economic clairvoyant

Two weeks ago, this column looked at experiments with babies, revealing just how much humans love to be in control of their lives from a very young age. This observation might help explain, decades later, why some adults vote for the guy who appears to be in control, no matter how flawed his character.

This week, as we are heading towards Easter, formerly the pagan fertility festival represented by little rabbits, let’s stick with the baby theme.

Ireland doesn’t need vulture funds

Ireland doesn’t need vulture funds

If you have seen the classic 1980s movie Repo Man, or have a passing understanding of the workings of the 1960s pawnbroker, you will know what a vulture fund does.

The vulture is a repo man with more expensive taste in shoes: a pawnbroker in Prada.

Blue-Collar America has Lost Control

Blue-Collar America has Lost Control

One of the most beautiful sounds is the laughter and giggling of babies. There is something, possibly to do with evolution, in their uncontrollable joy that affects us profoundly. Even the hardest curmudgeon tends to be disarmed by a laughing infant.

Fifty years ago an American psychologist named James Watson performed a study on laughing babies.

Dublin Port is a waste of space. Move it.

Dublin Port is a waste of space. Move it.

There is an obvious solution to Dublin’s crippling capacity problem: move our Port and develop one of Dublin’s greatest natural assets into a new, gleaming city. Dublin is one of the last major cities that continues to have a port on its most valuable prime land. Cork is moving its port, and if it’s good enough for Cork, it’s good enough for Dublin.

If you want to work smarter, quit your smartphone

If you want to work smarter, quit your smartphone

It’s a month since I binned my incessantly needy smartphone on January 1st, 2018. It is much less difficult than I imagined and the result has been a revelation. Try it and your days will seem longer, books are more appealing, you’ll be far less distracted, more patient and less irritable.

Rising house prices suit too many people

Rising house prices suit too many people

Have you noticed a certain recurrence in the Irish property game? How come over the past few decades, every time the government intervenes in the housing market to make houses more affordable, the intervention makes them less affordable, and ensures that the...

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Ireland needs a new friend in Europe. But who?

Café Bazar in Salzburg may seem an unusual spot to consider Ireland’s future economic choices, but it could be a perfect place to start. After the British leave the EU, Ireland will need a new friend or a series of new friends within the European Union. This will...

Ireland is at risk of ‘Dutch disease’

“If the Dutch lived in Ireland, they’d feed the world but if the Irish lived in Holland, they’d drown.” This old joke came to mind when reading about Clontarf this week. Rather than address the fundamental problem of too many cars on the road at rush hour, Dublin City...

Twitter, Netflix, Airbnb: Modern Economic Heroes for Ireland?

The Irish crash of 2008 was not a surprise to anyone with their wits about them and a passing knowledge of economic history. The great delusion propagated, which continues to be propagated, was that the housing/property/banking/credit collapse was in some way...

Four very expensive words: “This time it’s different”

Much of today’s economic and financial discourse revolves around the impact of new technology on our lives, as if this were something new. It’s not. The repetitive economic cycle is also as old as the hills, as is speculation.   If you doubt this think about the Book...

The Price of a Pint of Guinness: A Boozy Guide to Currencies

Every Christmas, our family heads to Belfast to see the in-laws and eat gluttonously, drink copiously, argue endlessly, and fill the boot dementedly before we head down South again. The difference in prices between the Republic and Northern Ireland is remarkable,...

There’s an economic star in the east

Some 2000 years ago, Joseph and Mary headed from Nazareth to Bethlehem to sign a census. Census night was a big deal in Roman Judea because the Romans were meticulous about economic and demographic affairs, particularly because they were exacting tax-collectors. These...

Why Ireland’s growing economy isn’t making you richer

One of the oddest things happening in the Irish economy is that unemployment is falling quickly but income-tax receipts are not rising in tandem. The Government is confused. When employment rises so should income tax. So why isn’t this happening?   A few weeks ago, I...

Northern Ireland and the Trip Advisor Index of Economic Vibrancy

When I was a boy I never went to a restaurant with my parents. On very special occasions we might go to a hotel grill room. Restaurants were for other people, of a different caste. Restaurants signified not just wealth or commercial status; a more adventurous palate...
Want to fix the housing crisis? Tax land

Want to fix the housing crisis? Tax land

In June 1858, during the second Opium War, Britain and France, in cahoots with the other major European powers and the United States, forced China to sign the Treaty of Tianjin. Britain waged the Opium War so its merchants could flood China with cheap heroin,...
A new economic plan for Ireland

A new economic plan for Ireland

Unlike hosting the Rugby World Cup, the global economy is no longer an “all-or-nothing” game of nations pitted against each other where for one side to win the other must lose. It’s more nuanced.   Nor is the national economy like the national soccer team; in the...

The future of Catalonia – can it follow the Quebec path?

This week, the Catalan parliament declared independence. Immediately, the Spanish government annulled this move and announced direct rule from Madrid. By tomorrow, the Spanish authorities will have taken over all the organisations of the Catalonia state, including the...
What the hell is wrong with bankers?

What the hell is wrong with bankers?

The current tracker mortgage scandal has its roots deep in the Celtic Tiger boom when the banks went hell-for-leather to lend to anyone in order to make more and more profits.   We are talking about huge amounts of money here.   Consider the fact that it took Bank of...
Show ambition, Paschal, and give the world a plan for Ireland

Show ambition, Paschal, and give the world a plan for Ireland

It has been particularly interesting listening to Finance Minister, Paschal Donohoe, talk about his plans for tax rates. He wants to reduce income tax on the ‘squeezed middle’. This is undoubtedly a laudable move. Excessive taxation cripples people, as too...
Catalonian Independence – How Things Unravel

Catalonian Independence – How Things Unravel

Do you remember the break up of Yugoslavia? At first people said it could never happen. Yugoslavia had been a federation since the First World War, it had Europe’s biggest standing army, it had been the ballast between East and West and yet, it disintegrated in...
Beware the Hissing Goose

Beware the Hissing Goose

With the Budget just ahead of us, it is timely to remind ourselves of the original Colbert report. I don’t mean Stephen Colbert, but rather Jean Baptiste Colbert. He was the extraordinarily talented finance minister of Louis XIV who radically overhauled the...

A real Republic of Opportunity? We’d have to tax land to the hilt

The budget, only a few weeks away, is the main instrument used by a government to signal what type of economic policy it favours. Using the tax system, the cabinet indicates where it would like the country to go and what sort of society it is trying to establish. The...
Why Dublin supporters should vote Fine Gael and other thoughts…

Why Dublin supporters should vote Fine Gael and other thoughts…

Did you know that there is more than a 90pc chance that Dublin will win today because Fine Gael are in power? Eight of Dublin’s last nine All-Ireland wins have happened under Fine Gael governments.   Does the sea of blue on the Hill signal a subliminal message of...

Mega-successful McGregor a model for our economy

The extraordinary pulling power of Conor McGregor can be measured in a few ways: by ticket sales, by pay-per-view revenue, and by endorsements. However, a much more instructive modern metric is the use of pornography. And it looks like McGregor porn beats regular porn...

The ‘War on Drugs’ has failed, we must end this drain on resources

When the gruesome Francisco Pizarro encountered the extraordinary empire of the Incas in 1532 one of the many things that fascinated him was the Inca’s postal service. The Incas had an elaborate system of runners who ran for up to eights hours from zone to zone...

Move Dublin Port and create new city on the water

There is an obvious solution to Dublin’s capacity problem: move Dublin Port and develop the greatest natural asset the city has into a new gleaming city. We are one of the last major cities to have a port on the most valuable prime land. Capacity constraints are now...

Great disaster looms as technology comes after white-collar workers

Looking out to sea at the huge winter waves crashing upon the Cape Town shore, it’s hard to imagine what the first local tribesman thought when he saw, in the distance, Vasco De Gama’s tiny Portuguese ship sail round the Cape of Good Hope, heading out...

Millennials’ wages devoured by their own beloved technologies

All over the world, central bankers have hinted that the great 10-year period of very low interest rates is coming to an end and all over the world, millennials are complaining that they can’t make a decent crust. Are these developments linked? If so, what does...

Dublin’s Commercial Market Praying for a Granite-Brexit

Dublin property investors had better hope that Brexit happens soon.   They should also hope that it’s not just a ‘hard’ Brexit, but a granite Brexit — a Brexit that’s as hard as possible. They should be betting on the buffoonery of Boris Johnson, down on both knees...

Behind The Curve

There’s something unsettling about finding yourself at home in bed, under the duvet, Pringles in one hand, remote in the other, binge-watching ‘House of Cards’. As you try to come to terms with where you have ended up, can you take some comfort in the fact that a...

21st Century Reality

This week’s Time magazine has an interesting interview with Leo Varadkar. Whether or not you are a fan of the new Taoiseach, being profiled in Time is good for the country. The value of this type of international publicity is difficult to overstate. Contrast the image...

Ageing population an untapped resource?

Ireland had better start building more retirement homes than primary schools. Ireland is getting old. While not quite at Japanese levels, where last year more incontinence adult nappies were sold than new-born babies’ nappies, Ireland is growing old quickly and we’d...

DUP/Tory alliance will actually threaten Unionism

Politics is very odd. Last January, following the “cash for ash” scandal in the North, it seemed that Arlene Foster’s career was over. Today, she struts the UK political stage as the ultimate kingmaker. For English people of all hues, including those...

Ireland’s three critical relationships

Brexit, Trump and the victory of the profoundly Eurocentric and tax-harmonizing Macron have focused our attention on exactly what type of economy we have here. What are our alliances? Where does our interest lie and how best should we navigate the next few years? In...

Hollywood comes to Dublin and it could be a visionary blockbuster

On Thursday evening, after a day finalising a new documentary on Brexit and Ireland, which airs on RTÉ One on Monday night, I slumped down, like so many hundreds of thousands of Irish workers, knackered in front of the TV. It was well gone “wine...

When fundamentalists take control

What would happen if Jihadists took control of Europe?   Well it’s already happening. The Brexiteer Jihadis deep in the English shires are all fired up and want the British to walk away from the EU without a deal. They saw red this week. Forget small considerations...

In France, feelings trump figures

There’s nothing better than a glass of sugary coca cola the chilly morning after too many Côte du Rhônes to clear the head. I’m in Paris about to head south to Marseilles trying to make sense of this fascinating French election and, more to the point, trying to...

When Trump turns on the enemy within — the Fed

So the first one hundred days of Donald Trump have nearly passed and there seems to be a sense that, despite all his initial maverick positions, the country feels like it’s under a typical Republican President.   Russia is again the enemy number one; intervention in...

The Prognosis is Promising

The 2pm train from Heuston to Cork is hurtling through Tipperary on a glorious Friday afternoon in April, and I am struck by just how empty the country is. With a better transport system, such as French-style fast commuter trains, most of the main conurbations of...

Brexit is too important to be left to Bureaucrats

The upcoming Brexit negotiations will be the most important negotiations that any Irish representative has been involved in since Michael Collins went to London. There is so much at stake for Ireland. Outsourcing responsibilities to the EU, in the belief the EU will...

Upset in France would have bigger impact here than Brexit or Trump

For those of us who love all things French, one of the most beguiling aspects about French-ness is what the French themselves call “French exceptionalism”. This is the notion that France is an exception. The French eat lots but are skinny, they smoke...

How sliotar replaced the rugby ball for middle-class

My first memory of going to a “big match” in a proper stadium is St Patrick’s Day 1976. I went with thousands of locals from around Dun Laoghaire to see CBC Monkstown in the Schools’ Senior Cup at Lansdowne Road. CBC, the local school, was not...

Our workers are being hit with the bill for those who opt-out

This week the column comes to you from New York — Hell’s Kitchen, specifically. I’m sitting in a café, looking out at a bar called Mickey Spillane’s. It’s funny how that name would have once terrified locals. Today the name is in bright lights...

On Brexit, we’re closer to London than Berlin or Paris

In two weeks, Britain will trigger Article 50 and the clock starts ticking. The question is whether the UK and the EU can defuse the Brexit device, reaching compromise deals on everything from air travel and borders, to agriculture and banking. Or, as the clock ticks...

To fight far-right we must help Muslims to fit in

We have three upcoming elections in France, the Netherlands and Germany where immigration — and Muslim immigration in particular — will be the main issue. In America, Donald Trump has declared his hand. Anti-Islam was one of his central campaign messages. And in...

Without planning, new Ireland will be unpleasant, angry and unstable

It’s good to get things put in proportion on occasion. Two weeks ago in the Indian city of Jaipur, a taxi driver asked me how many people lived in Ireland. He and 800 million other Indians had watched the Irish cricket team run India close in the Cricket World...

Would the real Donald Trump please stand up?

There have been so many Trumps on display in the past few days that it’s anyone’s guess who will actually turn up for the first 100 days. The first few days have been extraordinary and kind of scary in terms of the president’s grasp on economic...

Why Trump and Brexit won’t spoil 2017 for Ireland

Most forecasters are arguing that the Irish economy will slow down in 2017 —but there are valid reasons for believing that the economy will accelerate from here. We are now in the fourth year of a recovery. Normally, this gives rise to worry, because all economies...

Taxing our way to the boardroom refugees

Since the Brits voted to leave the EU back in June, the assumption that this will induce multinationals to relocate their headquarters across the Irish Sea has provided an air of comfort to talking heads in the Dáil — acting as a silver lining to darkening clouds of...

We can’t wash our hands of Britain

Ray Bassett, the former Irish ambassador to Canada and senior diplomat for more than 30 years, has written an extremely important article in today’s Sunday Business Post (see here). He is worried about the stance that our government, particularly the Department of...

George Michael: an original in an industry that is gradually fading

More than 30 years on, I still break out in a cold sweat at the opening bars of ‘Careless Whisper’. I am back in the teenage disco. Once the saxophone ushered in the full, rounded tones of George Michael, red-haired lads like me knew the night was over....

The year of the outsider

In 2010, I staged a one-man show with the Abbey Theatre called Outsiders. We had a wonderful month-long run in Dublin and then toured the show all around the country. It was a fantastic experience, working with some of Ireland’s most brilliant theatre professionals,...

Let’s make Europe work for us – by being as American as possible

The latest Apple tax revelations mean that Ireland is now on a collision course with the EU Commission and by extension with the EU itself. In a narrow sense — and this might be the only sense that matters — this is a win/win situation for Ireland. However, the issues...

Coveney needs courage to let go of ‘market will fix it’ chestnut

Let’s talk about housing. Walking around Dublin city, whether on the Luas line between Museum and Smithfield, or over the river at the Coombe and the Liberties, you notice the number of vacant sites in prime positions for building homes. The city centre is pockmarked...

Coveney walking a tightrope in risky bid to end housing crisis

Imagine Simon Coveney in a translucent, skin-tight leotard, high above the political swamp, walking the tight-rope between the social reforming objective of rent control and the hard commercial reality of dormant housing supply. Get the picture? This is the...

Italy is gradually going out of business

A few weeks ago, I stayed in the Grand Hotel in Rimini. This place has real significance for Italian movie lovers because this was the base camp for the brilliant Italian director Federico Fellini. Not only did Fellini use the Grand Hotel in Rimini as his set, but he...

It is almost certain that there will be another euro crisis in 2017

It is almost certain that there will be another euro crisis in 2017. The last time we had a euro crisis, the focus of attention was Greece; today the vortex is Italy. Italy is not Greece. Italy is the third-largest economy in the Eurozone. Italy is the second-largest...

Another battle between insiders and outsiders

Today, Italy votes on a referendum that will change the course of not just Italy but the entire EU. While we gripe about water charges, bogged down by our own incompetence, the world around us is changing dramatically. These changes will have enormous ramifications...

Mortgage rule change is a Pyrrhic victory for first-time buyers

Let’s be clear, when housing supply is stuck, any increase to housing demand will produce higher prices. The Central Bank understands this logic and this is why it relaxed deposit rules last week. The deposit rules were relaxed in order for prices to rise, in order to...

The public sector strikes are really about housing

Make no mistake about it: the series of public sector strikes that we have experienced — and are about to see more of — are entirely linked to housing. The fact that middle-ranking public sector workers can’t, or at least don’t feel that they can, afford to live in...

Why Italy is the next country to fall to Trumpism

The Bangladeshi selfie-stick hawkers are doing a brisk trade outside the Colosseum. Local chain-smoking lads dressed as gladiators prey on vulnerable tourists, while portly priests on their annual visit to Catholicism’s corporate HQ take time out from...

Will Trump ride to Europe’s rescue?

Could Donald Trump be the saviour of Europe? He might be. The papers are full of people telling us how much they hate Trump and lamenting that the US is now a racist swamp where the vilest of sentiments have suddenly been given currency. This is the predictable line,...

America reaps a whirlwind for undermining its middle classes

We all now know what has happened in America, but the big question is not what has happened, but why it is happening? In order to answer this question, we have to look much deeper into the campaign, the insults and the upsets. We have to explore the economic,...

Nama, Kafka and the trial of our public sector

Make no mistake about it, the series of public sector strikes that we have experienced — and are about to see more of — are entirely linked to housing. The fact that middle ranking public sector workers can’t, or at least don’t feel that they can, afford to live in...

The State must become the Ryanair of house builders

The main reason the public-sector unions are on strike is the price of housing. Sort out housing and we begin to sort out lots of things that are problematic in the economy. Unless the State gets to grips with the fact that middle-ranking workers can’t find a...

Send a message to the world — give the Central Bank to start-ups

What should we do with the iconic Central Bank building on Dame Street? Imagine if we did something creative. Rather than sell it off to be turned into a hotel (which is the plan), why not turn this fantastic site into a start-up hub, offering extremely low rents to...

Finance Bill — We’re finally keeping it real

Are we witnessing the beginning of the end of yet another sorry saga in Irish economics and finance? Will the finance bill published Thursday, which slapped a right and proper 20% withholding tax on the profit of property funds operating in Ireland, signal a shock...

All the good work to halt second property crash undone in a day

We are faced with similar concerns on the horizon now. Unlike 2008, when this country went bust, or in 2012, when the euro as a currency was in real danger of falling apart, there is no serious internal threat. In 2012, the world’s central bankers cutting...

There will be a hard Brexit

I’m sitting opposite the “Spitfire” Meeting Room in Southampton airport. The echoes of “their finest hour” are everywhere on the south coast of England, not surprisingly. Southampton, one of the main ports for British trade with Europe, voted overwhelmingly for...

Ireland needs to avoid another property bubble at all costs

Today, I am writing about trends in the property market against the background of moving house, and so this article will be a little bit of testimony as well as proper analysis.   For the record, we are also moving from one area of south Dublin to another. Therefore,...

Trump’s presidential bid being propelled by workers’ anger

Last week in Boston I passed by a place I used to work cleaning dishes in the 1980s. The restaurant/bar, on Boston’s fancy Newbury Street, is still there — which is quite an achievement in a fast-changing industry. As is now the norm in many American bars, the...

The rise of the creative classes

Is it any surprise that the Web Summit decided to head to Lisbon? I am in the amazing Portuguese capital today speaking at a conference. It seems that the entire city has decided that hosting conferences is sufficiently important for the modern brand of the city, that...

US vote shows unequal society built on strange bedfellows

I have never experienced America so divided. Even in liberal New York, there’s a palpable sense that Hillary is losing it and the horror of a Trump presidency is being entertained by almost everyone.   Last night, in Douglas’s Bar in Park Slope, Brooklyn,...

Pensions: Beware of suits and tempting promises

On Wednesday night, I gave a talk at my old primary school, Johnstown National School in Dún Laoghaire. One of the many interesting questions from the parents of the pupils focused on pensions and what this early-middle-aged group could expect from them.   I am...

‘Trumponomics’ would mean a hair-raising ride for US economy

On Monday, following Hillary Clinton’s pneumonia diagnosis, the bookies dramatically cut the odds that Donald Trump will be the next president of the US. Years ago, Bill Clinton said it was all about “the economy stupid”. But is it this time? If so,...

What Dublin Bus workers can learn from Genghis Khan

Sometimes it is good to look back at history in order to look forward. Since long before the Apple judgment, I have been trying to figure out what could be the economic model for Ireland in a globalised world of free trade, large-scale movements of people and free...

System is rigged for the rich so the poor borrow to get poorer

Sometimes you could be forgiven for feeling the best qualification to participate profitably in this Irish recovery is not being Irish.   Last week, we had Apple squirrelling away billions and now we have Nama selling large chunks of the Irish economy, billions of...

The Apple ruling is a moment of choice for Ireland

The Apple tax case marks a fork in the road – a moment of choice. It allows us to think strategically, and provides Ireland with an opportunity to think geo-strategically about our next move.   For the past 30 years, Ireland has been trying to straddle corporate...

For Dublin, the only way is up

Every Saturday throughout the early 1960s, a dull drone could be heard over the Colorado plains. The light aircraft flew low, at around 2,000 feet. Inside, the pilot plotted future roads, suburban housing schemes and new business parks.   Ray Kroc was looking for...

The British have shown us how to become a nation of winners

It’s very rare that an Irish writer will celebrate any achievements of our nearest rival on the sports field, but we must acknowledge the amazing achievements of the Brits in the Olympics. To take such a hoard of medals is impressive; to do so when you were so...

How to solve our pension crisis

How much will be left for your pension? This is the question you should be asking yourself because the notion that the tap will be still on, with crisp euros gushing out when you reach retirement age, is at the very least a dubious proposition.   At the moment, unlike...

The Croats are singing about us — we must be doing something right

Could Ireland possibly be regarded as a land of milk and honey? Nah, I didn’t think so either; that is, until I came to Croatia this summer and heard that one of the most popular local pop songs is about escaping the scarcity of Croatia for the abundance of...

The Premier League: built on foreign foundations

The footballing jamboree that is the Premier League kicks off next week. This is its 25th year. For those of you who remember, 1992 was a significant year in football as not only did it mark the beginning of the Premier League, but it was also the year that Leeds...

Vulture funds rub salt into the carcass of this country

Last week, my colleague Jack Horgan-Jones revealed in this paper that vulture funds, leveraged outfits that have already benefited enormously at the expense of you, the Irish taxpayer, are now using a loophole to pay no tax at all on their earnings here.   As you...

What would happen if the North were asked to pay for itself tomorrow?

Are you a real Trekkie? If so, you’ll know the answer to the following question: which was the only episode of Star Trek ever banned in Ireland and Britain – and why?   Star Trek is many things, but is it really so incendiary as to be worthy of censorship?   The...

The stakes are high — a stable Turkey is essential to the West

Last Friday night my Ryanair flight arrived into Zadar airport in Croatia just before midnight. The plane was full of young Irish people pretty well tanked up on their way to the Ultra Music Festival in Split.   Everyone was in good spirits despite the rocky descent....

Ireland can conjure a pot of sovereign wealth gold

We are told that the Irish economy grew by 26 per cent in 2015. Fortune is indeed looking up in Ireland: unemployment is falling while retail sales, tax revenue and government spending are moving along at about 4 per cent. But a 26 per cent growth rate? American...

What drives France’s outsiders to Le Pen

Will the terrorist attack in France affect the outcome of the next French presidential election? Will the average French person be swayed by the atrocity to vote for Marine Le Pen as the only candidate who will “stand up” to terrorism? My sense is that, as with...

New growth figure is ludicrous — but here’s how to take advantage

Usually, the fantasies indulged on July 12th in Ireland are played out up the road in the North. These are fantasies about past glories and are celebrated by the kind of people who the 20th century (let alone the 21st century) left behind. Rather than being a sign of...

Brand Britain is ours for the taking

Ireland has just been given one of its luckiest breaks. Britain has handed us, on a plate, the opportunity to be the Anglo-American world’s investment location of choice. Maybe we don’t realise it yet. Ireland is now perfectly positioned to be a globalised,...

It’s time to be calm, rational and act in Ireland’s self-interest

In football, a certain type of player emerges when his team needs him most. He is a leader on the pitch at crucial times and makes the right choices, which matter most. Right now Ireland needs such a political leader. It is time to be calm, rational and act in...

Whatever happens tomorrow, Europe will never be quite the same again

This EU referendum has divided Britain like no other political event in my lifetime. The campaign has been so violent, forces have been unleashed by both sides that might prove impossible to control and the very existence of the United Kingdom is now unsure. Even if...

Who am I to question Officialdom and say Brexit will be good for us?

Are you concerned at the lack of any real analysis in Official Ireland’s position with regard to the upcoming EU referendum in Britain?   Do you find it odd that in a plebiscite as tight as this, where the implications for politics, economics and society are so...

Brexit: Ireland needs Britain

As a 21-year-old student, I stood in the Great Hall, Bruges, in September of 1988. Little did I know that the speech I was about to hear would constitute the opening salvos of a battle that would culminate with Brexit. In the now-famous Bruges speech, Mrs Thatcher...

DUP Brexit push may weaken UK – and sign the party’s death warrant

I’ve just had a surreal moment in the Centra at Donegal Square, Belfast, right opposite the City Hall. Blaring on the radio was The Police’s ‘Invisible Sun’. The Polish shop assistant was oblivious, but think about it: this is a song penned in 1981 by Sting about the...

How should The Enda greet The Donald?

What is Official Ireland going to do when The Donald arrives? Having gone out on a limb by advising Americans to vote for Hillary, the Taoiseach faces a choice: should he shower with garlands yesterday’s man, Joe Biden, or embrace the potential man of tomorrow, Donald...

Ireland had better start preparing for the reality of President Trump

Have a guess at who said the following: “I love getting even. I get screwed all the time. I go after people, and, you know what, people do not play around with me as much as they do with others. They know that if they do, they are in for a big fight. Always get...

Ireland is on a high with aviation success

Silicon Docks might be getting the headlines, but our huge and growing success in the air travel sector is even more remarkable. Not that long ago, it was an article of faith that living on the periphery of Europe was a huge economic disadvantage. The official line...

There’s a very easy way to destroy murderous drugs gangs for good

The news that another man has been killed in a war fuelled by money made from drug dealing, begs the question how long are we going to tolerate the illegality of drugs. Yes, the word used is tolerate! How long are we going to tolerate a situation where drug money is...

A bolt out of the blue

Peter the “Captain” of the bamboo raft is an extremely observant Seven Day Adventist and a mine of information on the Marla Brae river, on Jamaica’s North coast. He gushed with details of the history of the area, the flora, the fish, the weather, the termites, the...

A nation once again? Don’t write it off

If Britain leaves the EU, it could start a domino effect – at the end of which is a united Ireland Here’s a scenario that might not be too far-fetched. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, one that would be welcomed here; but it could happen. What will...

The Intel indicator

Brexit could provide a boost to our FDI. The recent layoffs in Intel and the fact that Brexit, if it happens, could lead to a bonanza in diverted multinational investment from Britain to Ireland, put this country’s relationship with global companies back in the...

Want to get to grips with gridlock? Charge commuters

One of the less-celebrated joys of working for yourself is not having to do the daily commute. This daily grind can be a true purgatory. Not having to do it is a much under-estimated luxury, which is only truly understood when you are stuck in a traffic jam,...

Prince: A genius who played to his own beat

As a musician, he was dazzling, subversive and sexy – but Prince was also savvy about the internet age and fought for the rights of the content makers ‘In France, a skinny man died of a big disease with a little name. . .” With these words Prince opened one of the...

War on drugs is fuelled by junk economics

Is it time to legalise drugs? Why do we go along with a “war on drugs” policy that isn’t working? Why do we slavishly allow criminals to control this business? If making drugs illegal was supposed to stop drug use, it has failed miserably. What is the point of doing...

As wages rise, so will the industrial temperature

Economic cycles are as old as the Bible. And we are about to go through another one. But this one will involve industrial unrest. Just to jog your memory. Do you remember when the pharaoh awoke petrified by a dream? The pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile...

Taking home the Canadian bacon

Irish investors will suffer again as Ireland’s largest private landlord bides its time to cash in Why do you think the share price of Bank of Ireland, Ireland’s least bust bank, has been falling dramatically? Obviously, there are clear international factors at play,...

Battle for the positions of privilege lay at the heart of the Rising

Ross O’Carroll-Kelly beautifully captures the essence of a certain type of south Dubliner. His type can be seen at the annual ritual that is the schools rugby match between the likes of Blackrock and Clongowes, bellowing from the side lines in Donnybrook, all...

Rising tide lifted only some boats

Cemeteries are wonderful places to assess the demographic and ethnic ebb and flow of a place. Kensal Rise cemetery in north west London is fascinating for a variety of reasons. However, one thing that strikes you is the huge number of Irish people buried here. Huge...

Nama sells to outsiders who have become insiders

There is something a bit off-putting about watching Irish political leaders parade all over the world bragging about how great Ireland is, while they are presiding over the wholesale plunder of the Irish economy and its fixed assets by foreigners. Ireland is now – and...