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...

Nama’s actions have enslaved us

The elderly, weather-beaten women are dressed in black and glorious purple, the traditional Caribbean colours of mourning. They file up to pay their respects at the beautiful St John’s Church on the savage Atlantic coast of Barbados. The low murmur of the shuffling...

No wonder the nation is going through the roof over housing shortage

The other day a well-known publican in Dublin 2 who runs a number of thriving places told me the housing crisis is now so acute in the city that staff simply can’t work for the wages he is offering. The same story pertains across all service sectors in town. A...

Ghost revenues

On Wednesday morning, I made a speech in London to the Irish business community on Brexit, Europe and the world economy. After the speech I logged on and answered a few questions on my Facebook page. Obviously as I was using Facebook, various ads came up on the...

Idea of grand coalition works well elsewhere

Much of the talk in the past 24 hours has been about the inconclusive mess that the election has thrown up. There is no clear winner and any number of obvious losers. Commentators have suggested that political compromises and coalitions will lead to economic...

Why immigration remains a class issue

Cheap migrant labour is a boon to the well-off, but it’s time for a frank discussion on how it affects society’s poor Do you like foreign accents? If the answer is yes, you are in a minority. When someone with a heavy accent speaks to you, do you register the...

We will do just fine if there’s a Brexit

The Irish bureaucratic establishment has been warning that Brexit would be a disaster for Ireland. The Taoiseach has intervened, saying he hopes that Britain remains in the EU. Irish ambassadors have been explaining why Brexit would be catastrophic for Irish business....

Stop worrying and love the asset slump

The markets are collapsing. “Oh my God, what are we going to do?” should be a perfectly reasonable reaction. But why not take the view that the collapsing markets are a good thing for you and me? The link between overvalued financial assets, the pampered traders this...

Ireland & Europe, major decisions ahead but is anyone thinking?

It’s impossible to come to Berlin and not be filled with an enormous sense of history. Everywhere there are echoes and reminders of fascism, not least because the Germans have, admirably, come to terms with their own past and made their repentance extremely...

Election economics is all smoke and mirrors

The other day there was a vox-pop on RTE radio that asked people how they were going to vote. One voice said that he was from a family of 15, nine of whom had a vote and all of whom were registered in one house. He went on to say that his mother was waiting for the...

Educating India

The way Donald Trump wants to see the world matches the model of driving in India. Somehow there are codes of individual self-discipline in a system with no obvious collective rules. This is what Trump and ideological right wingers all over the world yearn for. They...

Lessons from a literary passage to India

I now know what the expression “dirt poor” looks like. It is dawn in Jaipur, India. I am watching crowds of filthy, impoverished men on the side of a dusty road pour buffalo milk from large vats into smaller cups. They are hungry. The masala chai is brewing as...

Children can be heroes with ‘the Bowie Method’

My abiding memory of the Leaving Cert is of being in a Dublin boarding school the night before an exam, cramming the last morsels of useless knowledge into my jaded head, listening to a battered tape recorder blasting out a tinny version of Moonage Daydream by Bowie....

China crisis is just another boom-bust

Has the world run out of credit boom and credit busts?   The reason I ask this question today is because China is having its own bust. The culprits are the same as usual: too much lending; too much borrowing; too much optimism and too little foresight. As Led Zeppelin...

Why our economy will be robust in 2016

Over the past few weeks, some readers of this column have been a bit perplexed by my confidence about the economy and why I believe that the basis for this recovery is stronger than at any stage since the mid-1990s, when Ireland truly was experiencing something of a...

Economic lessons from the age of the Pharaohs

The Pharaoh awoke petrified by a dream. None of his holy men could interpret it. The Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile and that seven cows “attractive and plump” came and fed in the rich grass by the waters. But soon these beasts morphed into seven...

Own goals scored by Blatter and Platini put me in mind of bankers

Yesterday morning the McWilliams’s kitchen table resembled a mini war room. My son and I spread out a huge map of France before us and tried to figure out Paris to Bordeaux in a camper van. We’d been up in Belfast over the weekend and had tried to coax our...

All set for a cracker of a Christmas

This Christmas, many of us are heading to family in different parts of the country, lots are returning home and yet more are coming back to Ireland from abroad. Conversations in houses will vary, but lots of families, particularly those from the country, will look...

Ireland may yet warm to climate change

“If the Dutch lived in Ireland, they’d feed the world; if the Irish lived in Holland, they’d drown.” Have you heard this one? How true is it? What is wrong with this country? Every time there is a short, sharp spell of rain, the place fills up to the brim and then...

Persuasion is the name of the game

The Other Voices festival in Dingle is a simple but brilliant microcosm of our unique selling points as a nation This Krzysztof exuded a calm, efficient sense of authority. He radiated with the type of firm confidence given off by those who know what they are doing...

How the Iron Lady drew up the original blueprint for a Brexit

As a 21-year-old student, I stood in the Great Hall, Bruges, in September of 1988. I was at university there. Along with 10 other Irish students, I was a postgraduate at the College of Europe. The College of Europe is the West Point or Sandhurst of the EU. It is...

Swap tax take for real skin in the game

There is something giant stirring in the corporate world. The company that makes Viagra has just got into bed with the company that makes fake boobs and Botox, coming together in one of the biggest corporate deals ever. Dublin will be its headquarters. Not only does...

Ireland is backing itself

On the fifth anniversary of the troika’s arrival, let’s be clear on what has actually helped us recover Six years after its inaugural outing, the atmosphere at the Global Irish Economic Forum on Friday in Dublin Castle couldn’t have been more different. Back then,...

Time to think the unthinkable

If, after four years of printing money, the system isn’t working, what next? Could oil prices go to $4 a barrel? It seems way off-beam, but last weekend at Kilkenomics, Nassim Taleb, he of The Black Swan fame, suggested in a fascinating discussion about the economics...

Like him or not, O’Leary is walking on air in the smiles-high club

Last Friday week, there was a small crash on the M50. Try getting to the airport from most places in Dublin if there is a crash on the M50: the chances of you making it on time are slim to non-existent.   We scrambled, arguing, angry and stressed into Terminal 1, a...

Why we need rent controls

It appears to be an article of faith amongst the mainstream that rent controls are a “bad thing”. The last time we had such conformity or groupthink, we had the soft landing brigade reassure the country that “everything would be grand” and their models said so. Well...

Don’t fix your mortgage rate….just yet

Even at these historically low rates, don’t fix your mortgage. Interest rates are going lower. Renegotiate now if you can! Don’t take my word for it: listen to Mario Draghi.   The chief bottle washer of the ECB is worried, so worried in fact that he’s ready to print...

Canada is the north American friend of Ireland we sometimes overlook

Perhaps the most haunting piece of sculpture in Ireland is the group of gaunt, skeletal famine figures on Dublin’s docklands. They are simply walking, to somewhere, to a better place. Sculptor Rowan Gillespie has captured these desperate images of tortured...

Here’s some budgetary advice: time to let it rip

One of the strangest reactions to last week’s budget was that it was dangerously expansionary. This is quite bizarre, particularly when the economy has so much spare capacity. When you have a rate of unemployment twice that of your nearest and most important trading...

Feeling the heat in the Caribbean

Honduras is about as far from Ireland as you can get. It is extremely dangerous, very poor and over the past few years this little Central American country has become the fulcrum of the drug trafficking wars as vicious drug gangs battle it out for supremacy. Arriving...

The great maul of China’s partners

When you look around at the world economy, one thing strikes you: America is on its own in terms of having a growing economy. There simply has not been a period in recent history where global growth rates are so divergent. Europe is still gripped by austerity, Japan...

Food sector sows seeds of growth

While at the National Ploughing Championships last year, in truth I felt like a bit of a fraud mooching among the Massey Fergusons. My suburban Dun Laoghaire is about as far from an upbringing in the Irish countryside as you are likely to have on this island. Yet,...

Attitudes to refugees divide Europe with a new Iron Curtain

In May 1946, Churchill gave a speech considered to be the opening salvo of the Cold War. He declared: “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent.” In addition to the “Iron Curtain”...