Irish people like houses because they have made people rich

Irish people like houses because they have made people rich

To understand the grip that property ownership has on Irish people, it is reasonable to start with history, group psychology and sociology. The chapter on the concept of home in President Michael D Higgins’ book Recapturing the European Street is an excellent place to start.

With great erudition and learning, the President traces our relationship with the notion of home, the legacy of national dispossession, the emergence of the Land League and the centrality of land ownership to the Irish national project. The chapter glides effortlessly through different European philosophical ideas of home, particularly both the German and French strains, before landing back here, in our Irish home.

Lockdown decision makers still get paid. Those they shut down do not

Lockdown decision makers still get paid. Those they shut down do not

My colleague, Fintan O’Toole, deems it “breathtaking” that a group of 11 men, and not a single woman, took the decision to lock down.

Of course he is right. Robust decision-making must be representative. None of the decision makers – all public servants or politicians – works in the sectors that they are closing down.

Boris Johnson is like an incompetent kidnapper taking Ireland hostage

Boris Johnson is like an incompetent kidnapper taking Ireland hostage

The Brexit saga has become a bizarre hostage situation: Boris Johnson is the kidnapper, the ransom is the backstop and Ireland is the hostage. Johnson is demanding the EU drop the backstop or he will shoot the hostage. We’ve been here before. Traditionally, the mantra has been: “We never negotiate with terrorists.” Let’s see what happens.

We all appreciate the notion that if we reward bad behaviour, a kidnapper will resort to intimidation again. The European Union has a choice to make. Ireland will survive this. It might well be convulsive but the economy is strong enough, just. And then what?

When you think about it, the “no-deal” option is only “no deal for now”. No deal is not a long-term option; ultimately, the United Kingdom will have to do a trade deal with the EU. The facts are pretty straightforward – 47 per cent of all UK exports go to the EU and, in turn, 52 per cent of all UK imports come from the EU. No matter how the hostage drama turns out, no matter what the political and economic fallout, the UK will be back at the table very soon. The more chaos at British ports, the shorter the self-imposed mercantile lockout.

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.

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.

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...