Ch-ch-changes…

David McWilliams’s Christmas best seller, The Pope’s Children is a mine of statistics and intelligent analysis. Few commentators have his comprehensive grasp of where the Celtic Tiger came from, what it is doing to Irish society and where it is all leading. His piece in yesterday’s Independent focuses on 2031, and how profoundly Irish society will have changed. By that time, I expect/hope to have my bus pass, but will venture no predictions over whether Northern Ireland will have reached the end (a) of the Peace Process or (b) its teather. Thanks to Ciaran for the heads up!

“By 2031, we are likely to have a significant black urban underclass, paying rent to a Chinese landlord class. There is also a good chance that we may have a second generation Polish Taoiseach, bankrolled by his oligarch father who arrived here broke in 2004.

Irish academia will feature a disproportionate number of Indians, yet the Irish language will be stronger than at any point since before the Famine. The majority of white Irish people will be content and living in a huge – formerly agricultural – suburban belt which will bear more than a passing resemblance to Wisteria Lane of Desperate Housewives fame.

Upheaval

Make no mistake about it: immigration, displacement and the resulting social upheavals are the key issues facing this country. Real politics will be determined at the point where economics, demography, immigration and geography intersect.

At the moment we are witnessing a phoney war, characterised by oversensitivity, overblown rhetoric and ham indignation, the winner being he who shouts loudest or he who feigns most injury.

The debate is book-ended on the Left by the “multiculturalism at all costs,” brigade and on the Right by the “economic growth at all costs” warriors. In truth most of us are somewhere in the middle, seeing the need or even the desirability for new blood, yet worried about where it is leading.

Equally, we recognise the logic of economic growth and the standard of living it affords us, but also appreciate that there is more to being Irish than owning the newest, Ford Galaxy. At the moment those of us in the middle are the silent majority.

This will change gradually but for now, the dominant rule governing the immigration debate is “do not offend anyone”. This carry on was most recently evidenced by the ridiculous and self-serving hullabaloo about Mary O’Rourke speaking of “working like blacks”.

A barrage of invective rained down on her from right-on liberals – all of whom knew precisely what she meant. Equally silly was the criticism that Pat Rabbitte received by growth-obsessed, free-marketers, when he suggested – logically – that some immigrants will ultimately take some Irish jobs at lower wages.

While we are talking in circles, the immigrants are getting on with the practicalities of a new life – working, saving, having families, moving up and out. The immigration debate should be about these practical aspects of day to day life and it should always be an ideology free zone.

A way to consider most likely outcome is to see what has happened in other societies and then examine what the statisticians are saying about population trends. This will shed light on where people might choose to live in the New Ireland.

At the moment, Ireland has proportionately the fastest rising immigrant population in Europe. We are absorbing eight times more immigrants per head than France. It has been suggested that we need half a million new immigrants over the next ten years. However, on present trends there are likely to be considerably more.

In short, by 2016 – 100 years after Pearse & Co fought for “Ireland for the Irish” – close to 15pc of the Irish population could be immigrants. But where are we all likely to live? The CSO attempted to answer this in a fascinating publication last May when it confirmed what most of us privately suspected – that Dublin between the canals will be a largely non-Irish zone by 2021.

During the same period the white Irish middle classes will flee to the suburbs. We saw this pattern in the US during the 1970s and 1980s. Likewise in the UK, immigrants are over-represented in central London and thin out as you head towards the M25.

This is described as the doughnut theory in the US, whereby centres of the cities are hollowed out and left to immigrants while the richer natives flee to the sanctuary of the suburbs for better schools, a perception of better safety and, frankly, to “be among their own”.

This is the historic middle class reaction to immigration. They don’t riot; they trade up. The CSO predicts that by 2021, 112,000 white Dubliners will move out (10pc of today’s population) to be replaced by 250,000 immigrants (25pc oftoday’s population).

Where will the natives go? The CSO forecasts that the region with the strongest growth will be the mid-East area which includes counties Offaly, Westmeath, Laois, Kilkenny and Carlow. The population of this region will increase by 51pc. These will be “Dulchies” – Dubs who have moved to live amongst the Culchies.

Already, these are amongst the most fertile counties in the country. The trends in the US suggest that we will also have “Exurbs”. These are predominantly white autonomous places with their own businesses, shopping centres, concerns and community fears.

They are no longer umbilically linked to the cities but have their own life support systems. Companies move out there in search of lower rents and good workers. Moreover, the 2021 transport plan will make such mid-east “exurbs” viable. In the US these places, with their individualistic creed, voted overwhelming for George Bush.

They will pose a difficulty for our parties as the new Dulchies will be apolitical in the traditional party sense. They will be single-issue people who vote for lower taxes, speed bumps and the right to drive a Renault Espace.
Dublin itself will be ethnic and young.

Given the experiences of other major cities, it is not unreasonable to suggest that entire areas – spanning a wide arc from the Phoenix Park to the Docklands will be African. Rents in this part of the city will be soft as today’s white professionals are replaced by larger poorer African families.

There will be a change of ownership in these places. Irish landlords are likely to sell to the emerging Chinese business class, who have proved to be adept property buyers in London and New York. In fact, the appearance of a Chinese mercantile class is one of the surest bets we can place at this stage.

But entrepreneurship will not just be limited to the Chinese. Immigrants tend to be more entrepreneurial than the locals and they will form bonds with local business people in an unholy alliance of outsiders. Because local entrepreneurs and immigrants see themselves as outside the mainstream professions, they will make natural bedfellows.

This will be one of the most fascinating marriages in the New Ireland: the immigrant and the entrepreneur. Typically, the immigrant does not meet the established middle ground of professionals, civil servants, journalists, commentators, the mainstream trade union movement and the like. He meets likeminded get up and go types.

The entrepreneur employs the immigrant under the table, sees the immigrants economic value and asks no questions. The immigrant sees the entrepreneur as the antidote to the prying bureaucrat. The entrepreneur is the immigrant’s initial lifeline and ultimate role model. Both are thrown together symbiotically.

Soon the immigrant network builds and instead of taking a respectable job, evidence from other countries shows that the immigrant tends to go into business quickly. However, this economic security leads to an urge for the outsider to be accepted at the top and so we see second generation immigrants move into politics.

Perhaps the best example of this is the Kennedy clan in Boston. Joe Senior made the money which allowed JFK to enter the WASPish world of the American political elite. As you read this, there is a Polish or Lithuanian Joe Kennedy making cash, saving, struggling, striving and, ultimately, accumulating.

By the time he is rich, the ambition for his son will be to break into the establishment via politics. The same ambition that drove his father from rural Poland to Ireland in the first place will drive him up the political ladder, safe in the knowledge – unlike his Irish counterparts who are striving for votes in the apolitical new outer suburbs – that he has an ethnic bloc of voters to use as a springboard.

Changes

While all these changes are occurring of course there will be immigrants taking Irish jobs. Some working Irish families will lose significantly.

This is the history of immigration and there is no point sticking our heads in the sand, pretending we face a harmonious “united colours of Benetton” future. As long as things are hurtling along, a few losers in an overall positive picture won’t pose a huge social problem, but as soon as things slow down, racial tensions will doubtlessly increase.

The question for the authorities is whether they want to manage those tensions and pre-empt them before they spill over onto the streets as in France.

As Napoleon said: “To govern is to choose”. As we enter a new world of the hyphenated Irishman – where tags such as Indian-Irish, Nigerian-Irish, Chinese-Irish or the vague cute sounding Polo-Irish will be in widespread use – I wonder do any of our politicians have the conviction to make such hard choices.

First published in the Irish Independent, Wednesday Jan 11, 2006

  • smcgiff

    ‘a mine of statistics and intelligent analysis’

    Oh, I think Pete might have something to say about that.

    I have his book and it gets a bit stodgy. I’ll get back to it eventually. That is if I don’t read it all here first! 🙂

  • Paul Thomas

    McWilliams book has a fundamental contradiction. He says it is an optimistic counterweight to the media’s pessimism but in some chapters he also says that the boom is based on a bubble caused by artificially low interests rates and a global savings glut. His prediction: we are in stage 5 (the high water mark) of a 7 stage boom and bust cycle. But, he never explains how he reconciles the optimism with the pessimism and offers no way of dealing with what he sees as an inevitable slowdown. This, more than anything, shows that he has migrated from a potentially serious thinker to a coiner of jargon seeking to coin it himself in the christmas shopping rush. A disappointing development in one of our more promising analysts.

  • páid

    McWilliams’s book was reviewed harshly but fairly in the phoenix lately. I think, for what it’s worth, that he’s not far wrong on most things; good as i’ve read, in fact. ok, it’s written in a populist style, but he’s no mug. if his name is on an article, i read it. Also, unusually, doesn’t confuse dublin with ireland.

  • I’m in the process of reviewing it. I thought the Phoenix was harsh on the style, and rightly said the analysis was good.

    I’d advise anyone reading the book to get over their problems with the style because it’s the analysis that counts.

    Why is it better and more optimistic than most of what’s written on the Tiger?

    His background as a ecnomist. The fact he is off the ‘successor’ generation, and understands it. And he lets the story come out, warts and all. He has less scruples in facing down inherited views of Irish socio-economic politics too. This is no ‘shrink to fit’ tract.

    As for calling it a boom bust cycle, well, he’s right. The miracle is not that the boom happened. But that it hasn’t crashed yet. And he has a clever explanation for that too!

    His optimism is obvious in this article. After the bust (hard or soft) Ireland will have been changed forever. The benefits of the boom will remain, and will change the demographic make up of the country for good.

  • Brian Boru

    I hope his predictions on the scale of mass-migration are not borne out.

  • Could it not be suggested that McWilliams has merely observed the experiences of countries which have a longer history of immigration (i.e. the US and the UK) and transposed those experiences fairly unmodified into an Irish context?

    As analysis goes, its thought-provoking but perhaps not brilliantly imaginative.

  • George

    Have to agree with Paul Thomas. Colin Murphy in Blizzard of Odd took him apart in two minutes of sublime cuts of the man’s appearance on the Late Late Show.

    I take slight issue with his verging on pandering to immigrant peril posse made up of people like Pat Rabbitte.

    There is no “we” and “them”.

    In 2031 the majority of those born between the canals will be Irish, maybe not the Irish we are used to and maybe not our children, but Irish nonetheless.

    Ireland is a living, breathing (or should that be breeding) nation not some kind of Gael Reservation.

    When we finally broke and saddled this Irish freedom pony all those years ago it wasn’t just so we could stay trotting in the paddock.

    There are big green pastures out there and Dublin can do with a little Warsaw and a China town.

  • PT

    The other thing that is quite annoying about the book is how blatantly it rips off the approach of writers who have done similar things in the US. So, we get an Irish version of David Brooks who wrote about bo-bos (HibCos in McWilliams book) and exurbs (Kells angels). We have the Tom Friedman tendency to label everything and analyze by anecdote. And, the book bizarrely slips into Tom Wolfe style fiction, complete with the liberal use of bad language, on occasion. The section on breakfast roll man was particularly weird. Why do this? If you want to write a novel, write a novel. All of this applied to Ireland may sell but it certainly is not original. Astonishingly, most of the reviews haven’t noted how deliberately it taps into these genres. However, the major point remains the cognitive dissonance and his complete lack of effort to address the implications of his own criticisms. If the boom is fueled by credit and overextension, as he says, then the positive effects simply cannot survive a bust. But that would spoil the book’s premise, wouldn’t it.

  • smcgiff

    I found the constant and contrived labels such as ‘Kells angels’ a real bore. One of the main reasons I put the book down.

    He’ll never live down being credited with the term, ‘Celtic Tiger’. Isn’t one such term good enough for any one man?

  • Slugger O’Toole Admin

    I won’t criticise anyone for getting annoyed with those terms. But what he’s talking about underneath is something worth drawing out.

    I don’t have the Phoenix article to hand, but most it was attacking the slick media style. It finished on a reference to it containing good analysis, without ever addressing what that analysis was.

    I want to keep my powder dry a while longer until get to the end and write a blog review of it.

  • George

    Smcgiff,
    McWilliams didn’t coin Celtic Tiger.

    From Village magazine.

    http://www.villagemagazine.ie/article.asp?sid=1&sud=39&aid=752

  • idunnomeself

    i don’t think much of his analysis.

    As a Geographer who lived in Dublin, in an immigrant area.

    For example there aren’t any white middle class dubliners between teh canals and haven’t been for years. SO how can we be ‘heading towards’ that situation?

    The centre of UK cities have more ethnic groups because of suburbanisation of middle classes, not because of ‘white flight’ like in the US. In cities where there were few immigrants (IE Belfast) the City centres just emptied of any people. Dublin is in a different phase where cosmopolitan young people from Ireland want to move into the city centre again, they are competing with the immigrants and can pay more. It’s far more likely that any ethnic suburbs that will emerge will be peripheral (like in Paris) not in the centre. Ballymun, Blanchardstown and Tallagh.

    But most immigrants are EU anyway and the Ireland doens’t have the history of interracial tensions that the US, UK and France do, so I don’t see why he shoudl assume that ghettos will emerge.

    And plenty of the immigrants in Ireland want to work, earn and leave. In the past people said they would do this and then many ended up staying. Nowadays travel is so cheap and easy and people so much more mobile that I think a lot more will go back to Romania or whereever once they have saved up enough to buy a house or start a business.

    The Irish love property, no idea why he thinks they’ll sell to the Chinese either.

    For all these reasons I think he gets the rather obvious things wrong, no need to slate his style!

  • Scotsman

    I am happy to predict that Ireland will not see sustained immigration on the current scale. I doubt that there will even be a net gain of half a million immigrants over the next decade- though doubtless many will arive and depart.

    The German etc labour markets are due to open up in a few years and will surely be of more interest to East European workers. The demographic needs of Germany and Italy will also be more manifest by then.

    Ireland is unlikely to need the workers as the boom will inevitably fade one way or another.

  • smcgiff

    Interesting, George,

    But it seems he’s trying very hard to ensure he does create the next seminal phrase.

    Kevin Gardiner doesn’t seem to be too bothered by the whole thing.

  • Mick Fealty

    IDM,

    I’m not sure I follow your logic. Are you suggesting that most of this change will one day disappear like snow off a ditch?

    If the experience of the earlier Irish diaspora is anything to go by most people will arrive intending to make a packet, and go home etc.. In reality it won’t happen like that, as they make their lives and their living in Ireland rather than in their country of origin.

    Where McWilliams is important lies not in his originality, but in his steady gaze at the substative change that has happened and is happening now. And in his speculative probing of the future.

    When is the last time you were served by someone Irish in paper shop in Dublin Central? Ten or even eight years ago, it was difficult to find anyone with a foreign accent, who was not in a suit.

    This is not a marginal shift.

    McWilliams doesn’t appear to be judging this shift good or bad. Initially at least, he argues, it is part of the Jamboree. But he’s also averting to the need to wake up early to the changed reality of Irish society: a future that is arriving faster than most of us are free to give a mind to.

  • Brian Boru

    George Burns, you say they will be “Irish”. However, considering that the descendents of the planters mostly don’t see themselves as Irish after living here as a group for 400 years, what real prospect is there that they will consider themselves as such? I sense Utopianism here. Immigration is a double-edged sword and the notion that we should just open the floodgates and expect everything to go fine (like it did in France recently of course!) is tomfoolery.

    We are told we need 50,000 migrants a year to sustain economic growth but have let 162,000 in since Enlargement from the new EU states. They are competing with the Irish for work and this is bad for wage rates, which rose 2.7% in 2005 compared to the 4% they were supposed to under the Partnership agreement. Employers and politicians are exagerating our need for immigrants for cynical motives: corporate donations to politicians and cheap labour. We should see through all the propaganda about the “enriching” effects of “multicultualism” and recognise it can have harmful affects. Multiculturalism led to the partition of Ireland. It led to the riots in France. We need to learn lessons from this.

    By all means allow some migrants to enter, but with 12 of the Old EU states having controls on the new EU states it makes no sense for this small state to open the floodgates. The numbers coming in are also confirmation of the warnings of the No to Nice campaign in 2001/2, and as a Yes voter both times who blithely dismissed their warnings I now see parallels with the dismissive attitudes of people like George towards criticism of open-door immigration policies.

    Let some in through a Green card system. It we need 50,000 ppl then give out that number of Green cards. Too many cooks spoil the broth for the rest of us in terms of wage rates and job-security.

    And regarding the other countries opening their borders, this is more than “a few” years. It is at least to 2009 at which point it can be extended to 2011 if the Commission agrees.

  • George

    Brian,
    firstly, I assume you are talking about the descendants of northern “planters” not being Irish. Well they considered themselves Irish unionists 100 years ago. It is only in the last century that they have turned their backs on being Irish.

    Secondly, most of Dublin wasn’t Irish hundreds of years ago (you have heard of the Pale I assume and know of its purpose). Doesn’t mean it isn’t Irish today and won’t be in 50 years time.

    When the Algerines sacked Baltimore in Cork and took away 300 people, not one of them was Irish. They were all settlers.

    Cromwell’s troops settled in Tipperary. Talk to the Devereux’s of Wexford or the Roches about whether they are Irish.

    As I said, I don’t want a Gael Reservation.

    I am not being Utopian here, I am putting forward an equally plausible outcome.

    There were only 4,000 asylum applications (many of there Romanian) last year and 600 deportations.

    There were between 70 and 100,000 legal East European migrants.

    So we will be pretty much dealing with assimilating white, European Christians so your France analogy doesn’t wash.

    For a start, a third of Irish houses are now being bought by immigrants so they are not being ghettoised as they were in France and Germany (where in the old days they could only live in certain post codes).

    And they are certainly not going to burn down their own houses.

    “They are competing with the Irish for work.”

    They would be doing that if they stayed where they were too. This is a global economy we are living in. Bringing them here means they are creating wealth and jobs for all of us. That’s why we have full employment.

    “This is bad for wage rates, which rose 2.7% in 2005 compared to the 4% they were supposed to under the Partnership agreement.”

    Really? What proof do you have for that? The partnership agreement applies to a tiny section of the workforce (are you a public servant) and doesn’t apply to an awful lot of immigrants.

    Did you know, our immigrants are, on average better educated than us and work in medicine and the financial services. Don’t see those wages dropping.

    “Employers and politicians are exagerating our need for immigrants for cynical motives.”

    Crap. 100 thousand jobs were created last year. Who would have taken them if we didn’t have immigrants? Is there a cloning factory in Wicklow I don’t know about?

    I accept, as Garrett Fitzgerald and the head of SIPTU have argued, that we could decide to crank down our economy to a growth rate of say 2% and then we wouldn’t need them but if you want the current rates, we need them.

    “Multiculturalism led to the partition of Ireland. It led to the riots in France. We need to learn lessons from this.”

    I haven’t seen any race riots in Dublin and I certainly don’t envisage mobs of disaffeced Polish teenagers burning cars in Newbridge in 2025.

    German business are flocking East because they didn’t let them in. Hell every hotel in Berlin transports its laundry to Poland and back again and it still works out cheaper.

    Also, they have 5 million unemployed, we have full employment.

    Maybe you can explain to me why only 8,000 East Europeans have gone to Sweden, which has the same policy as Ireland?

    I’ll tell you why, because the jobs aren’t there.

    If the job market dries up here, so will the immigrants.

    If they stay, in 100 years Anto Boniek will be as Irish as Dmitri O’Dwyer and I can’t wait.

  • Scotsman

    I was under the impression that net immigration was only 53,000 in the year to April 2005. A lot, and maybe it’s accelerated in the past 9 months- but I don’t know where Brian gets his “162,000 since enlargement” figures from.

    Of the estimated 70,000 immigrants up to 04/05, 26,000 were from the new EU countries. 19,000 were returning Irish citizens, and 7,000 British citizens (some maybe from NI or with strong Irish heritage.)

    We have thousands of Poles arriving in Scotland too, to add to those Scottish Poles who arrived in the first half of the 20th century.

    I agree that mass immigration will change Ireland, but I don’t believe it will continue on this scale.

  • George

    Scotsman,
    True the CSO estimated 70,000 people entered Ireland in the 12 months to April 2005, with about 38 per cent of those from the new EU member states.

    The Immigrant Council of Ireland, however, cites other estimates showing that more than 100,000 new EU member state nationals have applied for personal public service number (PPS) numbers in Ireland since May 2004.

    The Irish Times wrote in November that it was 130,000.

    I agree that it won’t continue on this scale and will probably drop down to about 30,000 a year. If the economy bombs we could be in a case of negative migration.

  • Lorenzo

    I read David McWilliams book in two days over Christmas, my wife read it afterwards in around a similar time. It would have been even quicker but for the fact that you feel compelled to read out to someone large portions of it, as it is full of some fascinating stuff (random example: Irish women drink 16 times more alcohol than their Italian counterparts).

    I personally saw the style of the book as a big advantage – it is not an academic treatise, it is in a ‘populist’ (in the best sense) style. Facts, statistics, anecdotes, day-in-the-life and analysis are combined seamlessly and more importantly, painlessly. The naming of the various groups does get a little old occasionally but it is a useful shorthand. ‘HiCo’ is a lot more terse and memorable than ‘inner suburb dwelling, ABC1s with interest in native culture’.

    As for its content, it is refreshingly free of the oh-isn’t-it-all-awful rhetoric that passes for ‘analysis’ from what he aptly names the Cometariat (Fintan O’Toole, Vincent Browne et al). In fact it is quite non-judgemental, it says what is happening and the future implications of it and lets the reader decide whether this is a good or a bad thing or somewhere in between.

  • Biffo

    Who could have predicted, way back in the 1970’s, that it would be common for Irish journalists to go to places like China and write “it reminds me of Ireland in the 1970’s”?

    I predict I’ll read an article in USA Today in 2031 where someone writes “Ireland is like America in the 1980’s – people still love to coin dopey acronyms like nimby and dinky, just like David McWilliams predicted way back in the 2000’s”.

  • Brian Boru

    “Brian,
    firstly, I assume you are talking about the descendants of northern “planters” not being Irish. Well they considered themselves Irish unionists 100 years ago. It is only in the last century that they have turned their backs on being Irish.

    Cromwell’s troops settled in Tipperary. Talk to the Devereux’s of Wexford or the Roches about whether they are Irish.”

    The Devereuxs and Roches are of Norman extraction not English. But the numbers coming in certainly weren’t on the same scale as immigrants coming in now. They assimilated even to the point of becoming native Irish speakers. But you need to understand that for hundreds of years their ancestors continued to be loyal to the English Crown, and it was the tyranny of the Penal Laws that turned them into separatists. Their descendents would therefore identify with Irish nationalism because their ancestors fought and died under British rule. My main concern is that a United Ireland will be made less likely by mass-migration by people who will have no inherited history in the national-question and therefore would not be nearly as likely to vote for a UI in a future Southern referendum.

    “I am not being Utopian here, I am putting forward an equally plausible outcome.”

    There were between 70 and 100,000 legal East European migrants.”

    No there were 162,000 judging by the number of PPS no.s issued (they are needed legally to work here) to Eastern Europeans and that doesn’t include the Black Market.”

    The Unionists are also White European Christians and they partitioned the country. They certainly were not assimilated after 400 years. We could be facing demands for partition down here from our new arrivals too. And then a new Troubles down here. It doesn’t have to be this way. It is too risky. Let some in but it has to be at a low enough rate to ensure they assimilate into “Irishness”. Otherwise you will get ghettoisation and the Ulster Plantation was the very definition of ghettoisation remember.

    “For a start, a third of Irish houses are now being bought by immigrants”

    So the immigrants are helping push up the price of housing even further beyond the affordability of young Irish couples. Dublin is already one of the most expensive capital cities in the world. We need higher prices like a hole in the head.

    “They are competing with the Irish for work.”

    They would be doing that if they stayed where they were too. This is a global economy we are living in. Bringing them here means they are creating wealth and jobs for all of us. That’s why we have full employment.”

    More Utopianism i.e. “oh this will benefit us just accept it etc.” The CSO figures show that wage-rises are below the Partnership agreement. Bosses are positively drooling at the thought of all that cheap labour and are bankrolling corrupt politicians in return for the kickback of cheap labour. Get real and wise up. And the National Wage deal is supposed to apply to everyone.

    “Did you know, our immigrants are, on average better educated than us and work in medicine and the financial services. Don’t see those wages dropping.

    Crap. 100 thousand jobs were created last year. Who would have taken them if we didn’t have immigrants?”

    Maybe the 4.3% unemployed would have taken them instead. Unemployment was just 3.7% in 2001.

    “I accept, as Garrett Fitzgerald and the head of SIPTU have argued, that we could decide to crank down our economy to a growth rate of say 2% and then we wouldn’t need them but if you want the current rates, we need them. ”

    I’d rather keep my national identity as the majority one down here including its separatist connotations than have an extra % of growth. 12 of the Old EU states have controls on immigration from the new EU states. And it isn’t true that all of those are unemployment blackspots. Denmark, Austria and Luxembourg only have 4.6 – 5% unemployment and Denmark has only allowed 5,400 Eastern Europeans in this year under a work-permit system – 1/30th of our numbers – and we don’t see its economic collapsing. We must see through the propaganda from the William Martin Murphy’s of our time.

    “I haven’t seen any race riots in Dublin and I certainly don’t envisage mobs of disaffeced Polish teenagers burning cars in Newbridge in 2025.”

    Give it time I fear. If you have a large underclass that are being paid less than the natives then you create the conditions for the kinds of riots seen in France lately.

    “Maybe you can explain to me why only 8,000 East Europeans have gone to Sweden, which has the same policy as Ireland?

    I’ll tell you why, because the jobs aren’t there.
    If the job market dries up here, so will the immigrants.”

    Actually by now around 24,000 have gone to Sweden. You can’t wait? Good for you, but let’s have a referendum down here to decide whether tighter controls are needed. The time for Politically-Correct bleeding hearts to decide our immigration policy needs to end.

  • George

    Brian,
    “My main concern is that a United Ireland will be made less likely by mass-migration”

    You can’t stop people from living and working here because they might not share your political “vision”. The elected government of this state has decided to allow freedom of movement to bring us to another and I think it’s great.

    Maybe we’ll have a totally new vision in 2031, not one about ephemeral “united Irelands”. Personally, I think increased diversity on this island will make a “united Ireland” more likely not less likely.

    Even if there are 162,000 I don’t mind.

    “The Unionists are also White European Christians and they partitioned the country.”
    The settlers came as a tool of the British state. The East Europeans are coming because the Irish state wants them so your analogy doesn’t apply.

    “We could be facing demands for partition down here from our new arrivals too.”
    That is plain ridiculous. If we have Polish ghettos in 2031 and Slugger is still here, I’ll eat humble pie.

    I think you are slightly confused on ghettoisation. The Ulster Plantation was never a ghetto, (to hell or) Connacht was the ghetto.

    “So the immigrants are helping push up the price of housing even further beyond the affordability of young Irish couples.”

    Yawn. Itis not the immigrants’ fault prices are high. Anyway I don’t see you complaining about the fact that it is mainly immigrants building the houses for the young Irish couples or I don’t see you complaining about all the stamp duty and taxes they pay going on refurbishing the schools for their children.

    “Get real and wise up. And the National Wage deal is supposed to apply to everyone.”

    It doesn’t. It may apply to you in your cushy job but in the real world where the rest of us live it is not legally binding on an employer who hasn’t signed up. Most haven’t.

    “Maybe the 4.3% unemployed would have taken them instead. Unemployment was just 3.7% in 2001. ”

    4.3% is full employment and is the lowest in the EU. Now you can quibble over 3.7% or 4.3% but we simply don’t have the workers to continue building the houses for your young Irish couples.

    “I’d rather keep my national identity as the majority one down here including its separatist connotations than have an extra % of growth.”

    Your national identity is not the identity of us all. Or are you now ascribing your identity to me?

    “Let’s have a referendum down here to decide whether tighter controls are needed.”

    No need for a referendum as this isn’t a constitutional issue so it ain’t going to happen I’m afraid. This can be dealt with by legislation if you want.

    So why don’t you and all the other “The boat is full” people can vote for Labour or the Anti-Immigrant platform in the next election.

    I’ll pick a part which wants to keep going down the path we are going.

    That’s called democracy. May the best identity win. I’m feeling confidenski.

  • J McConnell

    McWilliams ‘analysis’ suffers from the same defect that all such pieces have, a far too facile extrapolation from the current situation to predict the future.

    If he had written his piece 5 years ago, 10 years ago or 25 years all his predictions based on extrapolation of the then current situation to predict the Ireland of 2006 would have been very wide of the mark. In fact it is amusing to think what his extrapolations would have being if he had written his piece back in the grim days of the early 80’s.

    Being old enough to remember the last boom / bust cycle, the mid ’60’s to early ’80’s, I see no reason why the current boom will not end in an equally nasty bust. All the same mistakes are being made, all the same blind assumptions are being made, and the foundations of the economy are just as shaky as they were back in the ’70’s. Any major change in the international economic situation and the whole Irish economy falls apart.

    The economy peaked in 2000. If over the last five years interest rate were 7% or 8% rather than 2% there would have been no building boom, and there would have no huge increase in consumer debt financed personal spending, and therefor no real growth in GNP. Sooner or later interest rates will go up, the building boom will end, and consumer debt will reach unsustainable levels, and then, once the downturn starts it will snowball pretty quickly and once unemployment level hits 10% again then the real fun will start.

    Add to that the fact that sooner or later the US, Germany, France, Belgium and several other countries will get sick of Ireland effectively stealing many billions of dollars of their tax revenue each year. A few adverse rulings by tax authorities in several of these countries and one third of the Irish GDP would evaporate within a year or two.

    And considering that physical and verbal attacks on immigrants have been fairly common during these good times just imagine what it will be like when things start going wrong. The South has a strong tradition of authoritarian nationalism, and in violent Republicanism a political ideology that is ready made to make the final step towards the politics of xenophobic repression.

    Add to that the clientelist political culture of the South, and the fact that EU citizen cannot vote in national election and therefor complete disenfranchised, then the situation is ready made for really nasty anti-immigrant politics to become dominant long before 2031. See the above post of Brian Boru for a classic example of the mentality which will give rise to this.

    I strongly suspect and fear that Ireland in 2031 will have more in common with the Ireland of 1981 than the Ireland of 2006.

  • George

    EU citizens can’t vote in another EU country in a national election anywhere as far as I know JmcConnell so I would hardly single Ireland out on that one.

    Their children will be able to and so will they if they if they become naturalised citizens.

    On the economy, you could be right but you could be wrong. So many others have been. Here’s a good test for yourself. McWilliams predicted the property crash in 1997.

    When did you first start telling people that you thought the crash was imminent? I’d like to know.

    Unlike the time you are talking about when the national debt was 110% of GDP, the current national debt is below 30%, the second lowest in the EU.

    Also, I think there were more jobs created in the last 12 months than the entire 25-year period you are talking about so we’ve moved on.

    A future government can borrow tens of billions to help ride out any downturn and still be well within the Maastricht criteria.

    Sure there could be a big fall but it will never be back to 1981 levels. I could live with 2000 standards. Hardly a disaster.

    The South is changing by the day. Who knows maybe the Brian Borus are in the majority but maybe they aren’t.

    If we have 150,000 new immigrants in 18 months and no major problems (equivalent to the UK or France taking in taking in 2.25 million, what would happen there) then I would say that your authoritarian nationalist, racist, anti-immigration worries are way over the top.

    If you are Irish and live here, you do your state a disservice or you just don’t get out much.

  • J McConnell

    george

    > If you are Irish and live here, you do your state a disservice or you just don’t get out much.

    Its precisely because I’ve been splitting my time between the US and Ireland with extended stays in the UK and France over the last few years that the very shallow foundations of the Irish economy are so noticeable.

    I spend a lot of time in Seattle, a city with a GMP / GRP of around $130B, about the same as the GDP of Ireland. When you fly into the Seattle area the evidence for immense amounts of economic activity are plainly visible. Miles upon miles of factories, warehouses, office parks, shopping malls etc. Fly into Dublin and you see the occasional cluster of office parks, and mile upon mile of new low density housing developments and low density malls.

    Drive around the greater Seattle area and you will see lots of evidence of the main industries, aerospace, software, cell-phones, biotech, the port. Drive around the greater Dublin area and the only place the even starts to look like a major facility is the Intel plant in Leixlip.

    Then you start looking at the CSO numbers and the really bizarre nature of the Irish economy becomes more evident. An economy completely unlike any other Western economy. The primary economy is based almost completely on exports from three sectors, high tech, pharmaceuticals and financial services. Multinationals account for under half the employment figures for these sectors but 90% of the exports. I dont know about the pharma and financial services sector but I do know that in the high tech sector 99% plus of the exports are a pure assembly / duplication / distribution operation. For example, there is no meaningful product software development in Ireland by any of the multinational software companies.

    There are around half a dozen tax jurisdictions that could remove up to 10% of Irish GNP through one single adverse decision by the their tax authorities. As the financial crunch hits home over the next decade, especially in Germany, France, Belgium and Italy, I dont see Irelands tax haven status surviving. Expect 50% of at least one of the three exports to disappear in the next 10 years for tax reasons, because that’s the only reason why they are here in the first place.

    Then there is the fact that the government has been on a huge spending spree spending the rapidly growing tax receipts of the last few years. Unfortunately 80% plus of the growth in tax receipts has been in the highly cyclical parts of the economy, construction, consumer spending, etc, so when these sectors bust tax receipts will decline precipitously. Say 10% per annum for three or four years. Result. A rerun of the ’80’s as the government attempts to borrows huge amount of money and fails to cut back its bloated expenditure.

    Money may be difficult to borrow because even though Irish sovereign debt is less that E40B the total foreign indebtedness of Irish corporation and individuals is about to pass E1000B. Never wonder where all that money came from to pay E250M for a few acres in Ballsbridge?