A vision for Ireland

What's Ireland got?

Ireland is a small country on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, off the north-west corner of Europe and beside Britain. We have a temperate climate - which is lucky - and we are rich in three natural resources;

    • some of the best people on the planet

    • more than enough farmland to feed us all

    • a plentiful supply of wind (and waves)

Other than that? (click for more)

No oil. No coal or metals to speak of. No diamond mines. No rare-earth metals. It's just us and the land and the weather. And that's fine.

Strategically, we're in a safe part of the world and surrounded by friends. Whatever about cyber threats, no-one is going to send tanks across our borders without lots of advance warning and without lots of people coming to help. And that's great.

Economically we're part of the EU and can still trade with the UK, despite their attempts at self-harm. That's really handy and it's been great for Ireland since we stopped thinking autarky was a good idea. And that was a good realization.

We're not subject to hurricanes or typhoons or earthquakes or volcanoes and thanks to modern medicine we're normally pretty free from the kinds of diseases that kill our children as infants or cripple us as adults. And that's fantastic.

Ireland is in a lucky place on the planet.

On top of that, we've not been involved in any major wars for a long while, and although the country is still recovering from the demographic catastrophe of the famine, serial emigration through the 20th century and the occasional self-imposed economic kick in the head, Ireland should be and is one of the richest and happiest countries in the world. It's clear...on many measures we are. And all that is something to be greatly appreciated.

BUT....we could and should be better off than we are.

Only stupidity, political venality, and the serially disappointing and/or corrupt boobs that seem to be running the country for the last several decades are holding us back. And they are holding us back. And that's not ok. Watching the squabbling on the news shows and in the Dail, with each blaming the other, it's clear they're missing the point. The point is to keep making things better as fast as possible and they are NOT doing that.

I remember, even as a kid talking to my Granny she'd say "But Hugh, things could be worse" and I'd always reply "But Nana, things could be better." I miss her, but that's another story.

So...how could things be better?

Ireland is a lucky country. That also means there are no excuses for bad things happening in Ireland and we should be able to achieve all the things anyone else can achieve - or at least that any small country can achieve.

Let's talk about that.

Oh...one other thing...Ireland has the greatest field sport in the world. Bar none. Hurling. I've been around the world and I can't find anything even close.

What should/could Ireland have? And NOT have?

Boston or Berlin? A bad question. How about "well off".

A few years ago people used to ask whether Ireland should align itself with "Boston or Berlin". It's a stupid question. We can align ourselves with both - and with others. We can take the best of all worlds and apply good ideas from anywhere right here in Ireland.

While Ireland is top of the stakes in the GDP/head competition, it's a bad indicator of Ireland's actual wealth, possibly overstating Ireland's wealth by 50%. GDP in Ireland is a hugely distorted number. (click for more)

And if you look at countries like Switzerland or The Netherlands, it's pretty clear that they're wealtier than we are. Walk around Sandymount green - in the middle of one of the richest parts of Ireland. Crumbling pavements, potholed roads, kids in prefabs at the local schools.

Walk into A&E at Vincents. It'll cost you, and it'll be packed. A few years ago we had reason to call 999 and the ambulance guys told us "No....we won't take them to A&E. It's like a war zone up there. They're better off here." On other occasions my wife and one of the kids spent days waiting on a chair in Temple Street....being looked after but not getting a bed.

Ireland should be as rich as Luxembourg and Switzerland and as the state of Massachusets - and not using dodgy numbers. And however you like to align your left/right politics, it'd be a lot easier to fund schools and hospitals if we were actually that well off.

So...that's "Vision part 1" for Ireland. We should be looking at making Ireland an actually well off country. Not a makey-uppey well off country.

That has lots of implications for economic policy.

  • It means making markets work for the betterment of people, and to stop making markets work for the enrichment of a few....which is often the case in Ireland. And yes, through markets as much as possible. They're efficient.

  • It means making tax policy more just (that includes wealth and property taxes), and probably reducing income taxes at the top end.

  • It means relentless action to make provision of public services better and more cost effective (a focus on public services and not on public servants).

  • It does NOT mean doing anything to chase the multinationals out of the country. Absolutely not.

  • It means taking more advantage of their presence and helping people like EI take more advantage of the great successes of the IDA. There are several areas where the presence of the multinationals makes it hard for indigenous companies to compete, e.g. for staff. Those can be worked on.


Socially, how should Ireland be?

Well, we seem to be emerging from a bad religious nightmare that - from the little I know - really started in the mid-19th century and continued unabated until about 1990. We've been emerging slowly since then.

Domination by various churches has not done Ireland any favours.

For me, Ireland still tends to be a bit "pigeon-holing"....with a tendency to want to put people in a box and in a category. I don't care if you're gay or straight or black or white or man or woman. We are all human and that's what matters. Putting people into ever increasing pigeon-holes isn't the solution. Far better to take people as they are, and not to insist on boxes to put them in. Tolerance and inclusivity does not have to mean "I have a new box to put you in" or that everyone has to be in a box.

People are people. We need to make that attitude the prevailing one.


Ireland is fortunate in that our temperate climate is likely to be more robust against climate change than many places. That's nice, but it's not an excuse for moving slowly. We should be a leader in getting green power, in moving to bikes, in replacing our ICE cars with far fewer electric cars, in making agriculture less polluting. Currently, while everyone talks about it, progress is glacial and opposed every step of the way.

  • The Sandymount Bike path and policy around bikes in general.

  • Upgrades to the national grid to allow for renewables.

  • Tax policy on CO2 emissions.

  • Pollution of our beaches.

  • etc, etc....

Summing Up

"Visions" are hard to write down. It'll take me ages, but I'll do it. This is a start. I have in my head an idea of an Ireland that has all the wealth of the Netherlands or Switzerland, the civic pride that I saw in Barcelona, the inclusivity that Ireland already often shows....just more, the housing policies of a country that looks after its people, etc.

Not the actual Galway Tent

Not the actual Galway Tent. Where developers didn't give money to FF and make fortunes in return.

This is not the actual confidential GP contract, that Leo did give to his friend. (well, not a close friend...)

But doing that that wasn't a crime (for him).

The scene where Garda Gerry McCabe was murdered.

SF's leaders today were either involved in this or have taken sides with the people who did this.

And with people who did much worse.

The cenotaph in Eniskillen. Where SF and the IRA murdered innocent Irish people.

And they tried to murder more the same day at Tullyhommen a few miles away.

And neither SF nor the IRA have ever handed over the people who did any of it. They side with the murderers today. Still.

And they side with them proudly.