Saturday, August 05, 2006

Reporting from Ireland

I’m currently in Ireland for a few days break. I’ve now been here for the past day and have made many observations of life in Ireland in that time. Having visited Ireland many times before due to family connections (both parents Irish), and a large number of relatives living here, it is a country that seems to change every time I visit. The growth of the economy here in recent years has been pretty phenomenal, from being a pretty poor country 20 years ago it is now very well off with one of the highest GDP's in the world per person, certainly a great deal higher then in the UK.

In terms of the economy, what has been noticeable in the past few years has been the rapid decline of agriculture and the percentage employed in farming. Recently relatives of mine who have been involved in farming for generations have been selling their farms as they no longer see them as generating enough income in the longer-term or being profitable. Farming in Ireland, unlike in Britain has been based a great deal more on small farmers, thus a great deal more in proportion to the population are employed in faming, even with the decline that is happening this is still the case. Many of the younger generation are now reluctant to enter farming as they see the increased opportunities outside of farming, while once going into farming would have been the only choice for some, nowadays they are finding many other career options more attractive and appealing.

In terms of prices, apart from petrol and cigarettes everything here is much more expensive and that has been noticeable from many conversations I’ve had with people and observations of my own. Indeed where I am staying, very near the border with Northern Ireland, many are crossing the border in large numbers because of the savings that can be made are quite significant (15-20% on many items). Since the introduction of the Euro the situation has got worse, though the current high exchange rate of the pound against the euro partly contributes to this as well.

Despite the price differences, the economic chasm between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is growing wider every year. The huge growth in the economy has not been replicated in Northern Ireland and its economy is growing at a much slower pace. On a whole range of indicators like property prices, income, growth, unemployment, housing, education the figures show the Republic to be in a significantly better position. The gap shows no sign of narrowing.

Recently Ireland has also been undergoing huge change in its population makeup, this has seen the significant growth of black and ethnic minority communities along with a huge influx of Eastern European citizens. A country that had little diversity in the population makeup ten years ago is seeing a massive change and has had to make adjustments to deal with the situation. With Ireland being a growth country, it is helping to fill many of the vacancies that have proved hard to fill due to a lack of applicants and the country having pretty much full employment.

The other gripe I have is that broadband her does not seem as widespread here. The computer I'm writing this from is on a traditional dial up connection and having got used to broadband it is pretty slow. Due to the non-availability in the local area, dial up remains the only option.

Anyway I’m over here till next Monday, I will try and update the blog again if I get the time.


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