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Ireland has been a bright spot in a sea of gloom with a series of social reforms culminating in the legalisation of abortion being approved by a two thirds majority of the Irish people in a referendum in May and subsequently enacted in legislation just before the end of the year. Other recent referenda have provided for marriage equality and the de-criminalisation of blasphemy by similar margins.

The economy has been approaching Celtic Tiger boom time growth rates again with 10%+ expected for 2018 and a projected 4% in 2019 (assuming a soft Brexit). Once again these figures are distorted by the activities of global companies basing their HQs in Ireland and state finances are currently experiencing a non-sustainable  boom in corporate tax receipts as companies seek the maximise the benefits of Trump's corporate tax "reforms". Fears that the economy will over-heat in 2019 will probably lesson if there is a hard Brexit, as I expect.

For all the artificiality and non-sustainability of some of this "growth" there have been real benefits in terms of unemployment (down from 6.2 to 5.2% over the past 12 months), employment (plus c. 50K on a base of 2,221K in past 12 Months) and rising wages. However the inability of the government to effectively tackle rising healthcare waiting lists (despite massively increased expenditure), homelessness, availability of affordable housing, and availability of broadband in rural Ireland is creating major inequality and resentment.

Varadker's government could be the first to be turfed out of office despite delivering rapid economic growth if it does not tackle these growing problems more effectively, and his adherence to neo-liberal market based "solutions" is not helping matters in this regard. His perceived success in the Brexit negotiations will also count for little if a hard Brexit ensues causing further difficulty for more rurally based agriculture and food producing industries.

The Urban rural divide may become the defining feature of Irish politics in the next few years unless tackled more effectively.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Dec 26th, 2018 at 10:57:10 PM EST

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