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Moving beyond the Legacies of the Celtic Tiger

Peadar Kirby, Director, Institute for the Study of Knowledge in Society and Professor of International Politics and Public Policy, University of Limerick and Pádraig Carmody, Lecturer in Geography and Institute for International Integration Studies, Trinity College Dublin.


The Celtic Tiger boom, and now its collapse, has been largely analysed through the lens of neo-classical economics and modernisation theory with much attention being paid to economic issues such as the role of foreign direct investment (FDI) and the need for cost competitiveness, or social issues such as the liberalisation of values and practices, upward social mobility, increased living standards and debates about social polarisation. While these lens offer many valuable and valid insights, they tend to neglect the particular and distinctive structural characteristics of the way the Irish economy and Irish society have developed, and the reasons for these. This paper takes a more structuralist approach, identifying the ‘Irish model’ that emerged during the boom years, a particular form of structured power. The paper places this ‘model’ in the wider context of the emergence of financialisation as a driver of a particular kind of global economy. Focusing attention on the role of the financial sector in structuring and driving this so-called ‘new economy’, allows the Irish boom to be more clearly and accurately identified as one example of national development that was profoundly shaped by the flows, the power and the values of financialisation, though with a particular Irish hue reflecting long-standing features of Irish society such as the role of property speculation and so-called ‘developers’. The paper then interrogates the legacies of the boom derived from the multiple restructurings that have transformed Ireland. In the light of these legacies, the paper concludes by offering a reading of possible future scenarios as they can now be identified amid the debates and politics of the post-boom crisis.

We are grateful to Alan Matthews for his comments. Any inaccuracies or mistakes in interpretation are of course ours.

Last updated 28 August 2014 by IIIS (Email).