The former Governor of the Central Bank of Ireland, Professor Patrick Honohan gave the annual Henry Grattan lecture this year on ‘Reflections on the Irish Economy – 1916-2016’ hosted by the Embassy of Ireland in London in association with Trinity College [May 24th, 2016].
The Henry Grattan Lecture forms part of an annual lecture series and flagship initiative of the School of Social Sciences and Philosophy at Trinity College Dublin. The Embassy hosted this year’s lecture as part of its Ireland 2016 commemorations programme. Ambassador of Ireland to Britain, Daniel Mulhall, opened proceedings.
Professor Honohan was appointed as governor of the Central Bank of Ireland in 2009 and played a key role during his tenure in resolving the Irish banking crisis, retiring from the position of Governor in November 2015. Previous to that he was Professor of International Financial Economics and Development at Trinity College.
Framing the discussion, Professor Honohan noted that nationalist thinkers of a century ago held very diverse views as to how an independent Irish economy might best advance. He highlighted Connolly, Griffith and Kettle as three exemplars of this diversity. Kettle is least known of those three, and never entered the nationalist pantheon, but it was his liberal-continental vision that ultimately prevailed.
Prof Honohan illustrated how the Irish economy underperformed rather badly in the first half-century, but had a strong recovery in the second half. It was the eventual adaptation of Ireland to close engagement with all of our economic neighbours in the global economy that is the defining characteristic of its later performance. “While Griffith’s vision was reflected in the early decades of independence, the ultimate direction was more on the Kettle line.”
Despite resonating in the Easter Rising Proclamation, Connolly’s approach was not pursued, though Honohan remarked that the eventual adoption of welfarist measures – partly reflecting the evolution of policy in Britain – did deliver some of the specific living standard improvements for the Irish worker that Connolly had envisaged. Indeed, in opening to the global economy, Ireland did not turn its back on Britain. “The economic influence remains strong; the old connection was not altogether sundered”.
Cautioning against a Panglossian view, Prof Honohan remarked that “for good or ill, it has been Ireland’s navigation of the global economy that has driven its performance. Over the past half century growth rates have been on average high, but volatile, reflecting the opportunities and challenges of globalization. Ireland has not dodged all the hazards, and in particular needs to avoid the trap of over-reliance on a monoculture of specialization, whether on a foreign-funded property bubble or in a narrow range of export sectors.”
Following Professor Honohan’s lecture, journalist and author, Hamish McRae responded and there was a Q& A with an invited audience of policy makers, academics, government bodies and Trinity alumni in attendance.
Media coverage:RTÉ; 9pm News