restricted access 8. Toward the Celtic Tiger: The Republic, 1961 to 2002
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137 Toward the Celtic Tiger: The Republic, 1961 to 2002 Up to this point the story of the south of Ireland’s economic fortunes has been characterized by an agricultural economy blighted by stagnation and failure. From the beginning of the 1960s a series of policy changes would occur in the Repub­ lic that would have profound consequences for the state not simply in the economic sphere but in the social, po­ liti­ cal, demographic, and even religious realms. It may, at first glance, be tempting to view the period from 1961 to 2002 in terms of a linear path toward economic and social maturity, but such a simplistic teleological interpretation bears little resemblance to what was an extremely turbulent period in the state’s short history. A New Departure: Lemass, Whitaker, and Economic Development The 1950s in the Repub­ lic of Ireland has come to be seen as a time of economic and social stagnation. By that time people could reflect on the bitter reality that over the thirty years since independence, the state had failed in its primary obligation—to provide the economic means for people to remain living in their own country. De Valera’s 1943 dream of a land of cozy homesteads was instead a place of empty homesteads, much of the “sturdy youth” having departed for New York, Lon­ don, or Manchester.1 More than four hundred thousand people left the south of Ireland between 1951 and 1961, most of them because of economic necessity.2 Yet it was the sense of failure that crystallized in this decade that led to a renewed determination to resolve the Republic’s ongoing population crisis.3 During the 1950s the south­ ern polity matured and began to develop the means to reflect on its own flawed progress through the publication of a variety of indigenous journals sharing ideas in the intellectual and administrative spheres.4 A document published at the end of the decade by a senior civil servant in the Department of Finance entitled Economic Development was the result of this fermenting of reflective practice with the negative motivations of shame and inadequacy at the central administration ’s impotence in the face of massive ongoing emigration. T. K. Whitaker ’s report formed the basis for Taoiseach Seán Lemass’s First Programme for Economic Expansion. The aim was to drive up industrialization and employment through incentive schemes to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) as well as to stimulate indigenous entrepreneurial growth. In 1952 the Industrial Development Authority (IDA) was given responsibility for attracting foreign capital, a function it would fulfill with considerable success.5 It was recognized that the policies of protectionism and import substitution since independence had made Irish industry uncompetitive and inward-­looking.6 8 Troubled Geographies 138 The First and Second Programmes for Economic Expansion proved to be remarkably successful, at least in the short term. An economic growth rate of 4 percent was achieved before the 1960s were out, and foreign firms were employing a quarter of the industrial workforce by 1977. Critically, the Programmes broadened Ireland’s economic horizons by breaking the dominance of the asymmetric trading relationship with the U.K., with two-­ thirds of exports now going beyond the British market. The success of the schemes is demonstrated by the profound and lasting effect that they had on the Repub­ lic of Ireland’s demography, with the population growing by one hundred thousand during the 1960s.7 Unfortunately, the boom of the 1960s would not be part of a continuous upward economic trend. The oil crisis of 1974 exposed Ireland’s vulnerability to foreign markets and the danger of an overreliance on FDI as the prime motor of economic development .8 Nevertheless, in demographic terms a corner had been turned, despite the economic collapse of the early 1980s, which brought the state to the brink of bankruptcy and saw a fresh wave of young and better-­ qualified migrants leave the country.9 So Economic Development was not the start of a continuous progression toward the success seemingly achieved in the Celtic Tiger era, but it altered the Repub­ lic of Ireland so fundamentally and in so many ways in the period since the 1950s that its significance must be acknowledged at the outset of this exploration of the data. Population: Staunching the Flow Economic Development embodied a sort of missionary zeal that did not stem from a desire to create wealth as an end in itself; instead, it sought increased...