A reader writes:
As an American living in Ireland for the last 7 1/2 years (I married an Englishman from London who wanted to move here to take advantage of the "Celtic Tiger" economy), I can tell you it's been a real roller-coaster ride.
The main reason for the Irish economy having shrunk to the degree it has is construction. It was 40% of GDP, and it has evaporated, seemingly overnight. The government in power for the last 12 years is Fianna Fáil (roughly translated into English from Irish as "Soldiers of Fortune"); it has been in power, on and off, for 59 years since 1932. Fianna Fáil is, among other things, in bed with developers who grew extremely wealthy on the back of the huge construction bubble.
They have also allowed their banker friends to play illegal games with depositors' money which has created a larger banking problem in this depression than in most other countries. A large part of this is the size of the Republic - about 4.5 million people - smaller than greater Boston, where I'm from. There is just no depth in such a tiny country, and nothing to fall back on with an expensive workforce that has seen it's good jobs (computers, retail, aviation, medical devices, Waterford Crystal, etc) disappear at a rapid pace over the last 18 months.
As for my husband and me, we have been trying to get out since 2007. The cost of living (among the highest in the EU), dismal healthcare, poor infrastructure, and poor outlook have gottten to us. Our beautiful but modest house on Galway Bay has languished on the market, in spite of deep price cuts, since then; the housing market has come to a virtual standstill. We are lucky in that we have no mortgage, but I have been the sole bread-winner since finding a job in 2004 (we are middle-aged and the Irish would rather hire youngsters, of whom there are many as Ireland is a very young country - they command less money).
My husband, with an enviable resumé, was unable to find work even in the "Celtic Tiger" years, due to his vast experience which, it seems, made him overqualified for most jobs, and his age. Many Polish and other Eastern Europeans, who migrated here for the construction jobs, have now returned to their homelands. Ireland is bereft, bewildered, and in a current governmental vacuum where no one seems to be able to fix the problem as they are all in hock to one another. May God help this little country, of which we have grown fond but where we can no longer remain.