Wednesday 21 March 2018

A silence falls over a nation cowed by an astronomical debt

We now know that it will be our children's children's children who will bear the burden of our financial folly, writes John Banville

THIS year, there were no fireworks. Throughout most of the past decade, for weeks before and after Halloween, the night skies over Ireland were filled with the crack and crash of bursting rockets and fountains of multicolored flame.

Since fireworks are illegal here, they had to be bought in Northern Ireland and smuggled across the border -- quite a turnabout from the days when the IRA smuggled tonnes of explosives the other direction, during the Thirty Years' War it waged on the Protestants and the British army garrison in the North from the Sixties to the Nineties.

Throughout the 2000s, there was a lot of cross-border shopping, almost all of it one-way, since usually in those years the euro was strong and the British pound weak. Newly rich middle-class couples from the Republic, riding the broad back of the Celtic Tiger, would travel north on Saturday mornings, have a leisurely lunch at one of Belfast's fine new restaurants, spend the afternoon in the supermarkets and return that evening happy as Visigoths with their booty -- liquor, cigarettes, electrical goods, designer-label clothes and, as the autumn set in, boxes and boxes of fireworks. Those were the sparkling years.

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