Wednesday 21 March 2018

Thomas Molloy: Celtic Tiger legacy may yet transform our nation

Thomas Molloy

Thomas Molloy

PORTUGAL and Ireland share a rugged coast lashed by the same Atlantic waves, an indifferent cuisine and some of the most mournful folk music in the world, but they are very different countries and the origins of Portugal's financial crisis could not be more unlike the reasons behind our own problems.

In a nutshell, Portugal's economy has hardly grown at all over the past decade, while the country's population has remained among the worst educated in the OECD. Visitors to the Algarve probably don't notice this, but it is evident in the large cities such as Lisbon, Oporto and Braga, where one can still sometimes see women dressed in black carrying heavy shopping on their heads from the 19th century trams and funiculars.

Portugal is what Ireland might have been had de Valera lived another 20 years and Sean Lemass never become Taoiseach: a tough, self-sufficient and inward-looking country with a low life expectancy.

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