Wednesday 23 January 2019

Leo, the lucky leprechaun


Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Photo: Gerry Mooney
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar Photo: Gerry Mooney
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Not that we're the type to lose the run of ourselves, but, right now, a lot of people are saying: "If this is leprechaun economics, then paint me green and call me King of the Little People."

The actual King of the Little People, Leo Varadkar, must be pinching himself. First he manages to effectively turn the tables on the relationship between Ireland and the UK, talking down to our former overlords as if they were bold children. And then, as he's still coasting on that one, along comes the news that in what the accountants call Q3, the Irish economy grew by double-digit figures on the year before, with GDP apparently up 10.4pc year-on-year. The economy actually grew 4.2pc in the third-quarter alone. Irish growth was eight times the growth of the rest of the eurozone for that glorious three months.

Now it looks like growth for the year could be around 7pc. Ireland could be growing faster than China, and we all know the Chinese just make up their figures anyway.

But, for some, this all sounds like a very, very bad thing. Because we have learned the hard way not to trust success. The last time we thought we experienced it, we were all just looking at a mirage.

We were sure we could feel it at the time, and taste it and smell it. But it wasn't real. The worry was we didn't find out for years afterwards - too late.

After 10 long years in the doldrums with economic PTSD, we are not quite ready to believe that things could be OK again. There is the usual suspicion around the growth figures, though they swear there aren't the usual large numbers of airplanes for leasing, or intellectual property swelling the numbers - just old-fashioned things like manufacturing, exports and people buying stuff.

But still we are nervous.

Even when Fitch upgraded us to an A+ during last week, we remembered how those pesky ratings agencies were part of the problem the last time, so they aren't to be trusted either. We don't even quite believe that unemployment is dropping like a stone, down from 7.5pc to 6.1pc, which is about 20pc in the last year, and due to hit 5.5pc next year.

Yeah, but what about the quality of the jobs, we ask. Still we wait for the other shoe to drop.

But Leo, who rode to power on a belief in middle-class aspiration, must be sleeping soundly. Is it possible this luckiest of generals is actually delivering for the people who get up in the morning? And after all, if people's biggest concern is the homeless, that's better than them all being incredibly angry about their own situations, isn't it?

Surely the fact that people are focused on the problems of the 8,000 worse off than them is a sign of some progress...

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