Saturday 15 December 2018

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Seven years of uninterrupted expansion has benefited most people. That is to be seen in almost every measure of economic activity - from earnings and wealth to consumer prices and jobs. Stock Image

Dan O'Brien: 'It's been a good year for the economy - but figures from the Border may point to the Brexit threat we are facing' 

It may be a little early to pen a review of the year, but it can be said with certainty, even at this juncture, that 2018 has been another good year for the Irish economy. Despite the extreme uncertainties that have been generated by Brexit, Donald Trump's trade conflicts and the coming to power of a Trumpian government in one of our currency area's biggest economies (Italy), near...

Prone to miscalculation: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar leaving RTE after appearing on the Marian Finucane show yesterday Photo: Fergal Phillips

Brexit tactics could be Leo's greatest gamble 

Ireland's strategic objective in the Brexit fiasco is to keep Britain as tightly locked into the European economic and legal order as possible. This is a vital national interest. Achieving it was always going to be one of the greatest foreign policy challenges this State has ever faced. It was made so much harder last January when Theresa May, the British prime minister, chose to interpret the Brexit referendum as a vote to leave the EU's customs union and single market.

'The broader picture on the UK economy since the referendum is that the vote to leave has had surprisingly limited effect.'

Dan O'Brien: The UK: doing better than Remainers care to admit 

How have all things related to Brexit affected the UK economy and how will that economy evolve in the run-up to Brexit in March 2019? These questions have fallen victim to the deepening partisanship that has taken hold across the water. Since the referendum to leave the EU in June of last year, many normally balanced individuals and organisations appear to have had their analytical capacities impaired by their feelings on the issue.

Emerging from the shadows: Taoiseach Leo Varadkar prepares to greet European Parliament Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt on his arrival at Government Buildings, Dublin, last week. Photo: PA

Full employment is more like a work of fiction, Leo 

The man who has had as much sway over the Irish economy as Paschal Donohoe and Michael Noonan over the past half decade spoke in Ireland for the first time last week. Mario Draghi, the president of the European Central Bank, has more influence over the interest rate on your mortgage than anyone else. During his time at the helm in Frankfurt, two Eurozone countries - Cyprus and Greece - have had their entire banking systems shuttered for weeks as a result of disputes with the institution he leads.

'The youth of today certainly enjoys more of some of the good things in life than the older generation — recreational sex and college educations, to name but two — but they were clobbered in the recession and are a long way from returning to the good times.'

Voice of disaffected youth won't stay silent forever 

The rich get richer and the poor get poorer. So goes the old saying. It is actually well wide of the mark, according to the taxman. A recent study by the Revenue Commissioners showed that almost four out of five people who were the lowest earners in 2005 had moved off the bottom rung of the ladder a decade later. Movement among the top tenth of earners was not as great, but still considerable - almost three out of five of those on the top rung in 2005 had slipped down by 2014.

Catherine Byrne, Minister of State for Health, chats with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar at the ‘Reducing Harm, Supporting Recovery’ Conference at Dublin Castle. Photo: Steve Humphreys

Leo's aspirations, Trump's tax, an EU comeback and hard borders... 

The slowing down of the news cycle around this time of year is often called the silly season. The media in high summer can sometimes be silly. But the break can also be an opportunity for mid-year stocktaking, and a chance to peer through the haze of events to see what is really important. As the summer wind-down kicks in and we enter the second half of the year, here are my five big takeaways from 2017 so far, and what they mean for the rest of the year and beyond.

Cliffs of Moher (Stock picture)

Our island nation isn't capitalising on the asset around us 

Ireland's entrepreneurial roots are short and shallow. Contrary to the story that we usually tell ourselves, and one that officialdom loves to spout, the history of Irish business successes is a slim volume. Things are certainly improving, but there are still too few home-grown, internationally competitive companies. An acknowledgement that too many young people aspire to the professions, rather than business, and that too many choose immigration over entrepreneurialism, would be a useful starting point in focusing more on the problem.