Thursday 20 September 2018

David McWilliams

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Front National president Marine Le Pen Photo: Chesnot/Getty Images

David McWilliams: Ireland's financial destiny is in the hands of angry French voters - this is what we must do if the euro breaks up 

This time last year, only a few of us were suggesting that Brexit was likely. The mainstream view was that it couldn't possibly happen. But it did. And so too did Trump. When this column argued in June that "we should prepare for President Trump", one or two local talk shows chuckled and sneered at the mere suggestion that such a creature could inhabit the White House. But he is there.

Love him or loathe him, former Ukip leader Nigel Farage has a remarkable political achievement under his belt (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

'Ireland may quit EU,' says Farage - and only a fool would dismiss him 

I love the word 'bedlam', meaning insane or totally out of control. It comes from the Royal St Mary Bethlehem Hospital in Bishopsgate, London. The Royal Bethlehem was an asylum dating back to the 15th century where poor creatures suffering from seizures and other afflictions were remanded to end their days roaring and screaming, packed away out of sight. Bethlehem was abbreviated to Bedlam and the word bedlam fell into common usage.

A boy holds a Union flag in front of a bonfire burning in the Shankill Road area of Belfast ahead of the Twelfth of July celebrations. The Twelfth is based on fantasies about past glories – but the new Irish GDP figures are equally fantastical. Photo: Reuters

New growth figure is ludicrous - but here's how to take advantage 

Usually, the fantasies indulged on July 12 in Ireland are played out up the road in the North. These are fantasies about past glories and are celebrated by the kind of people who the 20th century (let alone the 21st century) left behind. Rather than being a sign of confidence and strength, the Twelfth simply reinforces the political and economic cul de sac up which the unionists have waltzed. However, this year, fantasies were not limited to our separated brethren.

‘History tells us that one thing is clear: when you dilute the glue that bonds nations together, you do it at your peril’

DUP Brexit push may weaken UK - and sign party's death warrant 

I've just had a surreal moment in the Centra at Donegal Square, Belfast, right opposite the City Hall. Blaring on the radio was The Police's 'Invisible Sun'. The Polish shop assistant was oblivious, but think about it: this is a song penned in 1981 by Sting about the Hunger Strikers, the conflict in the North and the nihilism of the Troubles. Those dark days are very far from the sunny Belfast I am strolling around today. While it's no Dublin, the transformation is truly extraordinary. In the same way as Northerners, particularly unionists, should travel South more often to see that we don't bite, we...

Former Taoiseach Garret FitzGerald’s parents participated in the 1916 Rising. Photo: Chris Doyle

Battle for the positions of privilege lay at the heart of the Rising 

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly beautifully captures the essence of a certain type of south Dubliner. His type can be seen at the annual ritual that is the schools rugby match between the likes of Blackrock and Clongowes, bellowing from the side lines in Donnybrook, all sheepskin, hip flask and privilege. I know this type well because not only did I go to Blackrock but I even played in that very fixture many moons ago and found these sideline bores to be about the most obnoxious 'know-alls' inflicted on a poor schoolboy - who is terrified playing in front of thousands of his peers let alone their...

David McWilliams with Izzy Matushka, Chair of Trinity Global Development Society, and Annabel O’Rourke, Historical Society Correspondence Secretary, as he is honoured with the Gold Medal for Outstanding Contribution to Discourse through the Arts, in Trinity College Dublin. Photo: Arthur Carron

As the election looms it's worth looking at the real division - wealth 

A little while ago, I presented a programme on RTÉ called 'Ireland's Great Wealth Divide'. The aim of the documentary was to highlight the significant and persistent divide in wealth that exists in Ireland. The reason it is an important issue to highlight is that even when the economy recovers, the benefits will not be evenly - or even remotely evenly - spread and this wealth divide has significant, long-term ramifications for the health of the society.

Vice-President of the French far-right Front National (FN) party and candidate for the regional elections in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region, Marion Marechal Le Pen

ECB policy is playing a part in the rise of Le Pen's FN in France 

In Europe over the past few days, two seismic events have happened which are related but at first glance appear not to be. First, Mario Draghi, the Italian man who, as president of the ECB, controls your money, said that he would keep printing cash for as long at it takes to get prices in Europe to rise. In Europe, prices have been falling or rising very modestly. This is because the economy is weak, unemployment is high and debts are steep.

Accommodation should be a fixed cost, a cost faced by all of us, just like the cost of electricity. Photo is posed

Great expectations - the driving force behind latest property crisis 

Is it possible that we have got ourselves into the position where we have a housing crisis again, where those at the bottom and middle can't find a place to live and those moving from the middle upwards are locked into, yet again, bidding wars for homes where the speculator and the owner are pitted against each other? Could we be in the situation where investors and large foreign funds are sitting on land waiting for the prices to go up in order to make a killing, thus exacerbating the supply shortage? It's hard to believe - after everything we have been through - but it's true.

Ireland Park on the shores of Lake Ontario in Toronto, whose tragic famine figures depict the flight across the Atlantic

Canada is the north American friend of Ireland we sometimes overlook 

Perhaps the most haunting piece of sculpture in Ireland is the group of gaunt, skeletal famine figures on Dublin's docklands. They are simply walking, to somewhere, to a better place. Sculptor Rowan Gillespie has captured these desperate images of tortured souls, their defeated faces and sunken eyes. Gillespie was inspired by sketches drawn by charitable Quakers working in rural Cork during the winter of 1846. Years ago, when I first saw these ghoulish figures in the Docklands, I was immediately transported back to the desperate Ireland of our ancestors. Maybe that's what great...

Investors react as they look at computer screens showing stock information at a brokerage house in Fuyang, Anhui province, China, yesterday. Photo: Reuters

China's crisis could be the pin to pop the property bubble in Australia 

Last week for the first time the average house price in Sydney passed one million Aussie dollars. This is big news for us because the majority of the Irish people who have moved to Australia are employed in offshoots of the property industry. When property markets rise, there is an attendant rise in demand for almost everything. When credit fuels the property party, the demand for employment rises, so too do wages and the cost of living. Perhaps it's not surprising that friends in Australia have horror stories about the price of almost everything.

Gauchos participate in a horseback ride in Uruguay. There are an estimated 120,000 Irish Uruguayans in the country (REUTERS/Andres Stapff)

Floating fridges changed history - just as the internet is doing 

At first, it tasted a bit like pork. Some of them vomited at the idea but, after a few morsels - nearly freezing to death from hypothermia and driven demented by hunger after over a week without food - they sat on the side of the Andes and chewed on their dead friends in silence. Apparently, you could tell the ones who had eaten human flesh due to the ghastly greenish tinge on their faces. Cannibalism was not something the Christian Brothers of the Stella Maris College in Montevideo had prepared them for.