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Beyond the Bailout, Ireland Remains a Land Without Hope

Yes, Ireland is the poster child of neoliberalism and our technical exit from the bailout is lauded in Frankfurt and New York. But we have not fixed our underlying problems, which include a deluded political class, a dysfunctional public sector and the long-term social damage caused by the sheer inequity of citizens bailing out bank shareholders and bondholders to the tune of €26,000 per working person, the most expensive bank bailout in history. 10% of the population now lives in food poverty, and this in a country once decimated by famine.

True, the Irish didn't riot. Not because of some misguided 'patriotism', but because we're dazed, confused and our spirit is broken.

Ireland's National Debt, as at 15 December, 2013. Courtesy Finance Dublin
Making taxpayers cover the gambling losses incurred by bank speculators was the single most disastrous decision in Irish history and until that decision is reversed, Ireland has no hope of genuine recovery. To understand the shocking reality of Ireland today, just take a look at the national debt clock. At time of writing, Ireland's national debt stands at €174 billion, up from €65 billion in June 2009. (View the live debt clock here.) The debt is equal to 104% of GDP or, for a more accurate reading after funds funnelled through Ireland's paltry corporation tax regime by the likes of Microsoft and Google are stripped out, 128% of GDP. And the clock ticks inexorably upward.

Until this debt stops spiralling out of control, saddling future generations with so much debt that they will simply leave the country once they can afford the plane fare, Ireland has no hope. Repeat, no hope. And this is coming from an optimist.

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