How the Ship of Fools was ship-wrecked – the Irish crisis and response

Stewart Smyth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


For a decade and half the Irish economy was the poster-boy of Europe. With substantial growth rates, an open economy, flexible labour markets and low levels of taxation, Ireland was seen as evidence of the success of neoliberal policies. Yet in the matter of a few short years Ireland has turned into one of the peripheral black-holes (along with Greece and Portugal) that are threatening to bring down the whole Eurozone project. Given this context the paper will address two key questions. Firstly how did the much eulogised Celtic Tiger fall so far and so fast? And, secondly, what has been the government’s response to the fall and crash of the Irish economy? These two questions will be addressed through both a general historical analysis of the developments of Irish society up to the crash in 2008 and then the responses to it. Secondly by an analysis of two specific elements of that development; namely the much discussed low corporation tax rate and the failure of social housing to deliver decent affordable homes for those at the bottom of society. The third element is a review of the banking and sovereign debt crisis that led to the IMF/EU deal in November 2010 and a brief outlining of its implications for public finances, especially the question of default. The paper concludes by placing the Irish crisis in a global context.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Finance and Management in Public Services
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • Ireland
  • Celtic Tiger
  • Banks
  • Public services


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