The Irish Finance Minister admitted a couple of weeks ago that he cannot make any big decisions about the Irish economy until after the German elections in September.
For hundreds of years, Ireland struggled to rid itself of English control only to now find itself under German domination. How did this happen?
In 1957, six western European nations signed the Treaty of Rome, establishing the EEC (European Economic Community, now the European Union). In 1971, Britain negotiated entry into the EC, along with the Irish Republic and Denmark. Ireland was so closely tied to the UK that it had no real choice in the matter. Besides, closer ties with other European countries held out the hope of reducing the economic dependency on England.
Between 1995 and 2008, the Irish economy grew so fast it was known as the Celtic Tiger. The Irish people were enthused about their new-found wealth and status within Europe.
In 2002, Ireland was in at the birth of the EU’s currency, the euro, which is now the currency of 17 of the, today, 28-member nations of the EU. With 920 billion euros in circulation (notes and coins), the euro surpassed the dollar earlier this year as the world’s most used currency.
In 2008, Ireland ceased to be the Celtic Tiger with the crash in the global economy. Along with a number of other EU countries, Ireland has had serious fiscal problems and is following a path of austerity agreed to with the “Troika” (the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank). In effect, Germany, the dominant economy of the European Union, is behind the austerity imposed on Ireland, Greece, Spain and Portugal. Because these nations do not have their own national currencies, they have no choice but to follow the dictates imposed upon them. The result is a great deal of unemployment and severe cuts in government spending, which are predicted to continue for the next twenty years.
Further decisions on austerity plans must await the German elections.
What is surprising is that, in Ireland, there is a greater acceptance of this situation than in the other countries struggling with austerity. Irishmen remain committed Europeans.
They do not seem unduly concerned at their loss of sovereignty and see little future without the EU. They are a part of what has been called “German Europe”, a distant outpost maybe, but very much a part of the German dominated eurozone that is coming together in Europe.
Could Scotland find itself in the same situation if it also breaks away from London a year from now? A switch to the euro would likely follow independence, with increased dependency on German Europe.