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News about the Irish & Irish American culture, music, news, sports. This is hosted by the Irish Aires radio show on KPFT-FM 90.1 in Houston, Texas (a Pacifica community radio station)
November 10, 2004
News 11/10/04 - Children Scarred By the Holy Cross Dispute
News about Ireland & the Irish
SM 11/10/04 Children Scarred By The Holy Cross School Dispute
IN 11/10/04 Stabbing & Bombs Highlight Rise Of Racism In Ulster
IT 11/11/04 Highest Number Of Racist Incidents Reported
IT 11/11/04 Waterford's Border Issue Still Alive
BB 11/10/04 Irish President Awaits Ceremony
GU 11/10/04 Decision Due On Hill Of Tara Motorway
IH 11/10/04 Once Poor Ireland Among Priciest In EU
Children Scarred By The Holy Cross School Dispute
By Dan McGinn, PA Ireland Political Editor
Some children caught in the bitter Holy Cross school dispute in
north Belfast still suffer nightmares that gunmen are coming to
kill them, a book reveals today.
Journalist Anne Cadwallader's Holy Cross – The Untold Story claims
one girl as young as four ended up on tranquillisers as a result of
the trauma of walking past a loyalist picket on her way to primary
Boys in the area also suffered during the protest while their
sisters ran the gauntlet of vicious sectarian abuse in the Glenbryn
and Ardoyne sectarian interface.
While the trauma of the Holy Cross schoolgirls has been focussed on
during and since the 2001 dispute, the principal of a boys school
admits: "We felt a little isolated.
"Our boys were suffering and some of their parents were going
through what I can only describe as nervous breakdowns.
"They were being attacked and threatened in their homes and some
were made homeless.
"Boys were not able to play normally; they had trouble sleeping;
some were wetting the bed because of fears their parents would be
"Some worried that the loyalists were going to come and burn the
The book, which will be launched in Belfast today, also has
interviews with some of the schoolgirls at the centre of the
Loyalists from the Glenbryn area picketed the school because they
said they were being harassed by nationalists whose children were
pupils at Holy Cross.
However this version of events is hotly disputed by the parents.
Parents say they, their children and Catholic priests were
subjected to vicious sectarian abuse, had bags of urine and other
missiles thrown at them and also pornographic material.
This is disputed by the protesters.
A girl, who was six at the time of the protest, reveals the extent
of trauma she suffered.
She says: "I couldn't go to bed at night.
"I used to have really bad dreams about men coming with masks on
and big guns and hurting my mummy and daddy. I used to cry and all
in my sleep."
Another girl, who was eight, confesses: "When I was in bed I used
to have these dreams that they were rapping on the window and that
they were going to kill me.
"I have a back room and I keep on thinking they are coming down the
entry when my mummy and daddy are asleep coming to get me. I
sometimes still get dreams like that."
Ms Cadwallader, the Northern Ireland correspondent for the Dublin-
based Independent Network News radio service, has also interviewed
loyalist protesters, who tell their version of events as well as
that of the Catholic families.
The author focusses initially on events which led to the 12-week
loyalist protest and also on the dispute itself.
The book also concentrates on the impact of the protest on
teachers, local Catholic priests and Protestant ministers as well
as the response of the police, journalists and politicians.
It reveals some parents were furious that Sinn Fein's Martin
McGuinness would not walk with the children past the loyalist
picket as Education Minister in the power sharing executive.
However parents also acknowledge the Mid Ulster MP was right not to
take part, in case it inflamed the situation.
Loyalists also tell the author of their frustration that promises
from politicians in the wake of the dispute about improving their
area were not fulfilled.
Some also question the way the protest was conducted but express
their frustration at the way it was presented in the media.
Holy Cross the Untold Story by Anne Cadwallader is published by
Brehon Press, priced £7.99.
Stabbing And Petrol Bombs Highlight Rise Of Racism In Ulster
By David McKittrick, Ireland Correspondent
11 November 2004
Extra police are patrolling in Northern Ireland in an attempt to
stem a tide of racist attacks on immigrants after more violence on
Latvians and Filipinos.
On Tuesday night, a gang attacked three Latvian men in their 20s
walking in a park in the town of Lurgan, Co Armagh. Police say they
may have been assaulted because they are immigrants. One man was
stabbed in an arm, and the other two were kicked and beaten.
Jonathan Bell, a Democratic Unionist councillor, said the men were
migrant workers working for him. "The overwhelming majority of
people in my constituency are sickened by this," he said
Police say 38 attacks have been reported in the area since last
April. Some are believed to be the work of loyalist paramilitary
elements. Unconfirmed reports say the motivation for some of the
attacks may be financial, with loyalists demanding "protection
money" from workers, landlords or employers. Members of the
substantial Portuguese community in Co Armagh have also been
targeted, with individuals assaulted and homes petrol-bombed.
Police are also investigating incidents in north Belfast on Tuesday
when three houses and two cars belonging to Filipino families were
daubed with swastikas and racist slogans including "Chinks out".
One victim, a nurse who has worked in Belfast since 2001, said: "We
have lived here for three years and get on well with all our
neighbours. We are here as nurses trying to help people, but
someone wants to attack us because of the colour of our skin."
Complaints have also been made against a south Belfast bar whose
bouncers dressed as the Ku Klux Klan on Hallowe'en night. There
have been many racist attacks in the area. A spokesman for the bar
said no complaints were made to them and people of different races
and sexes who worked at the bar "took it as a lot of fun".
A south Belfast estate agent said internal documents on properties
contain notes such as "No Chinese" and "Not suitable for Chinese or
Black community". Mary Lloyd, manager of the Homefinders estate
agency, said she wished to avoid exposing these people to risks of
intimidation and violence.
She added: "In the past 12 months, there have been six instances
when tenants of certain ethnic origins were forced to move out of
their homes as a result of harassment and intimidation. In one
case, the tenants were seriously injured. Although undesirable, it
appears to be the only practical way of dealing with this
Other estate agents in the area are said to be adopting a similar
practice. The Lord Mayor of Belfast, Tom Ekin, said the estate
agents were giving in to racism. He said: "We are trying to build a
united community in Belfast and there should be no place for this
racism. People have a right to live where they want. Cities which
maintain that insularity and division do not prosper."
Two weeks ago, 2,000 people turned out in Belfast for an anti-
racist rally addressed by representatives of the Chinese, Muslim
and gay communities. Steven Alexander of the Anti-racism Network
said: "Everyone in authority needs to take action and the police
need to catch and prosecute those behind racist attacks."
Highest Number Of Racist Incidents Reported
Some 70 racist incidents were reported to the National
Consultative Committee on Racism and Interculturalism (NCCRI)
between May and October of this year, compared with 42 incidents
for the previous six months and 46 incidents in the corresponding
period last year.
The six-monthly reports were first logged in May 2001, when 41
incidents were reported.
However, the Minister for Justice, Mr McDowell, pointed out that
these figures did not solely refer to racist assaults. They
included episodes of discrimination and other non-violent
The Minister was speaking after it emerged that the number of
racist incidents reported between May and October this year was the
highest since records were first collated.
He "rejected entirely" the notion that it was open season for
racism and said Garda figures showed the opposite was the case.
From January to November 8th this year 42 crimes with a racist
motive were reported by the Garda, compared with 69 for 2003 and
102 for 2002.
Mr McDowell was speaking in Dublin at the launch of the NCCRI's
three-year progress report and strategic plan.
The NCCRI is an expert body set up by the Government to give advice
and develop initiatives to fight racism.
The immigrant support group, Residents Against Racism, protested
outside the event, calling on the Government to stop deporting
children with Irish citizenship.
Ms Rosanna Flynn, spokeswoman for the group, said it was no
coincidence that the increase in racist incidents came at the same
time as the referendum on citizenship.
Mr McDowell said that while it was not good to be complacent, the
incidence of racism in the Republic was lower than in many other
Pointing to a recent rise in racist attacks in Northern Ireland, he
said that had not happened "to the extent that one feared" in this
Neither had we experienced the emergence of "far right" xenophobic
political parties, unlike many other countries in Europe.
Mr McDowell said it was crucial that the Garda became
representative of the new diverse Republic so that there was not a
situation where one community was policing another.
Meanwhile, Ms Karima Zahi, who works with the Northern Ireland
Council for Ethnic Minorities, said she found the recent rise in
Islamophobic sentiment "extremely alarming". She said she fully
accepted that there had been a regression in the fight against
Mr McDowell said it was "a terrible thing " if the terrorism issue
was used as a mask for racist and xenophobic actions against a
section of society.
Ms Zahi also highlighted the recent rise in racist incidents in
Northern Ireland and said they had almost become a daily
"No area in the North has been spared by this alarming phenomenon,"
she said, pointing out that 90 per cent of nurses from India and
the Philippines who worked in Belfast had experienced a racist
© The Irish Times
Waterford's Border Issue Still Alive
Lopsided development has hampered Waterford's attempts to show
off its best assets that front onto the River Suir, writes Frank
Waterford is like "a bird with one wing", as the city council's
senior planner John Andrews puts it - the entire city centre and
most of the suburbs are located on the south bank of the River
Suir, behind what was once described as "the noblest quay in
Like Limerick, Waterford is constrained by an artificial boundary,
which takes in barely more than a sliver of the Suir's north bank
and even bisects the Ard Rí Hotel, that eight-storey slab that was
plonked on Sion Hill in the late 1960s. Not far beyond the church
in Ferrybank, is Co Kilkenny.
The rapidly-developing suburb of Abbeylands, less than two miles
from the centre, is in the "Waterford Environs", and is
administered by Kilkenny County Council's rural-based Pilltown area
committee. "Welcome to County Kilkenny - Twinned with
Leicestershire", says the big sign on the N25 as you approach the
A 1999 move by the city council to extend the boundary into Co
Kilkenny received cross-party support, but ran into unanimous
opposition from Kilkenny County Council.
The Kilkenny TD Mr Liam Aylward, of Fianna Fáil, said it would be a
"foolish Minister" who would try to implement it in the absence of
Though there are good relations between the two authorities,
Waterford City Council has appealed against Kilkenny's decision to
approve a major shopping centre at Abbeylands. As custodian of
Waterford, the council fears this scheme would undermine its role
as the south-east region's retail core.
The developers, Deerlands Ltd, had lobbied for the site to be zoned
as a district centre, rather than merely a neighbourhood one, and
Kilkenny County Council duly obliged. Ironically, it was sold to
Deerlands by the city council, which now sees the plan to develop
it as a "mini-Quarryvale" in the making.
Hundreds of houses have already been built in Abbeylands - and at
eight or 10 dwellings per acre, it's as if the 1999 Residential
Density Guidelines didn't exist. Altogether, permission has been
granted for 1,200-1,400 houses in the area, even though the road
off which many of them are built is inadequate.
Both Waterford City Council and Kilkenny County Council subscribed
to a 1998 strategic framework plan for the city's expansion on the
north bank of the Suir and also to the recently-adopted Waterford
Planning, Land Use and Transportation Study, which endorses this
PLUTS, as it is known, was drawn up in the context of Waterford's
designation as a "gateway" under the National Spatial Strategy.
Significantly larger than any other urban area in the south-east,
it is the region's natural capital - and the city council is
determined to keep it that way.
Four years ago, when Prof John FitzGerald of the ESRI queried why
Galway was "the Irish success" in terms of growth and Waterford was
"the failure", the former city manager Eddie Breen said that
continued growth "will make us the new Galway" - though that would
not necessarily be a good thing.
A survey at the time found that average incomes in the south-east
were 79 per cent of the national average, unemployment was
marginally higher and only 24 per cent of the city's population had
a third-level qualification, compared to 42 per cent in Galway. A
quarter was also classified as deprived.
Under the Government's decentralisation programme, Waterford is
slated to get 200 employees of the Department of the Environment
even though its headquarters would be located in Wexford; a key
figure in this divvy-up was local Fianna Fáil TD, Martin Cullen,
its political boss at the time.
The existing Government office block at the head of Bridge Street,
a previously nondescript 1980s building, has been transformed into
a colourful flagship of Merrion Street's rule by Kilkenny
architects O'Donnell Dalton. But it couldn't accommodate 200 more
staff, so another block will be needed.
Waterford's largest office building, which rises to seven storeys
at the edge of People's Park, is called Maritana Gate after the
19th century light opera; it is also prominently located at one of
the entrances to a city which hosts an international light opera
festival annually at its very fine Theatre Royal.
What makes Waterford unique, however, is the survival of so much of
its medieval fortifications. Reginald's Tower, on the corner of the
quay, is the largest and best known of six mural towers. Extensive
lengths of the city walls are still upstanding, even if they only
mark the boundaries of modern gardens.
The current city plan, adopted in 2002, says the towers and walls
"represent an outstanding legacy of the city's history...a unique
resource for residents and visitors alike". Yet Waterford is
underperforming in attracting tourists; as PLUTS conceded, it is
seen as a "pass-through" point rather than a destination.
That's one of the reasons why Michael Brennan and Brendan McCann,
two lecturers at Waterford Institute of Technology, have objected
to some of the developments being planned for the city -
particularly if there is any encroachment on the walls, which they
believe should be developed as a tourist trail.
Last August, they were attacked by two local developers, John Brady
and George Wadding, who described the two lecturers as "serial
objectors" who had continually sought to disrupt and delay
important developments that are vital to securing the economic
stability of Waterford and its environs.
Apart from appealing against two schemes for O'Connell Street in
which they are involved, Mr Brennan and Mr McCann had also held up
a major development at Railway Square - site of the old Tramore
line's terminus - where a mixed use scheme of apartments, offices,
retail units and cineplex is being built.
Standing on the nearby bridge over St John's River, Brendan McCann
pointed out that the construction of this complex would obliterate
an important view of three of the city's towers - the French Tower,
the Double Tower and the Watch Tower - and sections of upstanding
medieval wall between them.
As a result of their appeal, An Bord Pleanála effectively ordered a
re-design, mainly to improve the amenities of residents of the 100-
plus apartments and to make provision for a riverside walkway; this
will hopefully be more useful than the flimsy efforts made by two
other developers in the vicinity.
"We're not professional objectors," Michael Brennan insists. "What
we're concerned about are the missed opportunities to get things
Brendan McCann, who is a member of the Green Party, says: "It's the
context that is being lost. People may look at all this quite
differently in 50 years' time."
Waterford has seen at least 400 apartments built, most successfully
around Scotch Quay. But many of the schemes, particularly those
being packed into narrow streets east of the Franciscan church,
just about meet minimum standards. "No families could live in
them," according to Michael Brennan.
Where the city scores is in the quality of its paving and street
furniture. John Roberts Square, named after the architect who
designed Waterford's two cathedrals in the late 18th century, is
paved in small stone setts with limestone water channels and
polished stone benches around a French-style fountain.
Barrowstrand Street, outside the Catholic cathedral, has received
similar high-quality treatment and this is now being extended along
the quay, around its Victorian Gothic Clock Tower. The next phase
will be Broad Street, one of the main shopping areas, which has a
genuinely indigenous character. A millennium plaza, named after
light opera composer William Vincent Wallace, has been installed on
the site of Purcell's cattle sheds on the South Quay; its tented
structure provides a bandstand, though the area is mostly used by
skateboarders. Nearby is a new marina with moorings for visiting
Other significant projects include the award- winning Waterford City
Museum,housed in a gable-fronted granary on the quay, and the new
Library by Dublin architects McCullough Mulvin, which has also won
awards. The equestrian statue of Thomas Francis Meagher on The Mall
manages to look medieval.
Major employers include Waterford Glass (though its star is no
longer ascendant), Bausch, Lomb, Hasbro and Honeywell. The latter
three are based in Waterford Industrial Estate, which has also
recently acquired Genzyne, a bio-tech company from Boston, housed
in a strikingly large metal clad building.
At nearby WIT, the new library by Andrej Wejchert + Partners
provides a good frontage along the Cork road and will be augmented
by new buildings for nursing education and tourism studies. There
are also proposals to establish a University of the South-East on a
new campus to the west. Many better-paid employees live in new
housing estates behind well-built stone walls on the Dunmore Road,
each more "exclusive" than the last. However, the number of people
living in the city went up by less than 5 per cent to 44,564 in
2002, with a further 55,000-plus in its hinterland.
Waterford is now looking to develop the North Quays, extending
eastwards from Rice Bridge, where the wharves have been redundant
since the port relocated downriver to Belview in 1993. The 18-acre
site is to go on the market shortly, now that legal problems with
Iarnród Éireann are resolved.
The potential of the North Quays was recognised in 1998 when the
Office of Public Works, where Martin Cullen was in charge, drew up
a "development vision" for the area and subsequently organised an
international architectural and urban design competition which
attracted 99 entries from 23 countries.
The competition was won by London-based IDOM UK for proposing "a
deliberate, calm and refined piece of urban structure". It would
incorporate a landmark venue building as well as apartment and
office blocks along the quay front complementing Waterford's scale,
with higher buildings to the rear.
However, just like Cork and its docklands, there must be some doubt
about whether the city will gain sufficient "critical mass" to
sustain such an ambitious development programme, even over a 20-
And if the North Quays need a level of "imported demand", where is
this going to come from?
Waterford is gearing up to host the Tall Ships Race in July 2005 -
an event that local architect Anne Harpur believes will "re-awaken
interest in the river" and focus attention on its quays, which she
describes as "the essential Waterford". She also welcomes the fact
that "fresh ideas are coming into the city".
Six years ago, Anne Harpur was involved in a campaign to prevent
Bus Éireann building a new bus station on the south quays.
And while the completed project is less obtrusive than she feared,
the real danger was that the quays were zoned commercial then and
"anything could have been built there".
The current city plan acknowledges that the quays "form a major
element in the urban structure", and says few cities "can boast the
retention of such a magnificent length of city centre waterfront"
while it pledges to "preserve and protect" its qualities. But what
are these qualities, as the quays stand today?
Most of the strip between the road and the river is owned by
Waterford Port and functions as a surface car-park, with a capacity
of 500 cars, lined by crude railings more appropriate to sheep
pens. With the cars removed and the railings replaced, it could
become a linear amenity space as in Dublin's Docklands.
© The Irish Times
Irish President Awaits Ceremony
Mary McAleese is to be inaugurated as Irish president for the
second time at a ceremony in Dublin Castle.
Taoiseach Bertie Ahern will be among 700 guests at the event which
will consist of an inter-faith service and a civil declaration.
Mrs McAleese, 53, from Belfast, was returned to the post for a
further seven years last month.
Her nomination was unopposed after her potential rival, Dana
Rosemary Scallon, failed to get enough support.
The Eurovision winner and former MEP failed to get the support of
either four councils or the signatures of 20 Tds and senators.
Mrs McAleese had nominated herself for a second term which, under
the Republic of Ireland's constitution, a sitting president can do.
The former head of the law faculty at Queen's University was first
elected in 1997 as the eighth president of Ireland - and the first
from Northern Ireland.
She had the support of both Fianna Fail and the Progressive
Democrats when she first ran for office.
Mr Ahern welcomed her second term saying that she had given
"outstanding and unique service to the Irish people" during the
past seven years.
He said that her re-election was in the best interests of Ireland,
praising her "great charisma, strong intellect and exceptional
Unionists in Northern Ireland said they would like to see Mrs
McAleese continuing her outreach work to their community now she
will embark on a second term.
On Thursday, the president will travel to Dublin Castle in the
traditional Rolls Royce accompanied by motorbikes drawn from 2nd
She has invited a number of community and voluntary group
representatives from throughout Ireland as her own personal guests.
The inauguration will also be witnessed by 700 school-children from
both primary and secondary levels, representing each county in
Ireland, north and south.
Later, the president will be guest of honour at a reception for
over 2,000 guests in Dublin Castle hosted by the Irish government
to celebrate her inauguration.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2004/11/11 03:00:56 GMT
© BBC MMIV
Decision Due On Hill Of Tara Motorway
Archaeologists say 'heart and soul of Ireland' is threatened
Angelique Chrisafis, Ireland correspondent
Thursday November 11, 2004
It is Ireland's most sacred stretch of earth and one of the most
important ancient landscapes in Europe. The Hill of Tara, with its
passage tomb, earthworks and prehistorical burial mounds, is the
mythical and ceremonial capital of Ireland, dating back 4,000
But now the landscape in county Meath, north- west of Dublin, is the
subject of a campaign to save it from what one archaeologist has
called the "worst case of state-sponsored vandalism ever inflicted
on Irish cultural heritage".
More than 50 senior academics have joined a protest against state
plans to build a four-lane motorway through the valley and create a
10-hectare (25-acre) floodlit motorway exchange half a mile from
the hill itself, slicing through what historians say is a
hinterland of settlements and burial grounds.
St Patrick is said to have converted the Irish to Christianity here
and in 1843 Daniel O'Connell addressed a gathering of 1 million in
his campaign for an Irish parliament.
A pagan sanctuary which became the centre of Irish kingship, Tara
served as an icon of nationalism and a symbolic battleground in the
1798 rebellion. In the late 19th century, when a group calling
themselves the British-Israelites decided to excavate Tara,
convinced that the ark of the covenant was buried there, outraged
protesters included the poet WB Yeats.
The motorway is designed to ease the traffic horror of towns along
the Meath corridor, which have become dormitory settlements for
people working in post-Celtic Tiger Dublin. Those who cannot afford
the house prices in the capital are moving further and further
Meath residents are painfully aware of the need for a solution to
their traffic problems; in rush hour it takes two and a half hours
to travel a stretch of road that can be covered in 30 minutes in
the dead of night.
On a good day you can see half the counties of Ireland from the
Hill of Tara. It is not its beauty that drives campaigners, but its
archaeological and historical importance as the "heart and soul of
Ireland" and one of the few prehistoric landscapes in Europe that
is still intact.
They are demanding soul-searching about Ireland's apparent lack of
respect for its history now that it has become wealthy.
The motorway plans have been passed by Ireland's planning board,
despite the campaign by archaeologists and local groups, and are
now sitting on the desk of the new environment minister, Dick
Roche, who has the power to say yes or no. A decision is imminent.
As the campaign enters its final stage the Irish actor Stuart
Townsend and his Oscar-winning girlfriend, Charlize Theron, have
voiced their support.
Dozens of academics from Ireland and abroad have written of their
concerns in the Dublin-based Sunday Tribune. Dennis Harding of the
archaeology department at Edinburgh University called the plans "an
act of cultural vandalism as flagrant as ripping a knife through a
Archaeologists who have researched Tara say the nine-mile stretch
of the new M3 motorway will mean the excavation of at least 28
sites and monuments in the road's corridor. But these, they say,
will be "ultimately destroyed".
They expect many more sites to be affected, with 48 archaeological
zones within 500 metres of the road corridor and around one site
every 300 metres along the road itself.
Conor Newman of the archaeology department at the National
University of Ireland, Galway, is the director of a state-funded
archeological research programme at the Hill of Tara.
"They are knowingly putting this four-lane motorway through the
middle of what is actually a relatively compact but uniquely
important archaeological landscape," he said.
"I don't mean landscape in an aesthetic sense, I mean landscape in
an archaeological and historical sense. They are doing it willingly
when they could have come up with alternative ideas."
He said archaeologists had not been listened to.
What puzzles many international archaeologists is why Ireland has
chosen this motorway route at a time when British authorities are
spending hundreds of millions of pounds trying to undo past
mistakes at Stonehenge. There they are grassing over one road and
burying another in a tunnel to remove traffic from the surroundings
of the ancient monument.
Edel Bhreathnach, a medieval historian at University College
Dublin, and editor of a forthcoming book on kingship and the
landscape of Tara, said if the government approved the motorway it
would be "the decision of a people who no longer understand their
The road authorities have already dug test trenches along the
corridor of the motorway, identifying 28 sites which they could
excavate before building.
Dr Bhreathnach said she was unhappy about hurried excavations. "You
should only excavate as part of a research project," she said.
Julitta Clancy of Meath Archaeological and Historical society said
her family suffered horribly from the traffic congestion, with her
student daughter having to take out a loan to live in Dublin as she
could not commute to college.
"We desperately need a traffic solution here in Meath, but we just
want it rerouted away from a sensitive landscape," she said.
Once Poor Ireland Among Priciest In EU
By Brian Lavery The New York Times
Thursday, November 11, 2004
DUBLIN Most people in Ireland realized it a while ago, and the
government has finally acknowledged it: Along with insufferable
traffic jams and longer working hours, the Celtic Tiger boom of the
1990s left Ireland saddled with some of the highest prices in
Inflation began climbing in 1998 and reached a peak of 7 percent in
2000, as the economy experienced double-digit growth. Now,
officials in the Department of Finance proudly point to figures
like those published last week, showing that inflation has fallen
to a respectable 2.5 percent in the last year.
But a recent report by a government-run research organization, the
National Competitiveness Council, found that Ireland is just behind
Finland as the most expensive country in the euro zone, and that
only Denmark, which does not use the euro, is more expensive.
The change has been across the board, from groceries and clothing
to services and utilities, and the price increases have caused a
gradual series of social, as well as economic, effects.
Housing prices are still rising quickly - up 14 percent in 2003,
according to the Irish mortgage lender Irish Life & Permanent.
Those high prices prevent young people from settling down in their
own cities or cripple them with huge amounts of debt. By September,
the rate of growth in housing prices had moderated slightly. But
houses still averaged Â252,431, or $328,160, nationwide and
Â330,603 in Dublin.
Young couples furnishing new homes fly to Scotland on Ryanair, the
low-budget airline, to shop at Ikea, as zoning laws prevent the
Swedish furniture giant from opening its warehouses in Ireland.
Travel agents say they book hundreds of Christmas shoppers each
weekend on trips to New York and England.
And consumers can be heard complaining about the spiraling prices
just about everywhere.
"You're spending Â60, where you used to spend Â50 for the same
amount of stuff," said Brian Payne, a 40- year-old bookkeeper
carrying two bags of groceries outside a Tesco supermarket in a
central Dublin shopping mall.
When he bought a television recently, Payne said he sought out a
discount electronics outlet because regular stores were too
expensive, and still he bought a generic model. "I used to be able
to get the name brand," he said.
And now that a pint of Guinness costs Â3.70 and lagers like
Heineken or Budweiser nearly Â5, the Irish go out a lot less, and
keg sales have fallen more than 5 percent in the last year,
according to the Irish Brewers' Association. From 2000 to last
year, the price of a pint rose 20 percent and has edged up further
since. Beamish stout, Guinness' bitter rival, increased its sales
by 140,000 pints last quarter when it promised to delay a price
increase until next year, the company said.
The tourism industry, long a mainstay of the Irish economy, saw the
warning signs first, due to feedback from international visitors,
and the government cabinet minister for tourism has issued several
stern warnings to hotels and restaurants that they would eventually
price themselves out of the market. In a survey last year, 13
percent of visiting North Americans told the state agency Tourism
Ireland that they were dissatisfied with "value for money" on an
Irish vacation, up from 4 percent in 2001.
"Consumers are definitely reacting," said Jim Power, chief
economist of Friends First Asset Management in Dublin. Retail
sales, which rose 11 percent in 2001, have slowed to around 2
percent growth this year, he said.
Most analysts say that Ireland's period of runaway inflation was
the result of some short-sighted government spending and some
inevitable fiscal changes at the introduction of the euro, like
rapid exchange rate fluctuations and ceding control of interest
rates to the European Central Bank. But the analysts, unlike
consumers, do not see high prices today as a problem.
Inflation is a "natural element" of Ireland's rapid economic
growth, according to Austin Hughes, economist at the mortgage
lender IIB Bank.
"It's a consequence rather than a leading indicator," he said. And
given the benefits of Ireland's economic growth in the last decade,
he added, "it's probably a cost that we're willing to pay."
Businesses are also feeling the impact: Energy costs are up more
than 20 percent since 2000, and rents for retailers have almost
doubled. But service sector companies keep margins high by passing
price increases on to customers, according to David Croughan, chief
economist at the employers' lobby group IBEC.
Manufacturers, which are more affected by international
competition, lack the ability to pass on rising costs, and prices
for their goods have recently declined to around 1999 levels. But
manufacturers are still enjoying an overall drop in labor costs
resulting from productivity increases from long before the boom
began, and to recent downsizing.
Ireland was "almost super-competitive" in 1999 when the euro came
into effect, Croughan said.
Ireland remains at nearly full employment, and wages have kept pace
- rising 37.1 percent before tax from 1998 to 2003, and 12.1
percent in real terms that account for inflation. So, basic
necessities have not been put out of reach. The Competitiveness
Council survey found that gross average pay is now Â38,140 in
Ireland, compared with Â35,750 in Britain and Â40,470 in the United
That has not stopped people from feeling cheated when they see
price tags creeping upward every month.
"You have to work to a budget now," said Karen Reilly, 23, a
trainee beautician, while buying clothes for her children in shops
already glittering with Christmas decorations. She said was
conscious of spending more on household bills as well as retail
Payne, the bookkeeper, said that he was considering moving to
another country because prices, particularly for houses, are high
enough to make him more skeptical about life here.
"I used to be the kind of person who loved Ireland," he said.