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Farmer's Dilemma (2:35) Excerpt from film "Mixed Blessings", July 2006
Farmers in Ireland are faced with new challenges amidst the country's economic boom.

Country: Ireland

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Guiding Questions
  1. How has the economic boom affected farming as an occupation?

  2. Why did membership in the E.U. impact the ability to make a profit?

  3. Predict what you think the future will hold for farmers in Ireland. Explain your reasoning.
Background Essay
Ireland was once predominately a farm country, but the occupation of the farmer has changed dramatically in the last few decades. Since Ireland joined Europe's Common Agricultural Policy, farmers have been able to benefit from a much broader market for their goods, but they also began to face greater competition and stringent EU regulations, making it harder to turn a profit. The economic boom and increased urbanization have also affected farming as an occupation, as the majority of Ireland's young people move away from farming to pursue other career options.

Modern Ireland is now one of the most prosperous nations in Europe, for several reasons: economic dependence on the UK has decreased, there is reverse immigration, and a global economy is expanding. Real estate prices are soaring, women are entering the workforce in record numbers, and droves of foreign workers, particularly from Eastern Europe, have come to Ireland hoping to find work. For once in its history, Ireland is prosperous, modern, and a country full of immigrants to the country, instead of emigrants away from it.

All this prosperity is not without its downside, however. As a result of the economic transformation, self-sufficient towns with strong community ties have been replaced by cities, with their share of urban problems. The increase of women in the workforce has also created a change in family structure - family size has decreased and there is a struggle to balance home and work responsibilities. Furthermore, the Catholic church is in jeopardy - gone are the days when the parish priest was revered and Catholic doctrine was central in both government policy and private life.

The city of Limerick, which is located on the River Shannon, is an example of the transformations happening in Ireland. Limerick was historically an agricultural area. Since the 1990s, Limerick's industries and its fortunes have turned - the city has prospered in an economic boom and many multinational companies such as Dell, Analog Devices, and Vistakon are now based in Limerick. These companies now employ thousands of people and contribute substantially to the Irish Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Some see this rapid economic development as a mixed blessing, because at the same time as Limerick becomes more prosperous, traditions and beliefs are also being threatened. People who fondly recall "the good old days" are concerned about the changes within their city and country.

This clip is taken from an episode of WIDE ANGLE called MIXED BLESSINGS. In this film, many aspects of Limerick's transformation are explored. These include economic development, increased immigration and decreased emigration, urbanization, agricultural problems, real estate bubbles, working women, and secularization.

Most employment in Ireland now is in urban areas. A third of Ireland's population lives in the greater Dublin area. Famously, Ireland was once a farming country. A people in tune with their land, which traditionally passed from generation to generation. Ruaidhri Deasy is a farmer with a very modern Irish dilemma.

In joining Europe's Common Agricultural Policy, Ireland's farmers gained access to an expanded marketplace, but also began to face greater competition and stringent EU regulations, making it harder to turn a profit.

I think farmers the world over have an awful lot in common. The only thing that we are unique and we're very, very attached because of history to our land. I decided agriculture was going to be my life and that farming, my father was a farmer but obviously being a second son there was no — The elder son inherited the farm so I had to make my own way. So I started off as a farm manager, we bought this place, but having bought it we had to borrow as much money as we had as well and then I wasn't left with much, shall we say, working capital. But that's how we got going and bit by bit then we began to develop. I've been in debt most of my life and I still am in debt but having said that it doesn't tell the whole story. We have educated our children, we have six children and the eldest is a solicitor, the next lad is an engineer, the next lad is a teacher...

Modern Irish education is training professionals for the new economy. Farmer Deasy got his shearing lessons at home.

R. DEASY (subtitled)
My father taught me when I was a youngster, about 12 or 13. And I passed on the tradition, if you like, to my own sons.

The returns from farming on this farm now have gone down over the past few years so therefore it's not as attractive and at the same time the Celtic Tiger has roared in Ireland. The children have education and there's a huge opportunity for them out there, so I'm not going to stop them.

Related Links
Mixed Blessing on PBS.org

CIA Factbook: Ireland

Economic and Social Research Institute

Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland

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