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Economic Boom (3:01) Excerpt from film "Mixed Blessings", July 2006
An economic boom has transformed Ireland into a prosperous nation.

Country: Ireland

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Guiding Questions
  1. What are two examples of Limerick's new prosperity?

  2. What indications of globalization do you notice in this clip?

  3. Why is Ireland's economic transformation called the "Celtic Tiger"?
Background Essay
Since joining the European Community in 1973, Ireland has been transformed from one of Europe's poorest countries to one of the world's richest countries. With many technology industries, a growing GDP, improved infrastructure and increased foreign investments, Ireland is enjoying a strong economic boom. Multinational technology companies such as Intel, Dell, Microsoft, Apple and Google all use Ireland as their gateway to Europe.

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 As a result of the economic transformation, self-sufficient towns with strong community ties have been replaced by cities, with their share of urban problems.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.

In ten years, the Irish workforce has grown by 50% - over half a million new jobs. Average economic growth of nearly 7% per year is faster than the U.S. and three times the European average.

Since joining the European Community in 1973 Ireland has been transformed from one of Europe's poorest countries to one of the world's richest countries today - the Celtic Tiger.

More than 20% of new U.S. foreign investment in Europe is now committed to Ireland. That's more than two times the U.S. investment flow to China and it is led by technology companies.

Intel has established its European base in Ireland. Jonathan Walsh is the General Manager for their Research and Development Facility in Shannon.

Well, I think this road here from Limerick out to Shannon is almost a microcosm of the Irish economy. I started working in the area in 1991 and it really was a very small country road twisting in and out of Bunratty village and there was traffic jams going into Shannon in the mornings, but now we've a terrific dual carriageway linking Shannon and Limerick and it makes the commute very easy in the mornings.

When I graduated from College in 1989, possibly two thirds of my class mates went abroad to work. Today the graduates leaving Irish colleges, some still go abroad to work but it's not because, for economic necessity, it's because they want to gain some experience or travel and adventure.

My day usually starts with some telephone calls to the teams in Malaysia and India and I spend most of the middle part of my day working with the team here in Ireland and then generally I will spend my evening on the telephone with my colleagues, particularly on the West Coast of the United States.

We are on the Western Seaboard of Europe and I think you'll find our work practices and work ethic blend and meld very easily with that of our colleagues in the U.S. I think it's one of the things that has made Ireland a very attractive place for many, many U.S. multi-nationals to do business.

Not only Intel but Dell, Microsoft, Apple and Google all use Ireland as their gateway to Europe. Ireland is now one of the world's biggest software exporters.

These technology giants have driven one of the most spectacular turnarounds in global economic history... and everyone here is talking about it.

Related Links
Mixed Blessing on PBS.org

CIA Factbook: Ireland

Economic and Social Research Institute

Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland

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