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Workers once again flee Ireland

After two decades of population growth, economic despair forces Irish to emigrate.

Irish Times economics editor Dan O’Brien, writing under the headline, “The Export of our Children Makes a Return,” lamented that “after two decades of population growth, Ireland’s long-term pattern of decline (in population) looks set to return.” He pointed out that among the 27 European Union member countries, Ireland has the highest rate of outward emigration, the lowest death rate and the highest birth rate, but that the surge in emigration comes close to overwhelming the other two factors.

Today Ireland is still the second richest country per capita in the EU after Luxembourg, but it is saddled with massive debt due to reckless lending by banks, which are now being propped up at huge expense by the taxpayer. Building work had dried up and businesses are unable to expand, or even stay viable, because of the banks’ inability to provide capital. The government has so far spent 33 billion euros ($44 billion), or 20 percent of its gross domestic product, rescuing the banks, with the disastrously managed Anglo Irish Bank the chief beneficiary. The Government’s National Asset Management Agency, funded by taxpayers, is currently buying loans from the banks with a book value of €81 billion, at a discount of about a half of their value.

The government of Prime Minister Brian Cowen now spends much of its time trying to figure out how to squeeze more money from the population. It has stated that it will seek to claw back at least another $3 billion from the population through spending cuts in its December budget. The result will be more despairing young people heading for the airports.