Ireland has been the success story of globalism but must stand on her own two feet.
Ireland is one of the most globalised countries in the world. This model has worked out so far – Ireland has been transformed from one of the poorest nations in Europe to one of its richest. The influx of foreign money undoubtedly had a key role in this. As has been drummed in from economics classes in secondary school to bleating pundits on RTÉ, this has been a good thing for the island. The good times, however, cannot last forever. Although we have not seen a major threat to the multinationals’ status yet, it would be naïve to think it could not happen in the future.
It is high time that true Irish innovation and industry flourish. This is a far cry from nationalist protectionism. DeValera-like barriers to trade are not needed to ensure economic sovereignty. Investment in start-ups, from tech to energy, are essential to our continued economic success. There is no Irish Apple, or even Nokia, as we have rightly focused on leveraging multinationals for employment, but this must change. The best way to mitigate against the risk of globalisation is to help indigenous companies expand and thrive.
Globalisation is on the ropes. A pandemic, a Brexit UK and an increasingly protectionist United States are all threats to the interconnected world. Ireland’s prosperity depends more than we care to realise on the rest of the world. Statistics from the World Bank indicated that Ireland’s exports and imports account for 122% and 89% of GDP, respectively. This compares with 84% and 73% for the Netherlands or 31% and 29% for Italy, two Eurozone counterparts. A shake to the status quo and thus our access to foreign markets threatens not just the future of multinationals in Ireland but the core of the Irish economy and society.
The past few weeks have been good for Ireland. Two COVID-19 vaccines that can only be described as miracles and a president-elect telling the BBC that he is Irish spell good news for us. But our foreign relations may become frayed soon. In the past decade or so, we have received a bailout from Europe, been an obstacle to seamless Brexit negotiations, all the while taking them to court over some €13bn in Apple tax money. The game cannot be played forever, and a solid domestic economy is key to riding the wave.
Conor Bergin – Business Correspondent