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If I were Taoiseach...

Last update - Thursday, July 30, 2009, 12:58 By Ukachukwu Okorie

A few days after finding myself out of a job, I stood on the Ha’penny Bridge one afternoon, taking in the view of the River Liffey stretching out towards Dublin Bay. I observed the people and all that transpired around me; I could see the impact of the economic crisis in their reduced numbers, and written all over their faces and in their activities.

Outside of the city, I witnessed the full wrath of the recession in Mullingar, Co Meath, where many businesses have closed down as of late. I was there for an auction sale, and like me most others there were more window shoppers rather than real buyers. It was a real microcosm of what Ireland is like today on a national level.
Both of these encounters got me wondering – what would I do If I were Taoiseach? Firstly, I would be strong enough to tell the country that the days of the Celtic Tiger are well and truly over. It is unfortunate that the Irish leadership of the recent past went on a spending spree without saving for the rainy days that have finally come.
Yes, there was some investment in essential infrastructure, but there was no reform of the welfare system to encourage continued growth. In my own opinion, this country has rewarded idleness more than hard work; I saw how people lived flamboyantly on welfare at the expense of workers whose take-home pay left them with little to live on. It seems our leaders forgot that old phrase ‘Nemo quad dat non habet’ – you cannot give what you do not have. Their action (or inaction) merely confirmed that he who fails to plan, plans to fail.
Secondly, the issue of the Lisbon Treaty should be looked into once more. As an integral part of the European Union, the State is expected to deliver a resounding ‘yes’ vote to reform of the union. People should understand the vitality the EU injected into this island after countless years of neglect by the powers that be. Indeed, the EU was a vital catalyst to infrastructural development in Ireland over the last three decades.
An affirmative vote on the Lisbon Treaty would definitely up Ireland’s negotiating power for a beneficial economic package and eventually place us in our rightful position among competitive European states. Irish citizens must comprehend that without a strong voice in the EU, they stand to be very vulnerable in future.
Thirdly, the apparent lack of ambition among Irish leaders worries me a lot. I do respect the role Ireland has played in humanitarian circles, but we seem to be much less ambitious when it comes to global trade. What is restricting us with forging stronger trade ties abroad? I think the Government could do a lot more in this regard, in turn giving a new lease of life to a struggling Irish economy.
For instance, there are several African countries with an abundance of resources that are looking for new opportunities in strategic sectors of their economies. The big western nations generally skip over these places, entrenched in doing business with each other at the expense of the developing world. But that only presents a great opportunity for Ireland to get in early before the west realises what it’s missing.
Now is the time for Ireland to change its ways, especially in the area of fiscal responsibility. Aside from tightening the nation’s belts to save us from financial collapse, it is an opportunity for sober reflection on what we can do to move forward. Indeed, a stitch in time will save more than nine.

Ukachukwu Okorie is orig-inally from Nigeria and writes weekly for Metro Éireann. Visit his website at

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