Society of Ireland

Celtic Tiger

he colloquial term "Celtic Tiger" has been used to refer to the country itself, and to the years associated with the boom. The first recorded use of the phrase is in a 1994 Morgan Stanley report by Kevin Gardiner. The term refers to Ireland's similarity to the East Asian Tigers; South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan during their periods of rapid growth in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Celtic Tiger period has also been called "The Boom" or "Ireland's Economic Miracle". During that time, Ireland experienced a boom in which it was transformed from one of Europe's poorer countries into one of its wealthiest. The causes of Ireland's growth are the subject of some debate, but credit has been primarily given to state-driven economic development; social partnership between employers, government and unions; increased participation by women in the labour force; decades of investment in domestic higher education; targeting of foreign direct investment; a low corporation tax rate; an English-speaking workforce, and membership of the European Union which provided transfer payments and export access to the Single Market. By mid-2007 in the wake of the growing global financial crisis the Tiger had all but died. Some critics, such as David McWilliams who had been warning about impending collapse for some time concluded that: "The case is clear: an economically challenged government, perniciously influenced by the interests of the housing lobby, blew it. The entire Irish episode will be studied internationally in years to come as an example of how not to do things." Historian Richard Aldous considers that the Celtic Tiger has now gone the "way of the dodo". In early 2008 many commentators thought a soft landing was likely. By January 2009, it seemed possible the country could experience a depression. In early January 2009, the Irish Times in an editorial declared that: "We have gone from the Celtic Tiger to an era of financial fear with the suddenness of a Titanic-style shipwreck, thrown from comfort, even luxury, into a cold sea of uncertainty." In February 2010, a report by Davy Research concluded that Ireland had "largely wasted its years of high income during the boom, with private enterprise investing its wealth "in the wrong places", comparing Ireland's growth to other small Euro zone countries such as Finland and Belgium noting that the physical wealth of those countries exceeds that of Ireland, because of their "vastly superior" transport infrastructure, telecommunications network and public services. The aspiration to become a Celtic Tiger has also been expressed by leaders of the other Celtic countries. Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations in New York in October 2007, Alex Salmond, the SNP First Minister of Scotland, said "we have everything it takes for a Celtic Lion economy to take off in Scotland"(the lion rampant is the heraldic symbol of Scotland). The onset of the Irish economic crisis and bank bailout prompted Scottish Labour Party leader Iain Gray to ridicule Salmond's aspiration, telling the Scottish Parliament in 2010 that "Scotlands banking sector is ten times the size of Irelands. The Royal Bank of Scotland alone had a balance sheet 15 times the size of the Scottish economy. Alex Salmond just does not get it. Everyone in Scotland knows that in a separate Scotland our two biggest banks would have gone and with them all the jobs, all the savings, all the pensions, all the mortgages and all the salaries."


ESHSI, Department of Modern History, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland Contact: Membership Secretary