The ESRI, the Yoda/Mr Miagi/John Giles-like overseers of the contemporary Irish economic condition has declared that we are in recession.
It may shock many below the age of 21 that this wasn’t always a land of SUVs, mobile phones for eight-year-olds and obligatory post-Leaving Cert boozing on foreign shores.
Whether the inevitable ‘Party’s Over’ headlines we’ll surely read over the next few days will come to be warranted can only be answered in time.
But what amazes me is that those in Government didn’t publicly acknowledge what many non-politicos/economists, i.e. so-called ‘ordinary citizens’, had long since identified as the shaky foundation upon which the boom was literally constructed.
Indeed, it wasn’t until Friday last at a European construction industry conference in Dublin Castle that Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan admitted that the building boom had come to “a shuddering halt”.
A country of our size could not continue to build 80,000-plus houses a year forever, unless matting the country entirely in concrete and decking became official Government policy. Builders who could name their price for the past decade can no longer do so.
That arguably the greatest foresight demonstrated by the new Taoiseach since assuming office involved the scrapping of the infamous Fianna Fáil tent at the Galway Races has taken on additional significance.
Now it’s worth pointing out that the Ireland most of us live in today is unlikely to produce a future Frank McCourt-like work of penury, poverty and pennilessness.
However, sizeable portions of the local populace never benefited from the Celtic Tiger in any noticeable manner, so what faces these areas looking down the line is of particular concern.
Take Carrick-on-Suir for example, home to one of the blackest of unemployment black spots in the country for the past couple of decades.
Tipperary South TD Tom Hayes spoke last week of his concerns for the town -concerns; it has to be said, which have been voiced for years on end by local councillors and business figures.
Like neighbouring Portlaw, Carrick has never truly recovered from the closure of its tannery in the mid-80s. There were many employed in both plants who never found permanent work again thereafter.
Looking at the rusted gates and largely abandoned factory space in Portlaw today, it’s hard to believe that 2,000 people worked on the site in the 1840s, then home to the Malcolmson cotton mill.
It’s ironic to consider that the latest ESRI report says that the Irish economy is, according to its definition, in recession for the first time since 1983, the year that redundancies were first introduced at the Portlaw facility.
Within two years, Irish Tanners had chained the gates in Portlaw and Carrick, and for many, the days of working and living in the same town drew to a close. Twenty-three years later that remains the case.
There’s not a doubt in my mind that if either town had a Teachta Dála born, bred, educated and living among them during that period, that more would have been said about answering such calls.
Whether more would actually have been done is of course a different matter entirely as there is only so much that any one person in an Oireachtas chamber can do.
Despite the much touted deal struck with Fianna Fáil in 1997, it’s worth noting that Jackie Healy Rae secured little beyond an extra few bob for South Kerry and a plum committee job from Bertie Ahern.
While the extra monies were obviously welcome in his native patch, it’s not as if Dell or Google moved to Killorglin due to a mere tip of the cute Jackie’s cap in the then Taoiseach’s direction.
But there’s little doubt that the lack of a political voice at national level has certainly hindered much of the Suir valley’s economic potential.
That the area in question has suffered from being situated between Waterford city and Clonmel has also played its part, since urban centres tend to simply possess more vocal lobbyists than rural areas.
The most obvious physical manifestation of Ireland’s economic prosperity in towns like Carrick and Portlaw came not in the provision of new employment but, surprise, surprise, in the building of new houses.
But the main construction spurts in both areas have also slowed considerably, and ‘For Sale’ signs are taking a lot longer to shift than they used to.
No-one in power ever really sufficiently answered the question of how to help those areas which didn’t directly benefit from our oft-referenced economic miracle.
And since they didn’t do it at the height of the boom, they’re sure as hell unlikely to do it during a recession.
A few months ago, the following words were penned in a book titled ‘Ireland’s Economic Success’:
“I hope politicians of the future have more guts than politicians in the past.” The author? Bertie Ahern.
Over to you, Mr Cowen.