Sins of the Father

Sins of the Father : Tracing the Decisions That Shaped the Irish Economy

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The questions surrounding how the Irish economy was brought to the brink - who was to blame, and who should pay for these mistakes - have been rightly debated at length. But beyond this very legitimate exercise, there are deeper questions that need to be answered. These questions relate to why we made the decisions we did, not just in the last 10 years, but over the last 80. How did certain industries become prominent at the expense of others, banking as opposed to fisheries, international markets as opposed to indigenous industry and job creation? Are our problems structural in nature, and most importantly, what do we need to know to make sure that this crisis does not happen again? These are the questions set by this book. It looks at the development of the Irish economy over the past eight decades, and will argue that the 2008 financial crisis, up to and including the IMF bailout of 2010 and the subsequent change of government, cannot be explained simply by the moral failings of those in banking or property development alone. The problems are deeper, more intricate, and more dangerous if we remain unaware of them, but also potentially avoidable in the future if we break the cycle.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 224 pages
  • 154 x 226 x 18mm | 358.34g
  • The History Press Ltd
  • Stroud, United Kingdom
  • English
  • New.
  • maps
  • 1845886933
  • 9781845886936
  • 285,150

About Conor McCabe

Conor McCabe is a noted web journalist on the "Dublin Opinion," and the "Irish Left Review." His specialities are economics and Irish politics.show more

Review quote

"The latest attempt to explain our economic collapse and by far and away the best." --"Irish Examiner"show more

Customer reviews

This is an important contribution and a radical departure from the received wisdom about the current crisis in Ireland. There is a hackneyed narrative in Ireland and beyond which lays the blame for the economic and social collapse at the door of venal politicians and their paymasters among the property speculators, with the banks cast in the role of the indispensable vehicle for keeping both the speculators and reputation of politicians afloat. All this is true but fails to address how this arose. Through a series of lively chapters dealing with specific aspects of society, McCabe is able to trace the origins of the current crisis to the society inherited at Partiton. This society itself is a product of colonialsim, and one which is far from having been eradicated in the Irish Republic. A very valuable starting-point, then, for an analysis of the inheritiance of colonialsim and hos it still infects the whole of Irish society, focusing on the jurisdiction south of the border.show more
by johnroberts
CONOR McCabe's work is a major attempt to understand the structural processes that led to the Irish state's current loss of sovereignty and unmanageable public debt burden. This is not a catchphrase heavy morality tale of populist economics, rather it places recent disastrous actions in their historical context, from the creation of the Free State in 1922 to the 2010 arrival of the IMF, in five highly readable chapters. Each chapter uncovers a long history of economic mismanagement while also demolishing myths that have been used to cover the selfish activities of a small section of the population and, more recently, give rise to the blasé "we all partied" claims of the political class. The first chapter, dealing with housing, exposes the policy decisions that gave rise to decades of Irish property inflation and the systematic skewing of ownership patterns towards private rather than public. In doing so, McCabe dismisses as a creation of politicians, developers and estate agents the myth of an "Irish property-owning gene" pushing people to paying over the odds for houses. In chapters on agriculture, industry and finance, McCabe takes us through the machinations of an elite whose stifling conservatism led them to - despite protestations to the contrary - crave the maintenance of the state's provincial economic status. Through successive political administrations, state policy is revealed as constantly pandering to agricultural, speculative and financial elites that placed their ties to foreign interests, and accrued short-term benefits, above rational economic development. In the final chapter, McCabe shows that the great "mistakes" of the blanket bank guarantee and NAMA, "a bailout of well-connected bankers, speculators and builders", as merely the logical working out of the long-established political class's priorities. The biggest losers in all this? On page 45, McCabe delivers a biting critique of a state housing policy based on decades of government-created incentive schemes for speculative builders. This denied people local authority housing or mortgage lending and placed them with "no option but to turn to the publicly-subsided entrepreneurs for what is a basic human need." On page 137, McCabe neatly summarises the scam of the state renting properties from these same speculative builders: "...the government's policy of funding speculation with tax breaks and absorbing speculation via office rent was in effect the wholesale transfer of wealth from the working population to builders, banks and speculators with the government as conduit." This work deserves to be read widely both as an essential text for understanding the background to our state's economic ills and an antidote to those promoting the idea that Ireland need only get back to where it was prior to the mal-administration of Bertie Ahern's stint as Taoiseach. What his work clearly indicates is that the economy of the Irish state has always been dysfunctional, and those classes that have benefited from this dysfunction at the expense of the majority for generations are still in power.show more
by davoren