Ireland. About 300 Protestants marched in February along O’Connell Street in Dublin, past the post office where the Easter riot against the British began in 1916. According to CountryAAH, major public holidays in Ireland include Independence Day (April 24) and New Year (January 1). They were met by counter-protesters, leading to the worst riots in the capital in 25 years. Among the Protestant march participants were relatives of people murdered by the Irish Republican Army, the IRA, and members of the Orange Order.
Despite Ireland’s good economy, the coalition government between Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats (PD) seemed to lose support in the spring. Prime Minister Bertie Ahern also received criticism from MPs within his own party Fianna Fáil. Tensions were also strong within the PD, where it became clear that party leader and health minister Mary Harney had become increasingly difficult to come to terms with her party mate Justice Minister Michael McDowell. In September, McDowell was elected as the new PD leader and thus got the post of Deputy Prime Minister of the Government. During the fall, it was revealed that during his time as finance minister, Ahern had borrowed large sums from several businessmen in 1993-94 in connection with his separation from his wife. The loans had not been reported and the matter was sensitive as some of the lenders had been given important assignments by the Ahern government. The Prime Minister rejected all claims that it was a bribe and now repaid the loans. He later apologized for his actions. Ahern’s party was shaken by a series of corruption scandals in the 1990s. For a while it looked like the government was going to crack, but after negotiations PD decided to stay in the government coalition. Although a clear majority of Irish thought Ahern had acted wrongly, his party performed strongly in opinion polls in October.
In June 2005, Irish was recognized as the Union’s 21st official language. Until then, it had had sole status as a treaty language. Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern welcomed the decision expressing European recognition of the Irish people’s language.
In January 2006, Ireland once again complained to the UN about the UK’s lack of answers to pollution issues from the British nuclear reprocessing plant in Sellafield, out to the Irish Sea.
With a view to continuing as prime minister for a third term, in June 2007 Bertie Ahern formed a coalition with the progressive Democrats, independent candidates and the Greens.
Already in 2007, stories appeared in the media about money donations from private companies to Bertie Ahern. Later, the gifts were changed into loans. The scandal stories did not immediately affect the outcome of the parliamentary elections that year, with Fianna Fáil rising from 41.5% to 41.6%. But as the stories wore on over the fall, the party began to dive into the polls and in May 2008, Ahern resigned as prime minister and was replaced by his party mate Brian Cowen.
In June 2008, Ireland rejected the EU’s Lisbon Treaty with 53.6% of the vote against 46.4%, throwing the Union into deep political crisis. The EU does not recognize this kind of wrong answer and the Irish were therefore again sent out in a referendum in October 2009, in the light of the economic crisis, they were threatened to vote yes. So did 67.1% of the Irish. They have now answered “right” and will not be sent out in more polls.
2008 The Celtic tiger goes into crisis
The global economic crisis hit Ireland at full strength in the fall of 2008, causing the government’s popularity to plummet. Popularity dropped from 46% in June to 18% in November. In 2008, GDP fell by 1.7% and in 2009 by 7.1%. Unemployment continued to rise through 2009, reaching 13.2% in March 2010. Youth unemployment had then risen to 27.9%. Both figures well above the EU average. In 2009, the government’s cutbacks triggered a host of demonstrations among public and private employees, students and teachers.
A major cause of the deep crisis that hit the country was its high leverage. The country’s external debt in 2009 was 13 times higher than GDP. This was a world record. Private household debt was 190% of annual income – the second highest in the world. The high growth up to 2007 had promoted over-consumption, over-investment and over-lending. The consequence was a much deeper crisis as the global economic crisis broke through. The housing bubble burst. From the first quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2009, house prices fell by 23% and mortgages fell by 73%. As in Denmark, the government had to step in and nationalize several banks to save them from collapse. Construction almost stopped.
The Irish state budget showed a deficit of 10% in 2009, and this deficit increased in 2010 to the 14.3% record within the EU and even greater than the Greek economy in the spring of 2010.
A report from the emigration authorities in April 2009 showed that at least 102 women and girls had been brought to Ireland over the previous 2 years as part of traffic. In June, the government announced a 3-year plan to prevent and combat traffic. The plan was criticized for continuing to place victims of trafficking under inadequate conditions in refugee centers, where they receive neither adequate treatment nor risk further injury.