I’ve blogged before on the reputation of an entire country – that was when South Africa had an opportunity to improve its reputation during the 2010 World Cup.
However, today I’m addressing the reputation of a country much closer to home for most Americans. Ireland has long played an important role for America, especially in our city of Boston, because of the large number of Irish-American immigrants. Think about this: between 1820 and 1920, at least 5 million Irish emigrants came to America – almost as many people as Ireland’s current population of around 6 million.
40 million Americans today claim Irish ancestry, and that is part of the reason Irish-Americans have been so involved in the affairs of their mother country: from JFK’s visit in 1963, to Bill Clinton’s ongoing involvement in Northern Ireland’s peace talks in the 1990′s, to the American investments and seed money which helped to produce the so-called Celtic Tiger.
However, after housing bubble bursts, an unprecedented bank scandal and nationalization, and continuing drops in consumer spending and industrial output, the Emerald Isle has slipped from economic golden child of the EU, to being a source of anxiety for both Europe and the United States.
Will Ireland be able to restore its reputation as an economic powerhouse, home to entrepreneurs such as Tony Ryan, founder of Ryanair, and Denis O’Brien, founder of Esat (O2) and Digicel? It is going to take some work, especially given the current state of the global economy. While investments were still good in 2010, many, including President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Ireland Gerard Kilcommins, are pessimistic about the next few years. This week alone, Ireland reached an all time high on credit default swaps.
In the long run, most Americans want to be optimistic about Ireland. Many of us feel we have a stake in that country, especially because of its historic contributions to our own, from the Presidency (JFK, Ronald Reagan) on down. But the question remains: is the Celtic Tiger only sleeping, or is it down for good?