I stand outside. On a wooden deck. Beneath a night sky. Beyond is Coulagh Bay. Beyond that is the Atlantic. It is 1 AM. The only light on the horizon: the floating fireflies along the Kerry Peninsula coastline.
Here, where I'm standing, there is no other light. Southwest Ireland is almost free from light pollution giving an unfettered view of the pending spectacle above me.
In fact only 2 hours from where I stand Ireland is blessed with an International Dark-Sky Reserve, one of only three Gold Tier Reserves on the planet and the only Gold Tier Dark-Sky Reserve in the Northern Hemisphere.
It is so very dark where I stand.
Tonight the globe that is our Earth will plunge through the remnants of an asteroid. Fireflies of light will flicker and die as molecules which have sailed untouched for millions if not billions of years find a new home.
I wait. I look up. Without light intrusion it seems I could fall into the sky. The Milky Way is a rich band above me. I could reach out to touch the constellation Cassiopeia and its great W. Higher, I see the dim flicker of M13, its Great Globular Cluster playing with Hercules. Near, the delicate strand of the Corona Borealis. West is Altair, a member of the Aquila Family and 11 times brighter than our sun.
It is so dark I can see it all.
I wait more. No snowfall. No flickering. Only silence. A gull cries distantly and then I see...
Streaks of fine light, smoking bright, falling to the west. Into the sea, perhaps. Or toward my distant friends standing on another continent looking up at the same fireflies that cross the same sky, connected to them by the same view despite the many miles. I wonder if it is as dark where they stand, too?
A dark night in southwest Ireland. But such a starry, starry night.
(Full Disclosure: the author of this article is not an economist. But it doesn't take rocket science to figure out the possible ramifications of the British Exit from the EU)
Stock markets are in free-fall. Over the past two days global markets have lost over $1 trillion. The British Pound Sterling is a basket case. The currency has lost over 10% of its value overnight. In London, large financial services companies are already speaking of taking their cards off the UK table and running to a more favorable economy. The S&P, Fitch's, and Moody's have all downgraded Britain's AAA rating.
Such is the fall-out from Brexit at least in the short term. Not many realized just how horribly the Leave vote would affect the global economy.
But if you're working in, living in, or thinking of moving to Ireland, what might be the impact on you? Here are some possibilities and I'll keep this focused and to the point:
The Bad News
The UK is one of Ireland's most important trading partners - for that reason, this little country on the periphery of Europe will see a much greater impact than any other country in Europe or the world.
The weakness of the Pound Will Hamper Exports - an obvious one. It will now take more Pounds to buy Irish goods and services. Irish businesses are bracing themselves. Those Irish businesses with existing contracts paid in Sterling will see the value of those payments fall by over 10% for the same goods they sold last week. This will deeply impact the profitability of many Irish companies, and subsequently, their ability to grow and hire.
Key Sectors to Watch - include Agriculture, Pharmaceuticals, and services. Agriculture in particular is highly exposed due to its reliance on exports to the UK
The Poor Banking Sector - is getting creamed right now in the Irish stock market as it dawns on investors that the Irish banking sector is highly exposed to the UK economy.
So if you're looking for a job - agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and financial services will possibly pull back in hiring efforts as they look to mitigate risk.
The Dire Possibility - the UK could well plunge into recession. If it does, and because of Ireland's reliance on the UK economy, Britain could take Ireland with it. If that happens we'll likely see a significant retraction in any growth forecasts, a drying up of Irish government tax revenues, and a fall in public spending (again, and just a few short years after the great recession).
Liquidity - as all of these factors come together, many Irish may once again feel a significant pinch in their pocket books as pension funds burn, wages are cut, social welfare payments fall, and folks here search for safe havens.
Retail - may be caught yet again as consumer spending dries up. Same goes with larger purchases such as homes, cars, larger electronics, and similar. This could impact the slowly recovering construction industry here, already deeply hurt by the recession.
For those Brits living in Ireland it could be bad news - many British come here to retire. Many have pensions that pay in Sterling. Their monthly payments have today been reduced by about 10% due to the drastic currency swing.
It's a Mess - and it's going to take some time to figure out. The Leave vote does not mean that Britain will exit the EU tomorrow. Instead, we are all faced with years of negotiations. Pundits are saying that it will take at least 2 years for the Exit to be formalized. During this time, the world markets - and Ireland - will continue to be faced with uncertainty.
The Good News
And there is some:
Some Sectors May Move to Ireland - due to uncertainty, some companies could actually exit Britain and move their operations to Ireland. Financial services would seem to be a good bet on this front. This is because many financial services businesses currently located in the UK require entree to the rest of Europe. That's why they set up in the UK in the first place. They could move to Ireland because this country continues to have the EU membership they look for, and a 12.5% corporate profits tax to go with it.
What To Look For - think 'low barriers to entry'. That is, those companies that can pull out of the UK inexpensively, and have something to gain in Ireland, will be the first to do so. So services (like International banking services) can quickly come here. Other companies (like manufacturers) will be slow to move because it's expensive to do so.
More Imports - if Irish exports will be negatively impacted by the fall in UK currency rates, imports will be positively impacted. It will be cheaper for the Irish to buy many goods from the UK. For instance, many will drive to Northern Ireland to get bargains there, at least in the short term (hurting Irish retailers located on the boarder in the process). Some cars should be cheaper (we don't manufacture cars in Ireland). Anything imported from the UK (and we import a lot including everything from food to refrigerators) will cost less. So if you're an importer and want a job in Ireland, now is the time.
Ireland: the last English Speaking Country in the EU - that's right, we are. And that could be leveraged to Ireland's advantage as companies look for English Speakers who are also still EU members who therefore have the right to sell goods and services across Europe.
This is a daunting time for the British and the world. But it's a daunting time for Ireland, too. Brexit didn't only hurt UK citizens. It hurt everyone. If you're thinking of immigrating to Ireland you may already have missed the boat.
Ireland's construction sector has always been a lagging economic indicator - meaning that it is often the last industry to rebound following a Recession. And this last great economic contraction - starting in 2009 - hit the construction industry hard. Thousands of construction workers lost their jobs while many of Ireland's contractors were decimated.
In short Ireland's construction sector was creamed. Even sadder, skilled workers across the sector - everyone from guys who liked to hit a nail to plumbers and electricians to talented estimators - left the country in search of work.
Their absence left a huge hole in Ireland's skills market. But the good news is: Ireland's construction sector is starting to rebound and the hunt is on to fill the country's gaping skills shortage.
20 Percent Growth Forecast
Three days ago The Irish Times reported that the construction sector is set to grow by a whopping 20% in 2016. This, of course, is off a very low base. But it's indicative of the positive economic pressures that are finally pushing construction forward. And a quick explanation of those factors:
When the Great Recession swept the country Ireland's banking sector became a train wreck in action. Most banks required a government bail out to survive. Some failed. Others deserted the market. Lending dried up because banks were in no position to take a risk. They became very wary of mortgages or loans to the construction sector because they'd lost their collective shirts in this area. Ireland's infamous housing bubble had much to do with this. Banks were extending favourable loans at the top of the market, and in many cases were using the house itself as collateral. But when the market collapsed, the market price of many houses was often vastly lower than the mortgage owed by the owner. Many mortgage holders defaulted which caused the banks serious financial stress.
To stymie a reoccurance of any future possible housing bubble, Ireland's Central Banks also passed tough new regulations requiring those who today apply for a mortgage to come up with 20% of the house purchase price in cash. Many can't afford to do that.
So...you have a couple of negative pressures here: a banking system that is wary of giving mortgages, and new mortgage rules that require buyers to come up with lots of cash. Both factors stifle mortgage demand.
But then there are the positive factors:
During the years since the recession, the country has undergone additional population growth. More people mean more demand for housing. But - and a big but - since 2009 very little new housing stock has been built. Consequently and as of this writing, there is a huge demand in the market.People need places to buy or rent, yet everything from single family houses to apartment stock simply has not been built. And these people need a place to live.
You don't have to be Adam Smith to know what's going to happen: demand for limited stock will push up prices (which is already happening, and in some cases is now unaffordable to most buyers). Construction companies will see the potential for profits and go back to their banks for loans. The banks will, at first, baulk at the idea because they've already been burned. But then - they'll also see the potential for profits. They'll start lending again. And other 'foreign' banks - seeing a possibility for growth in Ireland - will enter the market. Too, there is talk of relaxing some of the Central Bank's mortgage restrictions.
Add all this up and over the next few years Ireland's construction industry is going to witness absolutely stunning growth. To support that, they need employees.
So if you have a skill in the construction sector: if you swing a hammer, put up sheet rock, like throwing up slate roofs; if you're an electrical engineer or an estimator or an architect or have any of the thousands of construction-related skills that Ireland has lost and needs again,
Okay I'll say it. Donald Trump is a scurilous, repulsive, xenophobic, bigoted fool. God knows I'm not offering proof for this statement. I don't need to. Proof lies within the unbridled rhetoric Mr. Trump has been spouting since deciding that he should grace the United States' electoral process.
As an American living in Ireland, I'm occasionally asked by fellow US citizens what the Irish think of US politics. The answer has changed over the years. During the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Irish overwhelmed me with their sympathy and support. Throughout the Gulf War, the same Irish looked at me with more than a little embarrassment, particularly when President Bush & Co came up empty-handed in their search for weapons of mass destruction.
The subject of Guantanamo gets unbridled silence ("What are those Americans up to after all this time?" they seem to be thinking). Shannon Airport, which is often used by the US Military as a refuelling stop for the transfer of service men and women to points east, receives a mixed reaction. Some Irish, those who support American foreign policy, give it tacit approval. Others aren't so sure. Recently, a couple of elected Irish politicians climbed over the airport fence to accost a newly landed military transport plane. They were prosecuted for their trouble (though their standing in the eyes of many an Irish person shot to new heights). Of course it can get worse. A few years back, one woman punched a hole in a US 737 nose cone with a handheld axe. I gather she was somewhat annoyed with US military might. My point is this: if the Irish are pissed-off about the United States, they're fairly quick to show it.
And as I say, US politics - and politicians - get a mixed reaction from the Irish. That, however, is not the case when it comes to Mr. Donald Trump.
Except for a tiny percentage of this country's populace, The Donald is viewed by the Irish with contempt. First, they can't stand his hair ("The fella needs help," I heard a woman gasp recently in reaction to the wind whistling through his dry as a bone corn-huskings). Second, they dislike his cavalier attitude ("You're telling me he wants to chase immigrants from the United States? But what about all the Irish in Boston and New York? Is he going to throw them out too?" said a fellow recently as we discussed Mssr Trump over a couple of pints. When I responded that Trump probably did, the fellow threw his pint glass at me.)
Or the best one, from a lady down the road: "The fecker should be banned from the country," she said indignantly. "The English had the right idea but they didn't go far enough. The Donald isn't wanted here. The government should invite him over on some pretext, embarrass the shite out of him, then throw the fellow out of our country for insurrection and a foul mouth!"
For the first time in many a year, this Republican is actually embarrassed to be American particularly when asked by my Irish friends, "Why would any intelligent, honest-thinking American even consider voting for the fool?" To which, of course, I have no real answer. When I mutter about the plight of the American middle class and how Donald somehow appeals to their sense of abandonment, the Irish only look at me and laugh. "If he wins, we're all fecked," they say.
And it's true. If he wins we're all fecked including the Irish. But especially me. Because I'll be stuck trying to explain how such an ill-tempered bullying rich-kid managed to pull it off in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave.
Okay, I admit it. I'm astounded by the number of people who have visited this Blog. Currently and as I write this on New Year's Day 2016, that figure stands at just shy of 80,000. And most visitors still want one thing: more information on how to get a job in Ireland.
Over the years I've written a number of Posts on this area. The facts, figures and suggestions that I've noted have swung wildly, matching the crazed cyclicality of the Irish economy. With the dawn of 2016, all indicators point in one direction with regard to employment: Up. In short, those seeking employment in this country haven't had it so good in years.
An example: Recruitment consulting firm Morgan McKinley reports that there has been a 9% increase in jobs coming onto the market - brand new professional positions - in 2015 v 2014. Of even more interest, new jobs were increasing at a rate of 7 percent per month. The demand for talent to fill those positions is quickly eating into Ireland's unemployment rate which has fallen from over 15% three years ago to just over 8% today.
The McKinley report suggests that certain sectors are hotter than others: IT is continuing to rocket out of orbit - for every skilled IT professional in Ireland, each has three to four job opportunities available to them. HR and Financial professionals are also being snapped up as the Irish economy continues to surge forward. Medical personnel - doctors, nurses, medical technicians, radiologists - are in high demand. This is a complete about face for this sector compared to a few years ago when medical professionals were leaving Ireland in droves. Today, there is such a shortage that the HSE, Ireland's pre-eminent medical organization - is chasing those who fled the country during the Great Recession, hoping to attract them back with better financial incentives and working conditions.
People with Multilingual skills are also in high demand which is simply explained. Ireland is now a centre of excellence for the Global sales and support of many large Blue Chip companies. Microsoft, PayPal, Yahoo, Google and so many more have created huge offices here, manned by speakers of French, German, Polish, Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish.... you name it.... to help customers located in countries across the world. And most of these companies are expanding. Each requires talented multilingual people to support their efforts.
Other areas crying out for skilled people include:
Hospitality / Tourism - over the Christmas holidays, the newspapers reported that in 2015, Ireland had its best tourism season on record. More tourists visited Ireland than ever before. For this reason hotels, restaurants, and other tourism-focused businesses are actively recruiting personnel to cope with the higher demand.
Skilled trades - the construction sector is finally showing signs of growth. Yet many skilled builders, electricians, plumbers and similar fled from Ireland during the Great Recession. While this sector has not yet fully recovered, it seems an area of opportunity for those getting in now.
Engineers, Chemical Scientists, Medical Lab Scientists, and Physical Scientists - with skills in manufacturing and product development.
How to Get a Job in Ireland: Do You Qualify for a Critical Skills Employment Permit?
If you are an Irish national or a citizen of the European Union, taking advantage of Ireland's rocketing economy and employment growth is easy because you are legally entitled to work in this country. However, if you have citizenship from outside the EU, qualifying to work in Ireland can be daunting (see the many other articles in this Blog covering this area).
However, such is the skills shortage in Ireland that the Irish government is working to attract non-residents to fill these vacancies with the recent Critical Skills Permit initiative. Essentially, what this means is that an employer will be granted a permit to employ a non-national relatively easily, as long as the job on offer meets the Highly Skilled Occupation List. (see below for references)
This new system can provide non-Irish nationals with a method to fast-track employment in Ireland. The only catch: you need a job offer from an employer for a Highly Skilled Occupation (that is, a 'highly skilled job' that has a critical skills shortage) before the employee can obtain a work permit for the new non-national employee. In other words, if you want to work here, you need a permit provided by an employer first. And you can't get the permit unless you have a job offer.
If you're outside of the country and trying to get a job here, distance can make things difficult. But as I've counselled so many times before: search the Internet for jobs in your area. Then, contact prospective employers directly by email and / or phone. Do your best to create a relationship with them. Keep your fingers crossed, stay persistent, and you too could soon be working in Ireland. To find out a whole lot more about the Critical Skills permits, go to:
Okay, I admit it. One of the things that gets on my wick here is winter and the lack of light. Sundown right now is at 4:30 PM. Sun-up is 8:43 AM. I get rather tired of bumping into things when I forget to turn on the lights in the house, and I bump into almost everything: the Christmas tree, the cat, the full mug of coffee that I just poured which invariably ends up all over my naked feet.
The good news of course is that today - right now - it's Winter's Solstice! The shortest day of the year which means of course that from here on out the days can only get longer. Simple astronomical physics, right? For today, here in the land of darkness, we'll all go slightly dopey as we celebrate the fact that we've made it through another long winter's night, and can look forward to the coming spring: the longer days, the lengthy twilights at mid-summer ... the constant rain.
Of course, the Irish have been celebrating the end of darkness and the coming dawn of spring for millennia. All the way back to the construction of Newgrange, and longer than that, of course. Five thousand years ago, I gather that the locals up in County Meath got together and decided on a cold, dark, lonely winter's night, something had to be done about it all. I can hear them now:
Megalithic Irish Husband: "The bloody darkness, fer feck sake! I can't take it anymore. When's it going to start getting brighter?"
Megalithic Irish Wife: "You're asking me? How would I know. Stop complaining and do something about it."
So he did. He and a whole troop of other fella's of course. They got together and hauled tonnes and tonnes of rock from way down in County Wicklow, north up the Irish Sea, down the Boyne, to the bend in the river known as Newgrange. God alone knows how they did it, but did it they did. Then they probably took a breather and scratched their heads in unison.
Megalithic Irish Husband: "We're gonna build a clock. Something to tell us when the short days stop getting shorter and the long days are gonna get longer."
So they did that too. Somehow they organized that great pile of rock so carefully - and without the aid of Google - into a Holy Show complete with Roof Box. When they were finally finished with the build, they must have waited for the next Winter Solstice with baited breath. Can you imagine if they'd screwed up the engineering? What if the Sun didn't come through that tiny hole as planned? They were hardly going to rearrange thousands of tonnes of rock to get things right, now were they?
So on that first Winter's Solstice, when the sun finally peaked above the horizon and flooded through that Roof Box to light the interior within, I'm sure there was quite a bit of back-patting and hand-shaking and self-congratulation. And I can hear the wife saying: "Well good on ya. Now if you're so clever what about a washing machine rather than these stupid rocks I have to use to get the stains out of yer leathers?"
Congratulations, Megalithic Engineers of Ireland. Your clock still works. On this shortest day of the year, it's great to know that at least something still works in Ireland.
(I see that author and comedian Colm Tobin has entitled his most recent tome Surviving Ireland. Colm, could ya not have thought of an original title fer yerself, fer feck sake? :) )
It's 6 AM. I'm sitting in a hotel lobby near Dublin Airport. My father is flying in from Tampa (God bless him) and I'm up early to get some coffee into my system before fighting the traffic to the Arrivals Terminal. I'm talking to Dave, the night porter, and comparing notes. Dave has four kids. He's originally from Navan (where I lived for almost 30 years before escaping to Eyeries in West Cork). Dave is ruminating on his recent decision to move to County Cavan, 40 minutes or so up the road.
"Navan just isn't the same," he says. "It's filled with scumbags. It has too much crime. It's just not a good place to bring up kids anymore." I can understand his sentiment. The growth of Navan, as well as all other bedroom communities around Dublin, is one of the many issues that propelled me out of the area like a scalded cat.
"What do you think of Cavan?" I ask, sipping my coffee. "Is it better for the kids?"
"Great schools," he responds as he gets ready to open up the hotel for early morning visitors. "Mind you, I love the States."
That catches my attention. "Have you been there?" He nods. "Once. To Vegas. I loved it." Me: "But would you live there? I mean, if you could do it, would you bring the kids and wife over and make a new life?"
That catches his attention. "Now I didn't say that, did I?" Dave replies. "Visiting is one thing. But leaving Ireland? Not on your life."
The Pull of Ireland
Since the beginning of the Great Recession in 2007 / 2008, thousands of Irish have had to immigrate to find new jobs and make a new life simply because Ireland was falling apart. Unemployment had surged, approaching 20 percent. The country was littered with ghost estates: new housing construction that had been halted because builders had run out of money. Entire families were being evicted from their homes because they couldn't pay their mortgages. In desperation, many fled to Australia, England, Canada, and the United States seeking a new start.
And yet... they did so reluctantly. They knew they were leaving behind a way of life that can rarely be found any more: people that care. Schools that teach kids how to read, write, and do 'rithmatic. Welcoming smiles of neighbours and friends. Pubs that do much more than serve a Pint but rather are the focus of many rural towns and villages.
In leaving they knew that they were leaving behind walks beneath soft Autumn rains and hikes along windswept ocean side trails. The coo of doves hidden in the branches of tall trees during mid-Summer. They would be abandoning their local GAA teams and the shouts and roars of disappointed Irish fans who watched as the Irish soccer team yet again crashed out of a European Final. They were leaving behind the Pull of Ireland - the magical magnetism of this country that is at the heart and soul of every person who has been born or lived here.
But - they're coming back. As the Irish economy recovers, these Irish immigrants, these stalwart thousands, are beginning to drift home in search of the spirit of Ireland that resides in their hearts. In talking with them, I find that they have enjoyed their time away. They enjoyed the humming city of Sydney and the frantic buzz of New York. They thrived and learned in Dubai. They put shoulders to the wheel of economies in Montreal, London, Berlin, and Madrid. But now many are coming home.
They come home to the open arms of their families. To the fine soft rain that descends to hug them on cool Autumn days. They come home to their mates who have waited for them by turf fires dotted around the country. They come home to the wonder that is Ireland and to the recovering economy that can once again allow them to live here.
The Irish are on their way back home. They know that despite their travels, despite the trauma of the past few years, Ireland is still a great place to live.
They're coming home. And even if you're not Irish but are pulled here by the magnetism that is Ireland, now is the time to consider making Ireland your home too.
2015 / 2016 Edition Launched! A Survivor's Guide to Living in Ireland 2015 / 2016
The 2015 / 2016 edition of this bestseller is now available! Want more of Ireland? Then why not give this book to that favorite person in your life? Perfect for St Patrick's Day, or any Day that's Green...