Thursday, October 29, 2015
On the Dart on one of last summer’s few sunny evenings, a man whose eye I had caught – a drug dealer, judging by his telephone conversation – shouted at me as I went to the door. “F*** off, you f***ing b***!”
The next day when I got on the Dart, there was a strong smell of Coco Chanel perfume. Two tanned, blonde women in their 40s with stretched soft speckled skin were twisting huge diamond rings, swinging their crossed legs, jabbing pointy high heels high into the air.
“They’ve done a dreadful job with Marie…with the face lift.”
“You’re right, now that you say it, her face is very taut.”
I’ve had a year of the Dart, of following the crescent of Dublin Bay back and forth, watching the Pigeon House chimneys, through dark mornings, pink sunrises, grey clouds and blue skies. Those chimneys are the only things that have stood still since I swapped Dar es Salaam for Dublin
My husband, Maurice, worked for an Irish NGO, and we had spent five years in Zambia and nearly two in Tanzania. I had struggled in Dar es Salaam. The prices of accommodation, electricity, petrol and food were being driven up by an influx of oil-multinational staff. It was intolerably hot, and I couldn’t take the kids out of the apartment between 10am and 4pm because of the searing sun.
And it was very lonely.
Although I had always wanted to come home, our time as an expatriate family was finally scuppered by the price of education, with international schools costing about €15,000 a year per child.
Against every expectation I got a job at a human-rights organisation that I had long admired in Dublin, after several Skype interviews. I sold everything we had and packed our suitcases, coming home with Juno and Milo three months ahead of Maurice, while he finished work.
I found a house to rent and bought a car from a dealer in Ballyfermot who, during the test drive, leaned in from the passenger seat and told me with a grey smile, “Drive it like you stole it.”
I was excited to start living the way I had longed to for seven years, to start living again in Ireland. But it has been a mess of a year. Within weeks of arriving home and starting his new job, my husband discovered, and had a procedure to remove from his throat, a benign tumour the size of a potato.
At the same time, we were trying to negotiate with our bank to get a trade down negative equity mortgage so we wouldn’t have to pay rent on top of the mortgage for a one-bedroom apartment we can no longer live in. During the process, we discovered we owed Revenue €14,000 for Tax-Relief-at-Source that we had been receiving on our mortgage, not knowing we weren’t entitled to it while we were living abroad.
Our landlord is selling the house we are renting, and we can find nothing affordable in the area, or a school place for our daughter in other areas. The adrenaline I had been running on up to that point finally ran out.
My head fell apart, my job fell apart and stress coursed through our bodies and our home every day. We have never been such slaves to money. There is a lot of rain and a lot of ironing.
I still don’t miss Africa, and I never wish myself back there, but I am overwhelmed with the guilt that I forced our family “home” after seven years away, and failed to deliver on a promise of happiness and feeling settled and secure.
I worry that my husband will resent me for pushing us back here to Dublin, away from a hot climate and a grassroots job, to look at a stack of coins on the kitchen table and wonder if it will be enough to last the weekend.
“Do you want to hear some good news?” he said to me on a low day, opening his arms out to me. “I don’t want to move away again. I want to be here.”
The conversation had come up between him and some friends about opportunities abroad, and he had thought about it and decided in favour of Ireland. It was such a relief.
What we have had to let go of is the vision we had ten years ago of what we thought our lives would be now. I feel like we are trees that have started growing roots here after being stuck in pots. Even though above the ground all the leaves might be gone or branches snapped, this is where we are, and we will grow until we are strong again.
It has been a savage year, but I love it here. I love being able to see my family, to see the kids growing up with their grandparents and cousins. I love Juno learning Irish at school. I love being around Irish people, on Irish streets, by the Irish Sea. I love the craic. I even love being called a b*** on the Dart.
In the past week Russia has further advanced its support of Bashar al-Assad with intensified bombing runs and cruise missiles launched from warships in the Caspian Sea. Not yet but possibly, Russian troops will deploy to back the Syrian army and its assorted allies on the ground. This has enabled government troops to begin an apparently spirited new offensive against the messy stew of Islamist militias arrayed against Damascus.
It was a big week for Washington, too. First it pulled the plug on its $500 million program to train a “moderate opposition” in Syria—admittedly a tough one given that Islamists with guns in their hands tend to be immoderate. Instantly it then begins to send weapons to the militias it failed to train, the CIA having “lightly vetted” them—as it did for a time in 2013, until that proved a self-defeating mistake.
The fiction that moderates lurk somewhere continues. Out of the blue, they are now called “the Syrian Arab Coalition,” a moniker that reeks of the corridors in Langley, Virginia, if you ask me.
In Turkey, meantime, the Pentagon’s new alliance with Recep Tayyip Erdoğan government starts to play out just as the Turkish prime minister intended. All the persuasive signs are that the government was responsible for bombs that killed more than 120 people in Ankara last weekend as they protested Erdoğan’s renewed violence against Turkey’s Kurdish minority. The Middle East’s crisis has just spread into another country.
Since Russia reinvigorated its decades-old support for Damascus last month, the vogue among the Washington story-spinners has been to question Putin’s motives. What does Putin—not “Russia” or even “Moscow,” but Putin—want? This was never an interesting question, since the answer seemed clear, but now we have one that truly does warrant consideration.
What does the U.S. want? Why, after four years of effort on the part of the world’s most powerful military and most extensive intelligence apparatus, is Syria a catastrophe beyond anything one could imagine when anti-Assad protests began in the spring of 2011?
After four years of war—never truly civil and now on the way to proxy—Assad’s Syria is a mangled mess, almost certainly beyond retrieval in its current form. Everyone appears to agree on this point, including Putin and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian leader’s foreign minister. There is no putting this humpty-dumpty back on any wall: The Russians readily acknowledge this, acres of groundless journalism to the contrary notwithstanding.
In the meantime, certain realities are essential to recognize. The Assad government is a sovereign entity. Damascus has the beleaguered bones of a national administration, all the things one does not readily think of as wars unfold: a transport ministry, an education ministry, embassies around the world, a seat at the U.N. In these things are the makings of postwar Syria—which, by definition, means Syria after the threat of Islamic terror is eliminated.
Anyone who doubts this is Russia’s reasoning should consider the Putin-Lavrov proposal for a negotiated transition into a post-Assad national structure. They argue for a federation of autonomous regions representing Sunni, Kurdish and Alawite-Christian populations. Putin made this plain when he met President Obama at the U.N. last month, my sources in Moscow tell me. Lavrov has made it plain during his numerous exchanges with Secretary of State Kerry.
Why would Russia’s president and senior diplomat put this on the table if they were not serious? Their proposed design for post-Assad Syria, incidentally, is a close variant of what Russia and the Europeans favor in Ukraine. In both cases it has the virtue of addressing facts on the ground. These are nations whose internal distinctions and diversity must be accommodated—not denied, not erased, but also not exacerbated—if they are to become truly modern. Russians understand the complexities of becoming truly modern: This has been the Russian project since the 18th century.
In the past week Washington has effectively elected not to support Russia’s new effort to address the Syria crisis decisively. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter’s latest phrase of the moment is “fatally flawed.” If he said it once he said it a dozen times: The Russian strategy is fatally flawed. We heard you the third time, Ash.
As to Obama, he rejects any notion that Washington has effectively ceded leadership on the Syria question—with potentially wider implications—to Moscow. In his much-noted interview with 60 Minutes last weekend, he found Putin foolhardy for risking the lives of Russian soldiers and “spending money he doesn’t have.”
Whose strategy in Syria is fatally flawed, Mr. Carter? I assume there is no need to do more than pose the question. (Memo to SecDef: Get a new scriptwriter, someone who allots you more than one assigned phrase a week.)
As to Obama’s remarks, one wishes he were joking. We are $5 trillion into the mess that began with the invasion of Iraq a dozen years ago, and we are counting the fatalities one side or the other of a million. There are roughly 4 million Syrian refugees by the latest count. And Putin’s at fault for risking lives and blowing money? Who puts a smart guy like you up to this, Mr. President?
Tuesday’s Times carried a remarkable piece called “A Road to Damascus, via Moscow” on the opinion page—remarkable, not least, for appearing in the Times. “Moscow’s intervention in Syria may offer the first glimmer of hope for ending the quagmire,” argue Gordon Adams and Stephen Walt, two noted professors of international affairs. “American officials must end their table-thumping about Russian intrusion, recognize that we are passed the Cold War, and get down to the business of statecraft.” Clear-eyed, rational, devoid of ideology. I would remind the two professors of Boutros-Ghali’s mot in the memoir he wrote after Washington bullied him out of the secretary-general’s office at the U.N.: Diplomacy is for weak nations, he wrote. The strong have no need of it.
Here is another way to put our question: Why will the views of insiders such as Wilkerson and smart heads such as Adams and Walt go unheeded? As they will, that is. I see two answers.
One, the world has just been advised that any kind of post-Manichean, straight-ahead rapprochement with Russia, as Kerry and a few others at State plainly advocate, is out of the question. We are beyond Bush II’s biblical references to Gog and Magog and the end-times battle with evil, but only by way of vocabulary.
I will resort to the New Testament myself on this point: He is not defiled who is offended by others. It is our offenses of others that defile us. That is Matthew 15:11. Translation: We can demonize Putin, Russia, Iran, Assad or anyone else we like. We lose in the end, because we destroy our capacity to see and think clearly. What we are doing in Syria today is Exhibit A.
Russia and its leader as Beelzebub is an old story. Obama, after his fashion, has simply bought into it. This is now irreducibly so, and the implications refract all over the place: Ukraine and the prospects for a negotiated settlement, Washington’s long-running effort to disrupt Europe’s extensive and complex interdependence with Russia. The unfolding events in the Middle East weigh heavily against any constructive turn in American policy on such questions.
The second explanation as to why Washington holds to a patently destructive course in the Middle East is more sinister than our practice of modeling foreign policy on the plot of a John Wayne movie. The argument here is that turning the Middle East into a violent anarchy of ethnic and religious rivalries renders the nations wherein these occur weak and incapable of serious political action—in effect, no longer nations. The chaos before us is exactly Washington’s intended outcome.
I do not know where I stand on this theory. It is not new but is now emerging into the light, and there is considerable documentation in support of it. Thomas Harrington, a cultural studies professor (Trinity College) and a frequent political commentator, cites policy papers going back to the 1980s. These include this document from 1996, which argues (among much else) the strategic use of deposing Saddam Hussein and destabilizing Syria; Richard Perle and Douglas Feith, intellectual poseurs during the Bush II administration, are among the co-authors.
“The U.S. strategic goal in Syria is not, as your faithful mainstream media servants … might have you believe, to save the Syrian people from the ravages of the longstanding Assad dictatorship,” Harrington wrote: “but rather to heighten the level of internecine conflict in that country to the point where it will not be able to serve as a bulwark against Israeli regional hegemony for at least a generation.”
It is a teleological argument to say the strategy worked and is therefore authentic. But Syria is as we have it, and it is impossible to say how long it will be before Damascus is able enough to advance such ordinary things as a foreign policy, or a position on the Palestine question. We do have reports now, it must be noted, that Israel is rushing to fill the Golan Heights with settlers, West Bank-style, to take advantage of Syria’s near-total incapacitation.
This line of thinking causes me to reflect on two other questions arising from the Syria conflict.
One concerns the migration crisis combined with incessant insistence that there is, somewhere and the CIA will find it yet, a moderate opposition in Syria. It is time to reconcile these two phenomena.
Were there refugees in any number before the rise of the Islamist anti-Assad formations? Where are the refugees going now that they number in the millions?
Answers: No. As Gary Leupp, a historian at Tufts, argues in a superb piece of commentary recently: “The bulk of peaceful protesters in the Syrian Arab Spring want nothing to do with the U.S.-supported armed opposition but are instead receptive to calls from Damascus, Moscow and Tehran for dialogue towards a power-sharing arrangement…. What pro-democracy student activists and their allies fear most is the radical Islamists who have burgeoned in large part due to foreign intervention since 2011.”
Thank you, professor. Now we know why the flow of refugees runs toward secular, democratic Europe and not areas of the nation Assad has lost to rebel militias. The former represents the refugees’ shared aspirations, while the latter fight not as Syrians but as religious fanatics and/or CIA clients. As a friend wrote the other day, “There are likely moderate Syrian forces, but you will I think find them mostly in the coffee shops of Istanbul.”
This brings us to Turkey, a newly significant factor in the Syrian crisis. I cannot help viewing the eruption of sectarian and communal violence since the Erdoğan government signed a cooperation agreement with the U.S. last July in the light of the above-suggested American strategy: Make a mess and keep it messy.
Erdoğan is heir to a singular tradition in Middle Eastern politics. Ataturk, faced with the same religious, ethnic and historic fractiousness as Syria and much of the region today, countered it with a modern notion of citizenship and belonging. It held for three-quarters of a century and its mark remains, obviously. Erdoğan comes along and sees political advantage exactly where Washington sees strategic advantage: in social, religious and cultural division.
Another dimension to the Middle East’s many-sided tragedy. This is Erdoğan’s Turkey, and he has our blessing. I would say Erdoğan is a strange bedfellow except that he does not seem to be.
I am with Lawrence Wilkerson on the nature of our moment: The veil is pulled back, and we witness decline in progress, real time. What is supposed to be “fatally flawed” is the only “glimmer of hope,” and what is supposed to be considered and humane is reckless and cynical.
We all live through history, always. This is by definition. But there are not many passages as fraught as this one. Our leadership thrashes about in desperation. It is dangerous—this by definition, too.
Patrick Smith is a foreign affairs columnist. A longtime correspondent abroad, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune and The New Yorker, he is also an essayist, critic and editor.
Wednesday, October 28, 2015
Long ago, men in rural Ireland lived outside in fields, or in sheds or places where they could lean over gates and contemplate the nature of reality in a cloud of blue cigarette smoke as they listened to the sound of singing tractors.
Old men, in particular, were afflicted with low verbal ability. They would stay outside in the shed all day whenever strangers were visiting the house.
When I was a child we used to drive to Gowna in Cavan to visit an old relation of my mothers. The white-haired old granny would sit at the range and discuss all the recent car accidents with my mother, while the woman of the house – her daughter – made tea and put butter on hot scones. But the man of the house, the father, was always outside in the yard.
I figured he couldn’t be that busy. There’s only so many things he could have been doing in a yard of chickens and dead tractors. But he never came in. Even when the scones were buttered and the tea sugared, the woman of the house would say “Bring that out to your father” as she handed her curly-haired son a mug of tea and a saucer with a hot scone.
I got the impression that men were disabled from expressing emotions at an early age. And it was always disappointing when I too was sent out to the backyard with the dismissive phrase: “Why don’t you go out and play?”
I preferred listening to stories about car crashes and people mangled by combine harvesters. Not that those stories ever precipitated my banishment. In fact, it was only when the old lady said something such as “Did you hear what happened those young girls after the dance last Saturday night” that my mother would instantly turn to me and suggest I needed fresh air.
I was back in the same house during the summer, and it was barely recognisable. A marble-top island stood in a vast kitchen tiled in blue, and there was no trace of the old granny or anyone else from the old days. Apart, that is, from the curly-haired boy, my own age, who had come home from the US with his daughter, to bury his father, that mysterious man who had lived in the back yard.
His daughter was very American; a lanky thirtysomething with round spectacles on the edge of her nose.
“Use a big jug,” she was saying, as if she knew just about everything there was to know about making a latte. And her father was struggling with a coffee machine as big as a television set that had been stuck up on the worktop.
I joked: “How long have you been in America and you don’t know how to make coffee?”
He said nothing.
“That’s because he’s useless at anything more mechanical than a shovel,” his daughter joked.
Growing up in the US, she was probably au fait with an endless variety of coffee machines, and she used words like “fall” and “awesome” so frequently that it was difficult to imagine her as the seed and breed of the country folk I remembered in my youth. She had a designer handbag slung across her shoulder that may have been glued on. Everyone admired it that morning at the funeral when she walked into the church.
A row over coffee
When I got to the house after the burial, I saw her father standing in the kitchen like a cow lost in a fog, and her chiding him about the coffee maker.
“If you don’t use a big jug it will spill all over the place,” she repeated as the steam spout churned a froth of white milk up out of the jug and all over the worktop.
“That’s the biggest god-damn jug we have,” he hissed. I didn’t see why they were having such a row over coffee.
It is more than 50 years since we were both little boys standing in that same kitchen, but in a way nothing had changed. When he saw me standing at the door, the argument stopped and I said: “Hello. I’m sorry for your trouble.” And the man who once had curly hair dissolved in tears, and his daughter just said, “He misses his dad.”
He nodded but said nothing, because even a lifetime in the US can’t adequately teach a person how to put language on their sorrow.
Tuesday, October 27, 2015
Fergus Finlay writes an open letter to Minister for Public Expenditure Brendan Howlin.
You’ve moved on already, I imagine. You worked immensely hard on the bits of the Budget that were your responsibility, and I’m guessing it gave you no small measure of pride to be able to announce significant increases in public investment for the first time in years. You deserved that. The job you’ve had to do since entering government has been perhaps the heaviest lifting any Labour minister in history has ever had to do.
You’ll look back at this part of your political career, I’m guessing, as a kind of bittersweet one. When history is written, it will record significant achievements for this government in rescuing the economy from imminent disaster.
I don’t know if it was quite as bad as the need to order the army to protect the ATMs, as the Taoiseach has claimed (who’s going to rob an empty ATM, I wonder?) but there was no doubt this government inherited a dreadful situation. I still have at home the large bundle of papers prepared by the Department of Finance for one of your early government meetings, and it still makes very bleak reading.
So, well done. I know it hasn’t been popular, and I know there have been a lot of sleepless nights. But you can justifiably claim to have played your part — and it has been a major part — in rebuilding a shattered economy and laying down hopeful foundations for the future.
I’ve written here before that that there is a real possibility (external events allowing) that the next government will inherit a balanced budget, and will be in a position to start fixing some of the things that really need to be fixed in Ireland. They are things that, by and large, can’t be fixed without additional investment.
But, and I’m sorry to bring this up, there was one passage in your Budget speech that brought me up short. You were only on your feet a minute or two when you said this:
“I want to deal with one issue that generates considerable debate. It has become popular to say that under this Government, inequality has risen. This is simply not true. Our adjustment has been a difficult one, but a fair one. Those with the most have given the most.
“Income inequality after taxes and social transfers has reduced during the crisis. The progressivity of our income tax system means we have been one of the most effective countries in the OECD at reducing inequality.
“To ignore this fact and to point to income inequality before tax transfers is to ignore one of the central roles of any Government; to protect the most vulnerable of our citizens. But the best weapon against inequality is not the social welfare system. It is decent jobs and fair wages.”
Then you went on to list things you’ve done to promote greater equality, like raising the minimum wage and building schools.
But the harsh truth is that we haven’t, in any sense, been engaged in building an equal society in recent years. We’ve been fire-fighting, and taking resources from wherever we can get them — from lone parents and from people with disabilities, to name just two groups who have suffered disproportionately.
Now, well before you came to office we weren’t interested in equality either. We were letting rip, partying. We were hell-bent on building a society that was interested in consumerism and materialism. The divisions that have always existed got worse and worse throughout the years of our prosperity. We responded to the poverty that we knew was embedded in communities throughout Ireland by building roads around them.
That’s in part because equality has never been a concept that we really believe in in Ireland. We pay lip service to it, that’s for sure, but in recent years we hardly ever really use the word at all. We talk about fairness instead, and we satisfy ourselves that we’re doing everything we can.
All the evidence suggests that an equal society is a stronger society, and greater equality underpins a stronger economy. To me it makes sense to eliminate inequalities, one by one. That’s not easy, of course. It requires more than the application of the tax system and judicious use of social transfers. It also means investing much more heavily in services that promote human development and human dignity.
But we seem to me much happier investing in bricks and mortar. It was always my experience when I worked for the government you could persuade the Department of Finance in a flash to invest in a road, because it doesn’t have recurring cost. But it was much harder to persuade the same department to invest in a school, because when you build it you have to staff it. They don’t think in terms of investment in that department, only in terms of spending.
But all the while, the inequalities build. In my day to day work, we know about the values of prevention. There’s a rudimentary family support system in Ireland, for instance — rudimentary because it’s seriously underfunded. But where it exists, it’s delivering amazing results in helping children to grow within their families, and in helping families to deal with problems. It’s often effective in keeping children at home, for example, and not in the care system. And every time it does that it saves the state tens of thousands. But it remains underfunded.
Right now, some children are falling out of the family support system because of homelessness. It’s one of the unintended consequences of a new phenomenon in our country. Right when we’re turning the economic corner, we’re discovering families who have always needed support, and now find themselves living in emergency accommodation with support scrambling sometimes to keep in touch with them. We really can’t pride ourselves on fighting inequality while that’s happening.
Safe Ireland, the national representative body for organisations protecting people from domestic violence, published a stark statistic last week. On one typical, average, ordinary day last year – November 4, 2014 (it was a Tuesday) — 475 women and 301 children looked for protection from domestic violence. On that one day, six telephone calls were answered every hour from people in desperate need of help. Although most could be responded to some could not simply because the refuges were full.
People who deal with domestic violence deal with inequality, day in andday out. They need a modest investment in services — preventative, supporting, counselling and protective services — probably of the order of an extra €30m a year. In the greater scheme of things, it’s not a lot. But it would be a real equality measure, one that would repay itself a dozen times over.
There is a real chance now for all of us to recognise that even if we can’t create a perfect society, we can make massive gains against inequality. Talking about it won’t achieve anything. Equality-driven investment, in services as well as in income supports, is sound investment. Because every inequality we eliminate places us all on a much stronger footing to deal with future economic shocks. That would be a foundation worth boasting about.
Monday, October 26, 2015
Born into a cruel Romanian circus, the extraordinary moment performing lions released into African sun
- Petrica, Lidia, Lavinia - and her two sons Tarhon Big and Maron - were all taken to animal sanctuary in South Africa
- They were found trapped in small, dirty cages in Romanian zoo which was closed down because of bad conditions
- The three older lions were born to Romanian circus and forced to perform until Petrica attacked one of the trainers
- They will spend the rest of their lives being cared for at the 1,250-hectare Lionsrock sanctuary just north of Lesotho
(Cork accent needed below)
“Ah, Jasus Mahé, Hows the craic?”
“ Ah, sure, you know yourself now Peader.”
Peader looks at the Guinness settling down and rumples the newspaper again. “Jasus Mahé, will ya look at that now. Those were the days I bet. Our president back then made that speech in 1943. Ah, Christ, we have come a long way on the wrong way since then. I mean come on….look at those great words: ‘ ….a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contest of athletic youths and the laughter of happy maidens, whose firesides would be forums for the wisdom of serene old age.’ Ya can't find that now, anywhere, at all at all.”
“Nowhere. Its bad alright."
“I mean just this this week a travelling fellow took his pants down in court and stuck his arse in the judge’s face. I mean come on…”
“Its bad alright”
“Then he started playing with himself. I mean come on like..”
“Jaysus, Its bad alright.”
“and if that wasn't bad enough another gobshite was convicted of having sex with a fecking horse. I mean Mahé, come on.”
“Ah, Jasus,its bad alright.”
“and another wanker tore off all his clothes on an Aer Lingus flight because he wanted to have sex with the air hostess.
Ah, Peader, we are all fecked I think.
“I mean Mahé, come on.”
“ …and now they are trying to ged rid of the Angelus.”
“its bad alright Peader, in fact its bloody awful. Just terrible"
Sunday, October 25, 2015
There is an odd and uncomfortable divergence currently taking place between the general mood around Ireland and the experience of international financial investors, writes Joe Gill
It is a queasy and challenging juxtaposition which is sending off alarm bells in some quarters.
On one side, we find an economy relatively buoyant and upbeat as a succession of forecasters upgrade their GDP expectations for Ireland.
Employment is growing, investment is rising, and inflation is subdued, while interest rates continue to be fixed at ultra low levels.
Added to that are exchange rates versus sterling and the US dollar, which continue to be highly supportive of export-oriented goods and services companies.
On the other side are financial markets and their behaviour outside of Ireland.
There has been a period of volatility evident since mid-summer that unfortunately reminds me of conditions during parts of the global financial crisis after 2008.
That volatility is evident, particularly in developing economies that were advanced as the source for global economic sweetness and light a short time ago.
This volatility first spread into currency markets, where emerging economies endured material weakness in their foreign exchange rates.
International commodity markets, too, have been under pressure for some time but took a turn for the worse during summer, with metals, agri-products, and energy declining materially.
All of this activity has been compounded by a series of corporate disasters, led by auto maker Volkswagen.
Its share price collapsed, but so did a number of other large companies in the agricultural, commodity, IT, and bio-tech sectors.
This sharp change in the fortunes of companies on the stock market has triggered a crisis among some asset managers.
Hedge funds, which are now large parts of the financial world globally, lost almost $80bn alone in the four weeks of August, and that was before the Volkswagen explosion occurred.
To add salt to the wounds, some very large oil-producing countries have begun to repatriate billions of dollars from fund managers around the world as they move to shore up domestic economies amid very poor oil prices.
That, in turn, is forcing some fund managers to liquidate positions and sell shares they would otherwise keep. This, too, is compounding the pressure on financial markets.
I read that the Citigroup thought leader Willem Buiter is saying it is likely that the world is about to sink in to a global recession.
That’s tough reading in an economy which appears like an oasis of tranquillity in the week of a generous budget.
Ireland is the love child of globalisation, like it or not. We live and die according to the ebbs and flows of worldwide trade because we are a classic small, open economy.
Unlike the US, for example, Ireland is critically dependent on how a group of international economies such as the UK, continental Europe, and the US perform. When they do well, we tend to prosper as well, and vice versa.
It is convenient for all of us, luxuriating in the warm glow of vastly improved domestic economic data, to turn a blind eye to the shifting sands of global economics.
That attitude is partly vindicated by a nascent recovery in construction markets with both residential and commercial projects springing into life and augmenting the external factors that were so positive in 2013 and 2014.
Stability across the international economy would be a welcome development over coming quarters.
If China finds its feet, if policymakers in Europe, and if the US can pull levers that offset the threats identified by economists, then our new-found optimism can continue.
If things further deteriorate abroad, though, we need to be on high alert for how that could influence economic momentum in 2016 and beyond.