Another good year in Ireland

IT is the lot of the columnist to give out about things. I’ve always had a policy that if I complain about something that’s bad then I should always have a positive suggestion to hand about how it can be remedied

This is not shared by all my fellow Irishmen and Irishwomen. It has to be said that there are a lot of very grumpy people in this country and when something goes wrong they tend to blame Ireland for it. (A lot of the grumpy people I have in mind are fellow columnists).

Because the truth is that we live in a very, very good country and that many of us obviously don’t know how good we have it.

We are still at the top of the league for economic growth – the second Celtic Tiger is well under way. The indices that measure average standard of living such as infant mortality, education and housing have us right at the top of the tables.

There are only six million of us on this island. There are six billion people in the world. For those of you that are slow on the mathematical side that means there are one thousand ‘Ireland’s’ in terms of population on the planet.

If we grouped all the people of the world into groups of six million and ranked them in order of 1 (richest) to 1,000 (poorest) where do you think we’d be?

It’s not an easy equation to calculate. You would have to define it by geographical area – it’s no use grouping all the millionaires together. As it stands we definitely come in the top 100. If we take GDP per head as a measure, then we are in or around the top ten.

That leaves an awful lot of people and places much worse off than we are. We have a lot to be grateful for and we have a lot to be proud of.

The thing we have to be careful of here is that we don’t let the success go to our collective heads. And that we don’t lose our humanity in pursuit of plain old mammon.

Mark Twain observed that there is nothing that will make a man greedy as fast as the sight of his neighbour getting rich. If we look at the internet gold rush and the housing price bubble we can see what he means. It’s easy to get carried away and many people (I’m thinking of myself and my peers here) end up with a little more money and a lot less time to chill out.

My resolution about learning Irish didn’t work out so well, I’ll have to revisit it in the future. This year my resolution is to relax a bit more to divest myself of commitments rather than take more on. Maybe see a bit more of the kids.

I might learn to say ‘no’ just at the time Ireland’s most resolute ‘no’ man almost said yes. That Ian Paisley has now embraced the Good Friday Agreement makes me think that this country’s luck has turned full circle. Never has the prospect of a permanent peace on this island been so close. Can things here get any better?

So happy New Year. Take it handy, slow down and let’s give ourselves a lot more credit than we normally do.