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It’s an Amazon jobs bonanza now but the past was a jungle

Caveat: We shouldn’t forget painful memories of dark times when there were no jobs

The strangely muted reaction this week to the news that Amazon is creating 1,000 new highly-skilled jobs in Dublin is the surest proof yet that the economy is back purring like a tiger after a bucket of milk. It's amazing how quickly the lack of want can make us forget.

The Taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, welcomed the jobs news with a low-key speech at Amazon delivered in his own strangely-muted, inimitable fashion: "[They] are exactly the kind of jobs we are looking for." As opposed to the kind of jobs we don't want at all, presumably. And that was pretty much it.

Imagine for a moment if such news had come during the far darker economic days of, say, five or six years ago. Varadkar's Duracell bunny predecessor, Enda Kenny, would have arrived at the announcement on the back of a golf buggy like the Pope, punching the air and scattering chocolates. Half of his cabinet would have showed up for the photoshoot. Newspapers would have cleared their front pages.

When Paypal announced 1,000 jobs for Dundalk in 2012, the media reported it like some sort of economic miracle. Kenny's volcanic optimism at the announcement seemed almost unhinged. But oh, how right he was. Two years later Paypal announced another 400 roles for Dundalk. That time, three ministers – Kenny, Brendan Howlin and Richard Bruton – competed for mic time on the podium. They weren't going to let Kenny have all the stardust.


The media reaction this week to the 1,000 Amazon jobs was a collective exercise in "so what?" The next day, the Irish Examiner reported it in the final paragraph of a Budget story. The Irish Independent's headline read "Thousand new jobs at Amazon to pile pressure on housing market". The Irish Daily Mail meanwhile screamed: "Now we're running out of workers." That report focused more the Economic and Social Research Institute's warning that 90,000 foreign workers are needed to fuel growth.

Full details

This newspaper briefly mentioned Amazon in a political story on page one, before reporting the full details of the jobs news inside. Opposite it was a report on how Ibec says we need another 110,000 building workers to meet housing needs. None of the above is a criticism of any of the newspapers concerned or their coverage, all of which was perfectly appropriate and reasonable in the context.

It is just a stark illustration of where we are as a nation that the collective reaction to a massive jobs announcement now is to out our hands to our heads and go: “Christ! Where are we going to put them all? Where will they live?”

“Jobs boost” is one of those business journalism writing cliches that nobody with a brain ever uses in real life, like “behemoth” or “trenchant criticism”. It is a verifiable fact that the proliferation in Irish printed media of the phrase “jobs boost” is inversely proportionate to the number of jobs being created. The worse things are, the more easily we’re boosted.

The phrase was used only 22 times in Irish media in 2006 at the top of the last boom, when Ireland was in reality creating jobs for fun. But in 2009 as the economy rolled off a cliff, there were 90 "jobs boosts". It peaked with 153 mentions in 2012, the year that unemployment also peaked. The same year, the Press Association even reported a "Jelly bean jobs boost" after a confectionery factory hired 25 people in Dublin. When the State was economically starving, every job felt like a boost.

Last year, Ireland’s best year by far for job creation in a decade, “jobs boost” had fallen back down to 55 mentions. We’re halfway through a clearly booming 2018, and so far there have been just 19 “jobs boost” stories. As in 2006, Ireland now appears to be economically sated. Jobs are no longer the main concern as the State struggles to provide housing and infrastructure.

Each time now that a multinational announces a hiring spree, Ireland reacts like Mr Creosote, the greedy and comically-obese man gorging in a French restaurant in Monty Python's The Meaning of Life. "And finally, monsieur, a wafer-thin mint," says the multinational, force-feeding another few jobs. The State bursts at the seams.


Such are the trappings of economic success. Unemployment is down to 5.8 per cent and still falling. Ireland can afford to be choosy again and many people have worked hard and made a lot of sacrifices to drag the State back to this point.

But we shouldn’t forget too quickly what it felt like before.

Everybody who was unwillingly made redundant during the darkest days of the crash will remember that sting, the ignominy, the terror of the uncertainty that lay ahead.

Everybody who loved somebody who lost their job back then will also recall the silent fear of how it might affect them. Lives were ruined during those times and lives were lost. Remember the blight of suicides, the destruction of self-worth and the personal torment that was wrought by a basic failure of economic policy: a shortage of jobs.

It is understandable now, in a time of plenty, that we should blithely dismiss 1,000 new jobs as if they were nothing. The crash is over. But let’s never allow it to happen again. Every job matters.



- Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman is clearly an extremely smart man of many huge accomplishments. He is also a regular critic of Irish economic policy, often understandably so, given how this State's economics can appear from abroad.

However, without being too thin-skinned about it, it might be better if he could lay off the national stereotyping.

Krugman invented the term Leprechaun Economics two years ago to describe Ireland’s bonkers GDP figures, skewed by the intellectual property of foreign investors. It was funny the first time. And the second, and maybe even the third..... But must he resort to calling Irish people leprechauns every time he writes about this State’s affairs?

His latest offering in the New York Times was last week's: "Tax cuts and leprechauns". It was accompanied by a picture of a jolly drinking Oirish man in an 1800s top hat, which, if it appeared in an English right-wing newspaper, would have us screaming about their colonial ignorance.

Perhaps it’s different when a liberal does it. Or maybe Krugman has run out of ideas.


- Then again, how can we complain when it is almost impossible to get through a day without seeing the ramifications internationally of Ireland’s association, fully warranted or not, with tax trickery.

Cristiano Ronaldo scored a hat-trick at the World Cup, days after agreeing to an €18 million fine from Spanish authorities over unpaid taxes on his image rights. Like Jose Mourinho and Angel Di Maria before him, Ronaldo used – of course – a structure that hinged upon Irish entities to dodge the tax that he has now admitted he owed.

This fact went practically unremarked upon in Ireland this week. But not abroad.