With the halcyon days of the Celtic Tiger now a myth, Ireland’s economy is moribund. Businesses are unable to raise lines of credit from cash-strapped and under-capitalised banks to grow, fund cash flow or employ the ever-expanding legion of the unemployed. After a decade of wholesale repatriation of the Irish back to Ireland, the country has again become a net exporter of youth in search of better prospects overseas.
Meanwhile, and to make matters worse, mortgages that were passed out like pints of Guinness at a cèilidh during the good times to purchase over-valued property, have fallen into disrepair.
Business is struggling too. Larger suppliers are unable to extend credit to their smaller business customers making business a cash on delivery, or no delivery, event. The mood is dark and desperate, and desperate people do strange things.
Last week, thieves relieved a man living near the village of Raphoe, a mostly agricultural community in Donegal, of €30,000 in cash. The cash, it is said, had been kept in a biscuit tin locked in a shed for a ‘rainy day’. This was an explanation I found odd given that in Donegal, rain gives way only to snow, but I digress.
Either the thieves knew exactly what they were doing, or they had the spirit of St Patrick himself on their team. Cash stolen from a biscuit tin stored in a shed is unlikely to raise much of a response from An Garda Síochána (the police force), never mind the insurance company. A spokesman for the Irish Farmers Association responded by advising local people not to store large amounts of cash at home, suggesting it safer in a bank or Post Office.
I was curious so had a chat with a local locksmith. His business is doing reasonably well, he told me, in large part because of the regular sale of large and hard to crack safes. It seems there’s a lot of people hoarding large amounts of cash at home in Ireland. “Why don’t they just lodge the cash in the bank,” I asked innocently.
“Because the bank will offset the cash against any overdue loans, and still won’t lend money if it’s needed, so people are holding cash close because they like to have instant access to it in difficult times,” was his reply.
Then he mentioned something else. “Irish people don’t trust the banks to survive the downturn and fear that whatever cash they have in the bank will disappear overnight when the banks go under, so they keep it at home.”
So Ireland is awash with cash and the economy is moribund because of a shortage of the stuff. Sounds a bit Irish, I suppose.
Maybe it’s time the banks and the Irish government got together to work out the details of a cash amnesty. It could get the wheels of business turning and Irish eyes might smile again?