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Central Bank Governor Patrick Honohan Julien Behal/PA Archive/Press Association Images
Economy

'Reversals of fortune, periods of distress and mysterious strangers' - Honohan draws literary parallels on economy

Confidence and self-esteem will help drive the economy back to growth, says Patrick Honohan.

CENTRAL BANK GOVERNOR Patrick Honohan has drawn more than a few parallels between the misfortunes contained within classic folktales and the tortuous economic experiences of the Irish people over the past number of years.

Speaking last night at the launch of an English translation of Seán Ó Súilleabháin’s book on folkloric stories ‘Scéalta Cráibhtheacha’ (Miraculous Plenty: Irish Religious Folktales and Legend), translated by Bill Caulfield, Honohan said there were many similarities between the fanciful tales and the economic realities landed on an “unsuspecting public” in Ireland today.

The problems currently being faced by the country were almost folkloric, he said – particularly the “sudden reversals of fortune, arbitrary and lengthy periods of distress, mysterious strangers offering advice which is received with a mixture of hope and scepticism, and rewards for good behaviour”.

Pointing out that the intractable narratives of stories within the book matched the “uncertainties and imponderables” within the economic landscape, Honohan said Ó Súilleabháin’s book highlighted the fear of the unknown – a theme replicated in the public’s understanding of the complexities involved in the crisis:

Is the mysterious stranger a good angel or a devil; is the figure of authority hardworking and god-fearing, or lazy and feckless?

The challenge faced by Ireland’s policy makers were “a complex range of possible actions [and] some immutable realities – such as the need to put the public finances to rights – but also considerable and evolving uncertainties,” he said. Leaders also needed to recognise that their counterparts, while many of them supportive, each have ” their own set of interests, not always fully aligned with those of Ireland.”

In this environment, Honohan said, public figures must take prompt and decisive action while also leaving room to seize opportunities as they arise.

Honohan said what happened in Ireland as a result of the errors of the property boom had been as devastating as any of the misfortunes to have occurred to the book’s characters – but added that he had confidence in the Irish people to “recover the confidence and self-esteem that helped drive the Irish economy’s solid success in the 1990s before the property bubble took over”.

Although admitting that “vigorous upturn remains some time away”, Honohan added that he was certain that fiscal and competitiveness adjustment was taking place.

The world described by within Ó Súilleabháin’s book was generally one full of unexpected hazards – just like the economic future today, Honohan said; “But overall, it is clear that market confidence, badly knocked since the bank guarantee and its aftermath, has been seeping back,” he added.

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