Wednesday, March 18, 2009

National Archives of Ireland falls victim to the Euro

When Michael Collins excused his forces' destruction of the Public Record Office of Ireland at the Four Courts in Dublin in 1922 by saying better a state with no archives than an archives with no state, it is doubtful that he anticipated current developments in the Republic of Ireland, now suffering under the thumb of European Union.

The Irish government has announced plans to merge the National Archives of Ireland in Bishop Street, Dublin with the National Library of Ireland.

For the Irish state to be overseeing the disbandment of a national institution is doubly ironic: that the national archives should again be disinvented when there is no obvious threat to Irish statehood and for it to be done by the political successors to the founding fathers of the Irish state.

The mining of the Public Record Office, Dublin, 1922

Observers of Irish archival provision will be both bitterly disappointed and bemused. The present National Archives was a much heralded step forward for a service once split between the Public Record Office of Ireland and the State Paper Office at Dublin Castle. It also means the Republic of Ireland falls behind the example of Scotland whose National Archives of Scotland, formerly the General Register House, even preceded the establishment of devolved government there. Thus the Republic of Ireland, a fully independent state (except for being a member of the EU) has no national archives while Scotland, a minor part of the United Kingdom, producing 20% of the UK's GDP, does have a national archives.

The National Archives of Ireland, Bishop Street, Dublin

So what has brought this sorry state of affairs into being?

In the words of the Bruges Group:

The Bruges Group’s detailed examination of the severe strains facing the Single Currency .... finds that the entirely ‘man made’ problems that confront the eurozone today have their origins in the fatally flawed notion that one exchange rate and one interest rate are appropriate for economies with very different and disparate histories, structures, performances and sovereign governments.

The euro was meant to bring convergence to the economies of the European Union. Yet it has caused even greater divergence.

This much applies to all of the Euro Zone. What about Ireland? Writing in The Daily Telegraph of 28 February 2009, Gordon Rayner says:

Irish government bonds are rated as the riskiest in the EU and there has been panicky talk of Ireland being the next Iceland. On the streets, there is a whiff of revolution, with 120,000 people staging Dublin's biggest mass rally in 30 years ... to protest at the government's handling of the economy and its decision to impose what amounted to a pay cut on public sector workers.

Businesses in the north of the Republic are on their knees because competitors in Northern Ireland are undecutting them by as much as half. Thousands of workers who have lost their jobs in other sectors have been allowed to set up as cabbies, meaning that Dublin now has 16,000 licensed taxis. New York, with a population 17 times as large, has 13,000.

Crucially, the Irish government is powerless to act because, as a member of the eurozone, it has no control over interest rates or currency devaluation.

Further reading

Could the EU invade Ireland?

Archives and the state

Anyone give a damn?

O Minister, Minister! wherefore art thou Minister?

New EU working laws will be disaster for NHS The Sunday Telegraph 18 January 2009

Ditching the euro could boost our failing economy

John Black, president of the Royal College of Surgeons has issued a dramatic warning that the National Health Service will not be able to cope with the effects of the controversial European Working Time Directive.

Mr Black is meeting Alan Johnson, the Health Secretary, in February to propose a "speciality opt-out" and an upper limit on surgeons ' hours of 65 to 70 hours a week.

"I have no doubt we will be told that it is impossible to alter or bypass the European law. I do not believe this. All manner of EC law must have been bent or ignored in nationalising a bank in 24 hours. The Government can do it if it has the political will," Mr Black said.

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