Ireland, long considered the economic backwater of Europe, has come roaring into the twenty-first century with one or the longest sustained periods of economic growth in recent history, GDP increased by 51 percent from 1988 to 1994, and Ireland is currently the fastest growing economy in the European Union with an average annual GDP growth of almost 6 percent,
The reasons for the boom are numerous, but membership in the European Union has probably been the most important one. With a single European market imminent, Ireland suddenly looked promising to U.S. and Japanese companies as a back door into the rich continent, The prospects of generous tax breaks, a well-educated English-speaking workforce, and the governmental policy of social partnership with multinational corporations added to the attractions.
Nevertheless, many Irish are apprehensive about their newfound prosperity. Traditionalists lament the erosion of respect for church authority, saying that it has been undermined by the steady flow of foreign images und ideas. Younger and more progressive folk resent the encroachment of the ugly gray modernity and the urban gridlock, pollution an social alienation inevitably associated with progress. Stop a person at random in the street and you will find yourself in a conversation about the passing of what were seen as unique features of Irish culture- particularly the easygoing pace of life and willingness to engage in frivolous conversation. Although the Ireland of the past was poor, they say, at least everyone was poor together.
In many ways, the story of Ireland's recent development is the familiar one of modernity versus tradition that is being repeated in many other corners of the globe: the headlong rush toward the future with barely a moment to cast a backward glance at a supposedly golden past.