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Let's Get Fiscal
John Fitzgerald, the son of former Taoiseach Garret and husband of former Labour minister Eithne Fitzgerald, keeps his own political cards close to his chest. But that doesn’t mean he hasn’t a few things to say about Anglo-Irish Bank, the Catholic Church and the so-called experts who allowed the Irish economy to drive itself into a brick wall – and yes, he includes himself in that last category.
Valerie Flynn, 04 May 2010
Ireland’s most influential think-tank, the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), is located in one of those horrible new developments at Dublin’s docklands – shiny, box-like office buildings that sprang up, seemingly overnight, during the boom. In the afternoon sunshine, it looks like it’s built of Lego.
Depending on how cynical you are, you could see it as entirely appropriate that one of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland’s most important economists has an office that looks out onto a desultory “ghost” building – only two floors of the colossal block opposite are occupied.
John FitzGerald graduated from UCD in 1970 and went to work in the Department of Finance, before moving to the ESRI 25 years ago. He lives in south Dublin and has three daughters, all in their 30s. Particularly since the good times ended, FitzGerald’s (mostly gloomy) pronouncements on Ireland’s future have been endlessly quoted and parsed in the media. There’s a framed newspaper cartoon in the corridor outside his office that sums it up: a scythe-carrying grim reaper is dressed as Santa, with a sled full of ‘job losses’ and ‘wage cuts’. The caption reads, “Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year from the ESRI.”
FitzGerald certainly looks every inch the super-serious economist – dark suit, steel-rimmed glasses, bushy beard and a purple, patterned tie that looks like it may date back to the Summer of Love.
While I’m fumbling in my handbag for a pen and trying to get the damn dictaphone to turn on, he mentions that an interview with an economist mightn’t be very interesting for Hot Press readers. But of course the problem is, since the ‘R’ word entered everyone’s vocabulary in 2008, the state of the economy has become all too relevant to us plebs. When your pay is slashed, the company you work for goes bust, or you find yourself working in Spar even though you’re a qualified engineer, you begin to wonder where exactly it all went wrong – and who’s to blame.