As we correctly ban Americans from Ireland, the real question worth asking is why is the rural economy so heavily dependent on tourists in the first place?
For decades, our country has been run down, de-industrialized and underfunded. Post offices closing, bus routes cut, opportunities for young people eviscerated and basically silence for most of the year outside the summer months. In the book Sins of the Father by Dr. Conor McCabe we see how the economy was orientated around foreign direct investment and tourism, and all serious indigenous industry was shuttered.
It really honestly doesn’t have to be this way. Not so long ago, smaller towns around the country had various industries and factories, most of which were unionised and as a result, the towns could survive and get by. Unionised workers brought the wages they earned into the town and the factory probably paid a hefty capital gains tax too.
In Tallaght, Jacobs employed hundreds of local people, who then contributed to the economy in their local area, lived there and survived there. In Waterford, Waterford Crystal provided a staple of economic activity to the community. In Youghal, the Couristan carpet factory provided hundreds of jobs too. In Navan, a furniture co-operative kept running when the workers took it over.
These towns were less dependent on tourism to get by and produced various items that were sold both in Ireland and abroad. Today, we have a grim landscape. European and American multinationals dominate large ugly industrial estates. They shut doors when it suits them and have little to no allegiance to the community that they temporarily prop up. Once their tax exemptions run out, they leave. What good is that?
This is all relevant now, because a national discussion is occurring about whether American tourists should be allowed in. It is costed against the economic interests of those who depend on the American tourists coming into the country. Tourism and tax evasion are two entirely unsustainable models to build our economy on, but that’s exactly what it has been built on.
As we talk about American tourists coming in, we should equally begin to ask ourselves about the shambolic nature of the Irish economy and more importantly, where it needs to go. A socialist workers republic could create decent employment with maximum union density and community engagement.
Democratic ownership of all industries, strategic indigenous development of industry, development of a green industrial revolution and more, is only possible when political power is wielded by the working class, i.e the parties wedded to capitalism-imperialism are no longer in power. Until we can stand on our own feet, more and more of our politics and culture will be dictated by international finance capital, and our country will be reshaped decisively to its whims.