Lindy McDowell: Why we need to be street smart to survive this recession jungle
Such is the scale of the EU bailout, you could hardly have blamed people down south if they’d collectively Gillian McKeithed when the bleak news broke this week.
The economy formerly known as Celtic Tiger may have had to take a sub to the tune of circa €80bn. But its reported collapse — much like a McKeith fainting fit — doesn’t seem to be all that debilitating.
I was down at the weekend. City centre bars were packed. There were queues outside restaurants. The place was buzzing.
Even the gap-toothed gentleman of the streets who serenaded me for a modest donation in his Starbucks cup seemed upbeat and not unduly burdened by fiscal concerns.
Of course it was a big weekend (Ireland v the All Blacks) and of course Dublin isn’t the whole picture.
But if this is economic crisis, you’re tempted to think, bring it on.
Reading reports, on the other hand, you‘d think Dublin 4 was now Third World.
In fact, given some of the coverage, you wouldn’t be surprised if this year you got a Christmas card from a charitable friend telling you that, in your name, she’s bought half a dozen goats for a family in Cork.
True, there may be sovereignty and pride issues to consider. But the reality of The Bailout appears a whole lot less cataclysmic than the hysterics would suggest.
And this has to be good news for us up here. For what happens down there, inevitably impacts in our back yard. And on our High Street.
In recent years, the Euro exchange rate has paid major dividends for some cross-border businesses.
But nobody anywhere in Ireland should welcome, or have cause to feel smug about, a bleak economic outlook for any part of it.
A few people up here may, of course, feel peeved that Dave Cameron is forking out a reported £7bn to help our friends in the south.
After all, we’ve already given them Gerry Adams to sort their economic crisis.
Isn’t that sacrifice enough?
And think of all the things we could have spent that £7 bn on up here That bit of road near Aughnacloy. A new stadium — or several. Subsidised meals for the folks at Stormont. An inquiry into something.
Or even, a speed-up for the Streets Behind project in Belfast city centre.
This has been temporarily suspended for the Christmas period to allow traders to cash in on the most lucrative season of the year.
And for once somebody, somewhere, has shown a bit of gumption. Even if tarmacing over work-in-progress does seem like a waste of cash when finances are stretched.
In recent months the main shopping streets in our largest city have been a woeful sight.
Getting from a shop on one side of the main thoroughfare over to the one directly opposite has entailed circumnavigating a grimy Berlin Wall of red and white plastic bollards.
The South Koreans have more chance of accessing downtown Pyongyang than a Belfast shopper has had in recent weeks of nipping out from Markies across the street to Boots.
And OK, so the long (very long) wait may be worth it.
We have already had a glimpse of the future. And the artwork. (Anybody got any idea what those odd-looking bronze tusks outside M&S represent?)
But with an island-wide recession now biting hard, Belfast needs to get its act together, sharper than the gameplan for eventual completion now suggests.
As the ever-collapsing Ms McKeith has discovered — when it’s a jungle out there, it’s no place for the faint-hearted.