Ever since the Irish Potato Famine of the mid-19th century, Ireland had been a nation of emigrants, until the government decided to lower the corporate tax rate in the mid-1990s, drawing in a flood of foreign investment and foreigners themselves searching for new work opportunities. A key to this was that, as a member of the EU, money and people from other parts of Europe could flow into Ireland pretty freely. The economic boom gave Ireland the nick-name of the "Celtic Tiger" and life was good. Or so it seemed. The boom boosted property values and developers borrowed heavily to cash in on the new prosperity. But the worldwide recession has brought all of that to a halt, and the debt--much of which was hidden by the state-owned Anglo Irish Bank--is now a national catastrophe. The predictable result is that people are once again leaving Ireland, although to be fair, most of the evidence thus far is anecdotal, not official.It took some time, but now it is official. The Migration Policy Institute in Washington, DC, has a new report confirming these trends. This time is a little different than in the past, however, because some of the emigration is just people from elsewhere in Europe returning home or heading somewhere else. And, at the same time, the evidence suggests that the Irish citizens who are leaving are not the down-and-outers of yore, but are likely to be college graduates.
The tax laws in Ireland continue to be favorable to businesses, however, no matter the demographic trends. That was on display yesterday when American-based Pfizer and Ireland-based Allergan merged into a new Ireland-based company that will now pay billions of dollars per year less into the U.S. treasury. Keep in mind, by the way, that Allergen itself was originally a U.S. firm, "born" in Los Angeles in the late 1940s.