Does it take an empire, we wonder, to bring civilization and prosperity to people?
“Ireland has arrived,” writes David McWilliams in his book The Pope's Children.16 Driving around the countryside, we saw many substantial houses and condominium developments under construction, along with shopping malls and fancy automobiles. Except for the hedgerows and the people driving on the wrong side of the road, it might have been a suburb of Cincinnati.
“We are richer than any of us imagined possible 10 years ago,” continues McWilliams. “No Irish person has to emigrate, none of us need pay for education, and even our universities are free. Unemployment is the lowest in our history. We are at the top of foreigners’ lists as places to live. Unlike many of our rich neighbors, in survey after survey, we claim to be very happy. We no longer need to beg from others in the EU; in fact, we are giving them cash. We are a success.”17
“Yes, it's not like it used to be,” said our cab driver. “You won't see any more houses with thatched roofs, for example. Nobody knows how to put on the thatch. And then you can't get insurance for them. Too bad, I liked to see a nice thatched roof—and it was so warm and cozy in winter. But nothing is like it used to be.”
The River Liffey still flows through Dublin just as it always has. But it's not the same water—and not the same city, either. Nowadays, you're likely to enter a pub and be served not by a smiling publican with a round bog‐trotters’ face, ...