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Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger Hardcover – March 2, 2010

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; 1 edition (March 2, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586488813
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586488819
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #855,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


Brian Groom, Financial Times
“O’Toole … has produced a coruscating polemic against the cronyism and corruption that in his view helped to fuel the boom…. [H]is highly readable book is a salutary reminder that cronyism, light regulation and loose ethics can be a deadly combination.”

Cleveland Plain Dealer
“An interesting and readable post-mortem…. Ship of Fools is not just for those drawn to Irish politics or economics. Americans, in particular, will relate to Ireland's battle to restore its economy and renew faith in its leaders.”

About the Author

Fintan O'Toole is a columnist and critic for the Irish Times. He was elected Irish Journalist of the Year in 1993 and was a drama critic for the New York Daily News from 1997-2001. The author of several previous books, he is a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books, Granta, and other publications. He currently lives in Dublin.

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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The answer is supposed to be, "Well . . . No."
Theodore A. Rushton
Overall, despite the few negatives, I think this is a great, short read for anyone who is interested in the downfall of the Celtic Tiger.
In his summary, he makes some very acute observations about Irish culture.
timothy j otoole

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By David M. Giltinan on March 12, 2010
Format: Hardcover
"The role of sheer idiocy should not be understated. As finance minister, Charlie McCreevy's credo was a textbook statement of macroeconomic illiteracy: 'When I have the money, I spend it, when I don't have it, I don't spend it'. This childish mantra, ... obliterating at a stroke everything that governments worldwide had learned about the need to restrain a runaway economy by spending less and boost a flagging economy by spending more, was the economic equivalent of bulimia: binge and purge, binge and purge".

As the Celtic tiger lies puking feebly into the gutter, surrounded by the debris caused by the bursting of one of the worst real-estate bubbles on record, the Irish economic boom has come to a painful, screeching halt. By August 2009, the month when the Irish prime minister finally dropped his "Celtic tiger as a template for economic development" speech from his speaking portfolio, the level of debt among Irish households was the highest in the EU, GDP was predicted to shrink by 13.5 percent in 2009 and 2010, Government debt had almost doubled in the preceding year. With a fifth of its office spaces empty, Dublin had the highest vacancy rate of any European capital and was rated as having the worst development and investment potential of 27 European cities. The Irish stock exchange had fallen by 68% in 2008....

The litany of depressing statistics goes on. In this book, Fintan O'Toole, a political commentator and columnist for The Irish Times, sets out in chilling detail the particular combination of factors that led to such a catastrophic end to Ireland's economic boom.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By William Podmore on April 14, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Fintan O'Toole, historian, biographer, critic and journalist with the Irish Times, has written a brilliant account of the Irish boom and bust.

The boom only lasted from 1995 to 2001, then productivity and export growth both fell. Yet as late as February 2008, Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond promised, "we will create a Celtic Lion economy to rival the Celtic Tiger across the Irish Sea."

Ireland's household and company debt was the highest in the EU, 1.1 trillion euros, while (some) Irish owned 1.3 trillion euros worth of foreign portfolio asset securities. Between 2004 and 2007, the richest 450 people added 41 billion euros to their combined wealth, often from the huge windfall profits of selling land for building.

Ireland was more dependent on foreign investment for its manufacturing base than any other country. Most foreign investment went into the finance sector. By 2005, Dublin's International Financial Services Centre accounted for 75 per cent of all the foreign investment in Ireland.

The idiotic notion was that "Consumption would replace production. Building would replace manufacture as the engine of growth." Between 2000 and 2008 capital stock rose 157 per cent - but this was mostly housing bubble: private sector productive capital stock rose by only 26 per cent.

The Irish people kept on voting for and electing those who blew up the bubble - who also turned out to be tax-cheating liars, convicted fraudsters and receivers of bribes. The people re-elected Bertie Ahern prime minister even though he had admitted being on the take.

The Irish Central Bank and the Department of Finance knew about the widespread crimes of tax evasion and fraud committed by politicians and bankers and did nothing to stop it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By tom patrick on December 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
perhaps the definitive explanation for the collapse of the Irish Economic Boom of the nineties and first decade of this century. O'Toole does more than expose the doomed banking policies that fed an elite circle of real estate developers and speculators, he puts it in the context of the Irish cultural psyche, a collective consciousness or unconciousness shaped by an history of oppression, famine and emigration. Insightful account that pulls no punches.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Ivan on April 26, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book, Fintan O'Toole concentrates on corruption, massive housing/land bubble, irresponsible and regressive tax policy, lack of infrastructure development and the fanatical pro-business attitude of the Irish government as the key causes for the collapse of the Irish economy and the death of the Celtic Tiger.

The positives of this work is that O'Toole is a really good writer as far as pure mastery of language is concerned. His prose is very easy to follow and it flows very well for a non-fiction book. The book itself is pretty short and knows exactly where to stop, right before getting tedious. I also found O'Toole's disdainfully sardonic tone to be quite amusing and very appropriate for this type of publication. Instead of further trying to describe the language and the tone, I will just provide a short excerpt. This is O'Toole's take on the corrupt Irish elite that purchased vacation homes on the man-made "Island of Ireland", which is part of the "World Archipelago" just off the coast of Dubai: "The great men who 'shaped our modern, thriving nation' could have their Irish pride in villas with 'more than just a hint of Irishness to them', but they would not actually have to be in Ireland - a particular advantage for those among them who were tax fugitives. This would be the perfect Ireland, with a vague sense of history in its mock-Georgian squares but no politics, with a simulacrum of Irish conviviality without the bother of an unruly plebeian populace."

Unfortunately, there are a few negatives about this book and hence the four stars. For one, I thought it could have used a little bit more structure. I felt that the material in each section could have been subdivided into smaller sections, making the transitions between different issues a little easier on the reader.
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