Figures from the arts, politics, business and the media share their thoughts on the way ahead in 2012.
Economics editor, Irish Independent
It looks as if 2012 will be another year of stagnation for the Irish economy. The endless euro zone crisis has dashed hopes that the year might have seen the start of recovery from the deep, four-year recession. Most analysts expect the volume of goods and services produced this year to increase by only half a per cent or so. When the large profits earned by foreign companies are deducted, national income may fall again, leaving it some 13 per cent lower than in 2007.
The problems in the euro area may depress demand for Irish exports: the only source of growth in the Irish economy. It raises fears among consumers that the Government will miss its 2012 budget targets and impose further tax rises and spending cuts to compensate. The best one can hope for is that 2012 will be the opposite of last year, when the economy performed well in the first half and then disappointed. It will certainly be weak in the next six months but better news from abroad might just provoke a pleasant surprise in the second half.
Actor and film director
I think it’s taken a couple of years for the realities of the economic scandal to sink in with artists of every flavour. In terms of what I do, it’s taken some serious adjustment to replace my bread and butter income stream of screenplay commissions and film development, but although tough, this painful shift naturally induces an edgier creative environment. Good art has always come out of adversity and struggle, so I think we’ll see some interesting, unorthodox ways of getting small, original films to new markets. And that just has to be good on the back of the rather bland gravy train that chugged along for so long.
Denis Naughten TD
I believe that 2012 is the year that Irish people will break the chains of doom and depression and instead look to themselves for individual and societal solutions to the economic mess. Attending the BT Young Scientist competition recently highlighted the huge potential that our future holds. We, the older generation, need to hold it together for them.
And we can. Our agri-food sector is thriving with huge potential growth in premium food markets like Germany. The job announcement by botox manufacturer Allergan is only one of many announcements to come in the thriving pharmaceutical sector. And our Irish-trained researchers are rapidly developing new fields which will bring our pharmaceutical and agri-food sectors together, with potentially even greater spin-off.
And under the radar, our indigenous software sector is creating tens of jobs in a sector that can become a major economic pillar for Ireland in the not too distant future. As a people we are inquisitive, we look for solutions and I believe we can use this to our own advantage, if we start to look within.
Director, Small Firms Association
The SFA’s Investment Report confirms that growth is slowly returning, with over half of small firms expecting increased turnover in 2012, driven by the development of new products and services, increasing export sales and somewhat surprisingly, increasing domestic sales, even though the domestic market remains fragile.
Employment in small business is also expected to improve, with 34 per cent of firms planning to increase headcount and 50 per cent expecting to maintain current employment levels for 2012. Employment growth is expected to be focused on engineers and technicians, sales and marketing and manual operatives. We estimate that 12,000 new businesses will be set up this year.
Michael McGrath TD
Fianna Fáil, Cork South Central
Ireland has reached a key stage in its recovery from the unprecedented economic crisis that has been ongoing since 2008. An anticipated outturn in 2011 of modest economic growth based on a rise in net exports and a current account surplus represent welcome developments. While the challenges facing the euro zone will continue to command attention, the key policy challenge for Ireland in 2012 will be boosting consumer confidence and stimulating domestic demand. Innovative policy measures that encourage investment in infrastructure and labour-intensive areas can create a significant number of jobs and boost the overall economy and should be a priority for the Government.
Chief Economist, Irish Business and Employers Confederation
Following a promising first half of 2011, economic growth weakened again in the third quarter. The UK and euro zone economies have slowed sharply resulting in softer export growth and the euro zone crisis is a further weight on Irish consumer confidence. The outlook for the US economy and emerging markets is more favourable and Irish exports will achieve another record performance in 2012 but the pace of growth will be slower. A major silver lining for Ireland in the euro zone crisis is the sharp fall in the euro which will give a substantial boost to the value of Irish exports.
RTÉ political reporter
Trying to compress a view on the challenges that lie ahead for 2012 within 100 words may seem a challenge in itself! But, for the most, the biggest challenge for Ireland can be summed up in one word: euro. The economic and financial fate of the country hangs on the future of the currency and the political fortunes of the Government are also inextricably linked with what happens to the single currency. The euro aside, one of the major political hurdles for the Government, will be the children’s rights referendum, especially after the defeat of the Oireachtas inquiries referendum.
Temple Bar Cultural Trust
2012 will be tough. People in Temple Bar are a resilient, determined community. Our company is 21 years old this year. Our main customers are commercial retail tenants, and cultural and arts organisations. It’s another very hard year for retail; this will create pressure on us. Public funding for culture and arts will contract but I expect a robust response from the creative economy in Temple Bar. That said, the Temple Bar regeneration remains a success story economically, culturally, socially and as a tourism destination. We need to nourish our close relationship with Europe: the regeneration of Temple Bar is an example of Ireland and Europe getting it together, and getting it right!