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Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Killed the Celtic Tiger [Paperback]

Fintan O'Toole
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)

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Book Description

5 Nov 2009
Between 1995 and 2007, the Republic of Ireland was the worldwide model of successful adaptation to economic globalisation. The success story was phenomenal: a doubling of the workforce; a massive growth in exports; a GDP that was substantially above the EU average. Ireland became the world’s largest exporter of software and manufactured the world’s supply of Viagra. The factors that made it possible for Ireland to become prosperous – progressive social change, solidarity, major State investment in education, and the critical role of the EU – were largely ignored as too sharply at odds with the dominant free market ideology. The Irish boom was shaped instead into a simplistic moral tale of the little country that discovered low taxes and small government and prospered as a result. There were two big problems. Ireland acquired a hyper-capitalist economy on the back of a corrupt, dysfunctional political system. And the business class saw the influx of wealth as an opportunity to make money out of property. Aided by corrupt planning and funded by poorly regulated banks, an unsustainable property-led boom gradually consumed the Celtic Tiger. This is, as Fintan O’Toole writes, ‘a good old-fashioned jeremiad about the bastards who got us into this mess’. It is an entertaining, passionate story of one of the most ignominious economic reversals in recent history.


Product details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Faber and Faber; 6th Edition edition (5 Nov 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571252680
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571252688
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 15.5 x 23.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 465,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

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." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

The definitive, blistering polemic on the near-total extinction of the Celtic Tiger, held up as a model for small nations everywhere in the boom.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great polemical. 12 Dec 2009
By S. Foy
Format:Paperback
If you are Irish this book will make you very angry, if you're not I suppose you'll be entitled to wonder if we are actually capable of governing ourselves. O'Toole pushes all the buttons; financial scandals from DIRT evasion to the curious state of Bertie Ahern's finances, the madness of the property boom, the scandals involving the Catholic church, and the shortcomings of Ireland's current political system to mention but a few. Through it all he reminds us of the Irish people's capacity for Doublethink, our ability to know something but not know it, whether it concern Charlie Haughey's dubiously acquired wealth or the paedophile scandals currently rocking the nation. O'Toole is not trying to be objective here, he states at the beginning of the book that he has set out to write a polemical, in this he more than succeeds, rarely has a book made me so angry... or depressed. O'Toole makes it abundantly clear that we are the architects of our own misfortune, that we squandered our opportunity to definitively break with the economic misery that dominated our history until the dawn of the Celtic Tiger in the mid 1990s, that we got ahead of ourselves and forgot to fix the structural problems that remained throughout the period of economic boom, such as our bloated and inefficient health system. O'Toole does strike some notes of hope at the end, he belatedly reminds us that we are a capable people and that we can pull ourselves out of this, it's just going to be a slow and painful process. This book is a must read, you may not agree with all of O'Toole's points but it is a useful contribution to the ongoing debate about the causes and likely outcomes of Ireland's current economic crisis.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The true story of a banana republic 15 Jan 2010
Format:Paperback
This book tells the story of the breathtaking corruption and stupidity of irish governments (and their business and banker friends and supporters) in the last 15 years. At times the circumstances of outright corruption described are so incredible that it beggars belief that any "modern" european democracy could accept them, but for 15 years the irish continually voted for the same party despite evidence that things were going badly wrong. O'Toole deals with the political parties responsible, the bankers, the developers, the "new economy" and the regulators involved (many of whom still consider themselves to be great men). His book is a highly critical review of the people involved, their actions, and the fatal results for the economy and irish society. At times you can't help but laugh (or you'd have to cry) at the outrageous corruption involved and the way it was explained away. It appears Ireland was close to becoming a plutocracy - government policy was exclusively made for the rich. This is not a history book but the tale of a country gone wrong written by a highly respected columnist. Entertaining and at the same time depressing (how dumb can people be when blinded by money?) it deserves to be read by anyone trying to understand why the "celtic tiger" turned out to be a nightmare with gigantic debts as the end result.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars No hiding place 9 Dec 2009
Format:Paperback
A clear, devastating and clinical analysis of how the Irish economy became the basket case of the EU. Fintan O'Toole lays out the jaw-dropping corruption, arrogant stupidity and cupidity thathas brought Ireland to its knees in a readable, often savagely funny account that had me gripped even though I'm not particularly interested in the subject.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb 6 Feb 2010
Format:Paperback
In my opinion, Fintan O'Tool is without doubt one of Ireland's best journalists. His articles are always well researched and his opinions well reasoned. 'Ship of Fools' is a sceptical takes on Ireland's economic miracle and it's subsequent collapse and it's well up with O'Tool's usual high standards.

He begins by detailing Irish bank scams that many of us may have forgotten about. This includes the Ansbacher debacle and the DIRT tax scandals where thousands of people evaded tax by claiming to their bank managers (who in many cases would have known them and actually helped them with the scams) that they didn't live in the state. Immediately a very pertinent point is made. Banks didn't just recently become unethical, they have a track record of having a poor moral compass and that's something we Irish seemed to forget about.

The book covers a wide range of fiascos from the failure of Eircom to roll out world class broadband (despite a small few investors making millions from it) to the tax scams that prop up the IFSC. But, it's the societal and economic failures of the banks and political class that ensured the property boom with end in tears that form the main part of that book. No analysis of that could omit the King of Charlatans, Mr. C. J. Haughey. O'Tool reminds us that the Irish tax payer paid 500,000 for this man's funeral who amongst a very long litany of poor ethics took 250,000 out of a colleagues liver transplant fund. But it was an entire political class that seemed categorically incompetent or absolutely aloof from people they ruled.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Ship of fools
Highly readable and difficult to put down, this book reveals Irish politics at its worst. Strongly recommended for anyone who really wants to understand the bank collapse that... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Anthony Manser
5.0 out of 5 stars Celtic Fools
True expose of how corruption, stupidity and hubris are characteristic of Irish politics and have been for decades. No Tiger to be found anywhere.
Published 3 months ago by Sarah Gillen
5.0 out of 5 stars They never learn
Excellent insight into the Irish psyche. Just watch any Irish news be it rte tg4 and as an outsider you will see nothing's changed here. Greed,nepotism,corruption. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Leedsunitedman
5.0 out of 5 stars The necessity of laughter.
From the prologue's emblematic anecdotes of 'Three Ships', this is no ordinary book - the Gatsbyesque wedding of a crony of Ahearn's on a hired, er, floating palace; the sinking of... Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mr. G. Morgan
5.0 out of 5 stars Mega corruption
A real good read, corruption exposed at all levels of society in Ireland.
Without doubt an 'unputdownable' book.
And as usual good price and fast delivery from Amazon.
Published 20 months ago by C. Mcnabb
3.0 out of 5 stars Standing On the Dock
As the writer himself declares at the beginning of this book, it is intended to be a polemical rather than a historical or academic work. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Honrus Publicus
5.0 out of 5 stars Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger
Having been in Ireland for over a year now, mentions of the economic plight are never far away, along with it apportions of blame to numerous figures, mostly notably, politicians,... Read more
Published on 14 May 2012 by Ben Cotton
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book - should be read by everyone in Ireland and the UK
This is a devastating expose of the stupidity and corruption of the Irish ruling elite. It's amazing that none of the people exposed in this book have been prosecuted - especially... Read more
Published on 6 May 2012 by manager
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
A well researched, well written, informative and balanced account which explains in detail the causes of the sad downfall of Ireland's economy.
Published on 27 Feb 2012 by Paul
5.0 out of 5 stars Ship of Fools - Review
This is a hard-hitting account of the reasons why the Irish economy crashed. It details the means by which bankers, property developers and politicians, in collusion, were able to... Read more
Published on 19 Dec 2011 by McCann
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