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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great polemical.
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...
Published on 12 Dec 2009 by S. Foy

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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating book
Have to disagree with some of these reviews, though they do highlight a number of the books definite strengths (e.g., strong writing and descriptive history), the book does not offer anything new and barely addresses the question posed in its title, which was the main attraction for me.

It focuses far too much on the corruption as opposed to the stupidity,...
Published on 8 Jan 2010 by A reader


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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great polemical., 12 Dec 2009
By 
S. Foy (Lille, France) - See all my reviews
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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
By 
Niall Bennett (germany) - See all my reviews
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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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb, 6 Feb 2010
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. For example, the Kenny report which was commissioned to advice on how to deal with property booms made some very simple suggestions, including that land could and should be compulsory purchased by local authorities at a market price plus 25%. This was to keep it away from land speculators. But alas it was completely ignored. A few more bad political decisions (such as ignoring the Bacon report and not allowing full public visibility into land and property transactions) meant that when the boom came, house prices increased 4 times faster than building costs, 5 times average industrial earnings and over 7 times the increases in consumer price index! Hardly sustainable.
This book would seriously make me wonder how stupid we Irish people are. Sometimes in public discourse, our colonial past is blamed for our shortcomings today. But there are many problems where we simply cannot resort to this silly proverbial claptrap.
My only criticism of this excellent book is the absence of some references. In most cases, there isn't really a need but in some parts a simple reference would ensure complete authenticity. For example, he makes some points about the low number of people in careers such as medicine and law whose parents do not come from these careers, using a range of percentages that have no references. Elsewhere, he claims that in 2005 the IFSC accounted of 75% of all foreign investment in Ireland. Very interesting, more than likely true but again no references.

Pedantry aside, overall his thesis is very well argued. It makes his opening point about the ludicrousness of Mr.Ahern's public speaking company charging up to 30,000 for him to speak about the great Irish economy very convincing. It also makes his opinion that what happened in Ireland in economic terms wasn't a miracle more than just plausible. Perhaps we were just playing catch up with our EU partners who helped us get there. We only got ahead of ourselves because we riddled the country with tax scams and sloppy politics. For that we only have ourselves to blame and we only have to the EU to thank for things would surely be far worse right now without them.

Overall this is an excellent book. A must read for every Irish person. Especially every Irish tax paying Pprson!
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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
By 
Val Mcdermid (Northumberland, UK) - See all my reviews
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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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tut Tutting, 9 Feb 2010
By 
Joseph L. J. Lebrun (France) - See all my reviews
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I shall keep this short. You know how when one reads a book of this type, one tends to tut-tut every few pages. In this book, there is one tut on every page and often one for every paragraph. If there was a crime of incompetence or one of cronyism, the whole of the Irish Government cabinets from 1990 would be in jail. Aside from the book, I wonder how it was that the European Central Bank and the European Commission let this sort of greed, madness and bad governance take place without doing anything about it.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An eyeopening exposé, 10 Oct 2010
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This review is from: Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger (Paperback)
This book is well worth reading if you want to know what happened with the irish economy during the banking crisis and why it happened.

I read this shortly after moving to ireland, knowing little about irish politics, but now I'm about as cynical as I was after years of living with incompetent governance in the UK. I'd also highly recommend it to anyone who thinks the UK has problems after the banking crisis, because after reading this book you'll realise just how bad it could be.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Frustrating book, 8 Jan 2010
Have to disagree with some of these reviews, though they do highlight a number of the books definite strengths (e.g., strong writing and descriptive history), the book does not offer anything new and barely addresses the question posed in its title, which was the main attraction for me.

It focuses far too much on the corruption as opposed to the stupidity, which was the real cause of Ireland's housing bubble and its terminal decline in productivity. More of a (albeit well deserved) tirade against Fianna Fail etc. than an analysis of HOW the celtic tiger came to an shuddering end. While interesting, the role of Ansbacher/non-resident accounts/Ben Dunne & CJH etc. not nearly as relevant as the years of 'partnership', illogical tax breaks and biased economic 'analysis' from Government and vested interests.

For a better history see Matt Cooper's book or for better analysis see Derek Brawn's book
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great read but not quite a great book, 26 Mar 2010
By 
Amazon Customer "Bartleby2009" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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Fintan O'Toole is an excellent writer; he knows how to use the written word to get his points across with style and verve. This talent, narrating the scandal of corruption, greed and incompetence amongst the Irish ruling class, makes Ship of Fools a highly enjoyable and informative read for anyone with a casual interest in either Ireland or the intersection of free-market ideology and kitsch nationalism more generally.

However, other reviewers are right in that there is nothing really new in Ship of Fools for anyone who has been paying close attention to Ireland; for example, it is well known that former taoiseach (Prime Minister) Charles Haughey was corrupt to a degree that would shame a banana-republic and that his protege, taoiseach Bertie Ahern, has also been the subject of corruption allegations (The Failure of the Irish State and How to Fix it).

Similarly, for those who have followed the failings of neo-liberalism as a fix-all economic ideology (Globalization and Its Discontents) will not be surprised that a new super-rich landed-aristocracy have been the principle beneficiaries of Ireland's boom years (The Celtic Tiger?: The Myth of Social Partnership in Ireland).

My major criticism of the book is that I think O'Toole could have done more to support his own arguments and assertions with stronger referencing. Similarly, while the book may gain traction in the minds of the open-minded, the lack of balance in O'Toole's arguments means that they can be dismissed by erstwhile cheerleaders of the Celtic Tiger myth. In fairness, O'Toole does state at the outset that his book is a polemic rather than a scholarly text, but I cannot help but feel that this is a bit of a cop out for a book that could easily have been so much better had a little more time been spent in post-production and re-drafting.

However, O'Toole does skilfully weave together pre-existing knowledge into a timely narrative that will enlighten, entertains and enrages in equal measure and on that basis it is definitely worth a read!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Required reading...a warning against greed, 6 Nov 2010
By 
Damien Boyd - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger (Paperback)
In summary, how reckless Irish policies and "jobs for the boys" attitudes sunk the Irish economy. A story of how innocence, arrogance and, ultimately, fate sealed the deal. A must read for all EU leaders.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Irelands folly, 4 Aug 2010
By 
James Aitken (Edinburgh, Scotland) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger (Paperback)
Having lived in Ireland during the period 2000 - 2007 I saw at first hand the idiocy of the tiger.

I spent a lot of time trying to understand what was going on and why.

This book explains the hubris and incredible selfish attitude of the people running the republic. I would recommend it as an easy to understand history of the tiger and also as an entertaining read for anyone who is interested in economics or Ireland itself.

I just wonder whether the Irish will look back on the whole period as an era to be ashamed of and forgotten.
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Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger
Ship of Fools: How Stupidity and Corruption Sank the Celtic Tiger by Fintan O'Toole (Paperback - 1 July 2010)
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