"Celtic Tiger" No More

Protest march in Dublin.Thousands of public sector workings taking to the streets of Dublin today to demonstrate over the Government's handling of the recession. Picture date: Saturday February 21, 2009. See PA story SOCIAL Protest Ireland. Photo credit should read: Julien Behal/PA Wire URN:6904496 (Press Association via AP Images)
Press Association via AP Images
Not long ago, Ireland's economy was experiencing such a boom it was called the "Celtic tiger."

But that was then.

Unemployment could hit 11 percent this year, and housing prices have plummeted. And Irish emigrants who were lured home by the country's promise are feeling bitter, reports CBS News correspondent Elizabeth Palmer.

Over the years the legendary charm of Ireland has been trumped by its dismal job prospects. Generations of the best and brightest had to leave to find work.

But last year, Ed Neale dared hope that Ireland's newly booming economy had finally reversed that trend.

"Only 18 months ago jobs were aplenty," Neale said recently.

He packed up in Holland, where he'd been studying architecture, and headed home. But when he arrived - the jobs had dried up.

"It was really just a blip in the sort of nation's history. You know we are traditionally a very poor country. We're a nation of emigrants and those times are coming back," Neale said.

During the years of explosive growth starting in the mid 90's, Ireland was known as the "Celtic tiger." House prices rocketed up and a flood of investment gave the Irish the second highest standard of living in Europe.

No more. The real estate market's dead. Banks are foundering. And laid-off workers know there are no new jobs.

The crash came with stunning speed. Unemployment doubled in the last year alone. It's now over 10 percent, with 1,000 new people registering for benefits every day.

Brendan Landers came back to Ireland after 16 years in Canada. Feeling bitter and betrayed in the wake of the crash, he wrote a column, and discovered he wasn't alone. He says it got over 7,000 hits on his Web site.

They were from Irish emigrants who - like Landers - had been enticed back from abroad by the boom, and were ambushed by the bust, which they blame partly on official corruption and incompetence.

"What they'd been feeling is basically a disappointment with our country," Landers said.

Beyond the disappointment, though, there's a streak of tough Irish pragmatism. Take Marina Giblin, who had dreams of bringing up her four-year-old daughter near family and friends. She left San Francisco for Dublin and a good job in banking - a business that has fallen on very hard times.

"The reality of it is we partied very hard and we forgot there would be a hangover," Giblin said.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."