Much has been made of why the Irish voted No to the Lisbon treaty. However few have pointed out some of the fundamental changes in the Irish economy over the past five years.
Ireland was historically a country where land ownership bestowed particular power, and it was on that root that the economic dominance of the Protestant ascendancy rested. Despite the gradual reduction in the power of the agricultural lobby which was the mainstay of the Republic until the 1980's, land and property has retained a talismanic role in the Irish psyche. It is one reason why property ownership in Ireland has assumed a far greater role than virtually any other place in Europe. More to the point, Irish property investment has straddled borders. The Irish property millionaires have invested heavily across Europe, ans especially in the markets of Central and Eastern Europe.
Yet investing for rent, rather than to create added value carries with it particular risks, and sure enough, many Irish investors have over paid for property and over extended themselves with credit. The Irish, now the landlords of much of Europe, are paying a heavy price for the credit crunch.
Perhaps it is the insecurity that the weakness of the property market has created, as much as concerns about immigration or the rather misleading claims about conscription, abortion and the rest that has created the atmosphere of fear amongst the Irish voters. However, there is no doubt that Ireland will still need to confront the problems that its obsession with property has created. Of course, so will the United Kingdom too.