Our president’s state visit to the UK marked the beginning of a new era in our states’ political relationship but it also underscored the status quo in our economic relationship.
According to the latest CSO figures, residential property prices (houses and apartments combined) rose by 8.1% in the year to February, the ninth annual increase in a row and the highest increase since June 2007. Looking at March, a monthly increase in residential property prices of 0.5% is forecast, giving a year-on-year rise of 9.1%. It’s no surprise that, at over 10%, Dublin posts the biggest increase.
Housing investment drives UK recovery
Across the water, property is behaving in a very similar way. Figures from the Office of National Statistics showed property values rose 9.1% in February compared to a year earlier – the highest annual increase in property values since June 2010. And house price recovery is spreading beyond London; asking prices for houses in England and Wales rose 0.6 percent in April, the same pace as in March, according to the survey of estate agents and surveyors from Hometrack.
It is thought likely that housing investment will continue to boost British consumer spending, the principal driver of Britain’s economic recovery so far.
And recovering it is. According to the latest figures, the UK economy grew by 0.8% in the first quarter of 2014 as business investment and construction also started to rebound. This marks the fifth consecutive quarter of GDP growth – the longest period of consistent growth since the crash.
Plus ça change, A hUachtaráin
President Higgins’ itinerary on his historic state visit to Britain highlighted the importance of the Irish contribution to many parts of British life from the dramatic arts to healthcare, from science and technology to food production. But in doing so, his visit actually underscored the huge importance of Britain as a market to Ireland.
Britain also consumes Irish products on our own soil. Take tourism for example. For many years, a full half of our overseas tourism figures were of made up of British visitors. While the proportion sharply declined during and after the crash, it is growing again, with latest figures from Tourism Ireland showing an 11.5% increase in the first quarter of 2014 to 635,500 trips into Ireland by residents of Britain. At a local level, we know from listening to the accents around Naas this week that Punchestown would be lost without the British racing fraternity.
Let’s hope for calm weather
My point is that while of course we must pay heed to how our American cousins are faring, Britain’s recovery signals Ireland’s recovery. Ireland’s recovery signals better times for everyone. The blossom on the trees around me here in Co Kildare indicates that the property season is well under way. But let’s not forget how fragile that blossom is. In one windy night, it could all be gone. The situation in the Ukraine, the failure of another institutional bank …any one of a number of factors could cause the fragile recovery to founder.
The big event in Kildare this week is, of course, Punchestown. I think it’s worth noting that the winner of the very first race in the 2014 festival was Be Positive, an Irish horse ridden by Nina Carberry and trained by Enda Bolger. Now why didn’t somebody give me a tip on that?