Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Sunshine in Galway

At the end of last week and over the weekend I was in Galway, visiting the National University of Ireland, Galway (NUI Galway), staying with a colleague there, and getting to know the area a little. It seems to me that these days Ireland needs all the help and support it can get, so let me report right away that of the three full days I was over there, two were predominantly fine and sunny, only one was dull and wet for most of the day - or dreich as we would say here in Scotland. So overall, not at all bad weather-wise.

My visit to Galway had three aims. First, I was invited to give a talk to economics staff and students at NUI Galway, and this I did last Friday. The topic I chose had to do with my work out in the Caribbean (St Kitts and Nevis) in late 2010, and it seemed to go down well, stimulating a lively discussion. I couldn't resist mentioning the pelicans, my favourite bird in the Caribbean, but mostly I talked about the 'strange' economics of a very small country - after all, St Kitts and Nevis only has just over 51,000 inhabitants, and one consequence of that is that the usual distinction we make between macroeconomics (the whole economy) and microeconomics (looking at individual firms or sectors) doesn't mean terribly much. The first picture below shows the NUI Galway Business School where my talk took place, while the second shows part of the older section of the campus, the Quadrangle.

While at the University, I heard about a recent speech given by the President of Ireland, Michael Higgins, on the occasion when he was awarded an honorary doctorate by NUI. He spoke eloquently about the economic crisis facing Ireland, as well as about the intellectual crisis facing the universities, reviewing their diverse and important roles and responsibilities in modern society. One sentence struck me as especially germane to our times (I have shortened it a little, where indicated):
'For those of us then who have had the privilege of being university teachers....the university is....a space from which new futures have always emerged and must do so again.'  I like very much the optimism implicit in this remark

The second aim of my visit was to work with the colleague who invited me over to Galway on a book we're editing. This is on the economies in transition (mostly Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, also a little on China), and we've invited lots of contributions from colleagues around the world, which we're now busy editing. Amazingly, most of our colleagues have been exceptionally cooperative, so we're only waiting now for a handful of late contributions. We aim to get the whole book off to the publisher in April or May, so it can come out late this year or early next.

Last, I was determined to be a tourist for part of my visit, both to look at the City of Galway (which I did in the rain), and to tour around the County to see the scenery and get to know the area, a part of Ireland I had never visited before. The tour was really interesting, with lots of open moorland, lochans, and coastal views, punctuated by small towns and villages where I could get refreshments, e.g.Clifden, a town with a history I knew nothing about - for it's the place where Alcock and Brown landed when they completed the first transatlantic flight in 1919. You live and learn, and all this certainly makes retirement a lot of fun!

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