As an appetiser for our focus on the Irish economy, here’s a digital picture of the Republic. And as this view over O’Connell Bridge in Dublin illustrates, Ireland has gone from a poor, rural country best known for things that don’t really exist (leprechauns, Blarney stones) into an economic powerhouse. Much of the money has been spent on the country’s dire social and transport infrastructure, and this has stimulated the growth of the construction sector. The Celtic tiger is roaring....

Ireland’s construction output last year was €32bn

it was just €17.6bn in 2000

€17.31 is the average hourly wage, as of the

second quarter of last year. This is up from €11.44 in 2000

Irish house prices have risen at 9 times the rate of inflation

since 1997

By 2003 there were 682 construction firms of 20 or

more people, up from 376 in 1997

Dublin accounted for 34% of construction output

242,400 people are estimated to be working

in construction, as of second quarter 2005. This is up from 166,200

in 2000. This means that 12.6% of the workforce is in construction,

the highest in the EU

The average price of a house in Dublin will be €530,000

by the end of 2006, and €400,000 in the rest of Ireland. London’s

typical asking price is €470,000 and the UK average is €315,000

Unemployment is 4.4% the third lowest in the EU

Construction output per capita is double that of the UK

More than 86,000 housing units were completed in

2005, compared with 19,500 in 1990. Last year’s output added 5%

to the existing housing stock

The 2000-06 National Development Plan was budgeted for

€57.5bn. The 2007-13 NDP is estimated at €66bn

440 km of roads were built in 2000-05,

including 255 km of motorway or high-quality dual carriageway.

80 km have been built so far this year.

23% of Ireland’s GDP accounted for by construction

Construction and building materials prices soared 24%

between 2000 and 2005