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Page last updated at 14:17 GMT, Sunday, 5 February 2006

... making the Polish feature

Max Cotton
The Politics Show

Dail
The Dail ... laid-back security

I had never been to Ireland before. Well not really - once 20 years ago - more than that - I was on a sailing holiday and due to certain navigational errors we wound up in a place called Crosshaven for 5 hours.

So filming in Dublin for the Politics Show was really my first trip there.

It was also the first time I have seen such tangible physical evidence of economic growth.

The Celtic Tiger, as the Eire economy is known, has been growing at 4 squillion percent for the last few years.

As a result the Dublin skyline bristles with cranes. I have never seen so many.

The city is a huge building site, and brand new cars buzz in and out of the scaffolding and dumper trucks. And it changes the way people behave.

Restaurateurs behave naturally rather than trying to ingratiate you - they know they will get your money anyway, so why bother?

Prosperity makes some office workers charge along the pavements of Dublin as if they were on Wall Street.

Others hang around gassing and enjoying the city dusk like contented peasants at a game of boule. London in the 80s was never like this. Pinched faces.

Euro bond dealers worrying if size matters when it comes to mobile phones.

The braying of big hair on shoulder pads where a night out meant an extra slosh of Soave in the spritzer. Dublin hums like the generators of a giant aircraft carrier at rest, leaving an impression of enormous power only just held in check.

But there was a profound irony attached to our visit there. Migrant workers have flocked into Ireland to do the jobs the Irish can't do or won't do.

And the danger there is the creation of an Umperlumper class...as sort of super lower class who are held in poverty while the rest of this country gets rich.

As I grew up in the late sixties and early seventies I clearly remember the Irish being treated as an underclass in Britain.

Labourers who came to London in the 50s as Macmillan told us we were having it good.

When the English wanted a hole made in some mud they got the Irish to swing the shovel.

And yet in Dublin on the Politics Show we saw the first evidence of poor conditions and low pay among the Polish community fleeing from pathetic wages and high unemployment at home.

But what a wonderful City. All the shops are different.

Where high streets in Britain are all the same - a Waterstones, a Boots, Marks and Sparks, Dublin has hundreds and hundreds of small independent retailers who are kept alive by the boom.

And after only a few hours in Dublin I realised how uptight we are in London.

The security scanner I walked through at the Dail (Irish Parliament) was switched off, and when our lights started smoking a casual security guard came along ten minutes later to tell us the alarm system had been triggered and was everything ok?

But some things are the same. BBC 1 and BBC2 are given clear prominence on the TV just as they are here.

And according to my friend James Helm at the BBC's Dublin bureau, people still regularly ring up to complain about programmes.

Why - one caller ask James, was the racing switched off to go to Politics?

In a city where a cup of coffee costs three pounds I would have thought that anything that was actually free would be beyond criticism.

THE POLITICS SHOW... FROM DOWNING STREET TO YOUR STREET



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