Home Page

Ireland




"Irish efficiency"


Republic of Ireland, 2007 —

When I flew back into Dublin in early November, the 737 rolled up the tarmac to a place outside a new arm of the airport building, and we deboarded to cross the short expanse of concrete to the entryway.

The door to the building was not yet open, and we awaited a crew member. He came, from out on the field, and when he opened the door he sent us up the stairs to the left.

Up the stairs (or, in my case, half-way up the stairs,) we stopped. The door up there was not open. "Here," somebody below said — "they've opened another door down here."

And thus we were in.

The phrase "Irish efficiency" is an oxymoron.

And yet, Irish culture works, more-or-less.

This may lead one to many conclusions, or may lead one to a state of bafflement — but a possibility that one must consider is that efficiency is not the most important component of an effective system.

"Yeah, but sure..."

The Irish have an alternative perspective about efficiency....

That, in itself, may seem a paradox — but only on the simplistic presumption that efficiency and effectiveness are synonymous.

A friend of mine who is a software engineer told me about the countermanding priorities of "efficient" and "robust" which play into the design of any complex machine code. I'd mentioned the paradox of "Irish efficiency."

Efficiency — I paraphrase Ian — is the ability to perform one task or a range of tasks effectively. Robustness is the ability to accomodate a wider range of possibilities, and still be able to function.

A robust system, given the same task as the efficient system, might appear to be less capable — it my perform less quickly, for example. But that efficient system, given a task outside its explicit parameter, may simply not work.


Ireland has changed from an impoverished traditional culture to a capitalist, post-modern one in less than a generation.

They're still inefficient. And it still works.

Contact