If the aim of much of theme one is to provide a socio-economic profile of Ireland, trace longer term patterns in Irish economic development and establish the origins and credentials of the Celtic Tiger, then chapter two makes a threefold contribution to this aim. Firstly, it acts as a fast track induction into the Irish socio-economic context by informing the reader of the main features of modern Irish political, demographic and economic life. Secondly, as it provides a brief but succinct outline of the main trends in Irish economic activity from the middle of the nineteenth century up to the new millennium, it reveals the improbable origins for the emergence of the Celtic Tiger. Finally it equips the reader to make an informed evaluation of the arguments presented later in chapter three when we examine the claim to Tiger status of the Irish economy and in chapter four when we determine the validity of the accidental nature of the Celtic Tiger.