Nonetheless, the Irish have won EU plaudits for slashing spending faster and harder than anyone else in the eurozone. Ireland's GDP grew 0.7 percent in 2011 and is forecast to grow 0.5 percent this year. Yet Ireland's most recent data, showing falls in GDP for the second half of 2011, means it's currently back in recession for the fourth straight year.
The country has slashed its 2011 government deficit to 10 percent of GDP and expects to reach the EU-IMF goal of 3 percent by 2016.
The Irish rebound, weak as it is, has little to do with membership of the euro. Ireland is the eurozone member most dependent on trade with Britain and the United States. The Irish may be tied to Europe through its currency, but its economic cycle is Anglo-American.
The 600 U.S. multinationals that have chosen Ireland already generate more than 12 percent of Irish GDP.
"Ireland's open economy has a real advantage with its strong American exposure, culturally and financially. But it's also true that when America sneezes, Ireland is the first to catch a cold," Gurdgiev said.
However Ireland's buoyant headline GDP figure paints a misleading picture. Unusually, foreign companies operating in Ireland are allowed to transfer their profits back home without penalty.
Economists seeking a more relevant picture of Ireland's economic health dismiss GDP — which includes the multinationals' expatriated money — and use a different yardstick: gross national product. And Irish GNP kept dropping in 2011 and is forecast to fall further this year in line with emigration, small business closures, and a property market still searching for the bottom.
"Ireland is not a success story for austerity. Its underlying numbers are dire," Tilford said. "If any country can dig itself out, it's going to be Ireland, but at what cost?"