The long-awaited Irish exchange traded fund (ETF) is here, just in time for the routing of the L.A. Lakers by the mighty Boston Celtics for the NBA Championship.

The NETS ISEX 20 Index Fund (IQE) is the first of its kind, as is the latest in a series of single-country funds launched by Northern Trust this year. The fund tracks the 20 Irish securities that make up the country’s benchmark index, the ISEQ 20.

Ireland’s economy is facing challenges so far this year, and may continue to into 2009. A report by AIB Bank cites the global slowdown, a higher exchange rate, rising interest rates, tightening credit conditions, rising unemployment and more as potential factors that could contribute.

However, the bank says that if the budgets toughen up, the public finances could stay healthy.

In the second half of 2007, Ireland’s GDP growth slowed to 3.7%. Housing output is much like the situation in the United States: activity is contracting and consumer spending has slowed.

On the plus side, the bank says there’s a strong uptrend in service exports, and net trade is expected to add about 2.8% to 2008’s GDP growth, and 2.4% in 2009. The bank sees a return to strong growth once the housing crisis is over and the global economy regains its momentum.

You’d best not count out the Irish – you read Angela’s Ashes, didn’t you? They’ve endured and overcome a lot, and it will no doubt hold true this time around, too.

The opinions and forecasts expressed herein are solely those of Tom Lydon, and may not actually come to pass. Information on this site should not be used or construed as an offer to sell, a solicitation of an offer to buy, or a recommendation for any product.