Back in the 1980s there was a local saying round here that as long as there was still a half can of lager to drink the party was still going. Well, on a national scale, we drank off the last of that can of lager in 2008 and now the party is well and truly over. But that’s the way it goes here. As a friend said to me a couple of years ago, “It was grand while it lasted, but now it’s back down to earth and no complaining, right?”
The whole thing was built on the idea that we could go on selling each other houses and the prices would only go up and up, so we could borrow as much as we liked and, sure, we would get it all paid off one of these days. I guess we will, but not until 2030 or later as things look currently. This was a self-deceit of epic proportions, advocated and perpetrated by the colluding communities of politicians and bankers, estate agents, developers and landowners, not to mention all those house buyers and buy-to-let investors. We all know now that many of the bankers knew what they were doing, and some of them could justifiably be accused of fraud. In Britain and America, their bankers having also profited by this lunatic idea, those responsible have been prosecuted and many, especially in America, have gone to jail. As I write, a few weeks ago, three of our most infamous bankers were sent for trial, date to be fixed, and that’s it. The rest are enjoying happy undisturbed if prolonged holidays in the sun. It’s that Irish community thing again. As Bruce Springsteen has it, We look after our own.
Ministers in the Government of the time, including, principally, the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) who was also the former Finance Minister and his predecessor Bertie Ahern, all said, in 2008, that no-one had warned them the crash was coming, but anyone round here that I talked to knew it as early as 2005, and some economists in the country knew it and wrote about it at least as far back as 2003.
In our local village, a supposedly restful seaside holiday destination a couple of hour’s drive or so from the nearest major towns, there were ugly enclaves of half a dozen or so jerry-built concrete houses standing cheek by jowl, going for €650,000 each. For that money you could buy a large and interesting old house on several acres of land overlooking the Bay, so why would anyone pay that much for one of those new ones? Answer, no-one. One went recently for 100K.
Do you laugh or cry?