“Ireland is really a third-world country,” said a colleague yesterday.
We wondered how that could be. It’s cold and rainy. The third world is supposed to have good weather and bad beer. Ireland has just the opposite.
Even stranger is the fact that Ireland is richer than almost any country in Europe – on paper. Housing prices have gone up so much, even the average homeowner has gotten rich.
And yet, there is something dismal and fraudulent in the whole thing.
The typical Irish house may be worth a fortune, but it is still far from civilised habitation…even the new places. An advertisement in the Dublin train station offers new townhouses on the outskirts of the city, starting at about US$400,000. Yet, they are small and unattractive, the kind of place you would expect to find outside Little Rock for US$120,000 – only not as nice. It takes more than a single generation to achieve real wealth and much of Ireland’s instant wealth is a sham.
Still, there’s no doubt that the place is booming. It is moving up and moving up fast. Houses, office buildings, even little factories are going up. Down at the docks in Dublin, they’re putting up a whole new city of offices and apartments. Traffic is heavy; people are working. And everyone seems to want to buy property. Now, practically on every street corner is an office offering to sell Irishmen property overseas – in Croatia, in Spain, in France. Today, Irishmen no longer leave the Emerald Isle as poor refugees. They leave as retirees…and vacationers.
Markets and Money