August 20, 2008

Paddy's leaving again as GAA leads to foreign field

Posted in Ireland · 64 comments ·

Where are GAA players going?
Young men from GAA clubs all around the country are moving to clubs in London and New York.

One of the most fascinating barometers of the Irish economy is published not by the ESRI, the Central Bank or any of the many stockbrokers paid to monitor the state of things. If you want to understand what is happening on the ground, go to

As well as fixtures, news, updates and analysis, the GAA’s website is a mine of sociological information. One monthly little gem tells us who is transferring from which club and where they are going.

For the last few years the club transfer list was pretty standard, reflecting young players moving around the country to where they are working or studying.

So lads would transfer from clubs in Dublin to Cork or Waterford, depending on jobs. Obviously, much of the movement was to Dublin clubs as the capital sucked in resources to fuel the boom.

This month’s figures, however, reveal something startling. We are seeing a huge increase in young men moving from Irish clubs all around the country to clubs in London and New York.

This barometer — let’s call it the GAA Club Transfer Index or GCTI for short — doesn’t lie. More significantly, the huge surge in emigration it reflects will not be picked up by official statistics for months, if not years.

According to the GCTI, emigration is on the increase from all over Ireland and it is recurring in precisely the age group that we need most — our young, fit people. What makes the change in the index all the more startling, is the dramatic turnaround in fortunes between the beginning of the year and now. In January, not one club player transferred to a club outside Ireland. This month, over one third of all transfers involved lads leaving the country and signing up for clubs in New York and London.

So Paddy is moving again. Historically, it has always been so. When things are going well here, we come home and when things turn down, we go. Such migration patterns are not normal.

For example, in the 1980s Ireland and Spain suffered from the same levels of unemployment — 19pc in both countries. This lack of opportunity prompted 400,000 young Irish people to leave the country. By contrast, the Spaniards hardly budged. The GCTI is telling us that this is happening again.

Over the years, the GAA has been a brilliant indicator of economic and demographic trends. For example, in the 1980s, emigration in rural Ireland was so severe that many villages couldn’t find 15 young men to field a team on a regular basis.

Equally, the boom years were a bonanza for the GAA. New clubs opened to cater for the huge outward move to the new suburbs of Meath, Kildare and the peripheries of all our main towns.

Wherever a series of new estates were built, GAA clubs followed. GAA clubs, outside decking, Woodies DIY and Dominos Pizza went together. Much to the chagrin of many commentators, these new suburbs in “Deckland” thrived. Communities formed quickly and, at the centre of these new neighbourhoods, was the ever present GAA club.

In older suburbs where the GAA had not been traditionally strong, the boom led to a rekindling of interest in Gaelic Games. It also spawned a new subspecies — the GAA Mum. The GAA Mum emerged ferrying children around like a demented taxi-driver every Saturday morning. My own neck of the woods, Dun Laoghaire (never a GAA stronghold), has become flooded with these new hyper-educated, assertive, clever, ambitious and aspirational “GAA mums”. Interestingly, the GAA won the battle for the hearts and minds of the new middle class in suburban Ireland.

Mothers who never had any dealings with the GAA, either as children or young women, are signing up their kids and getting involved in the GAA over and above other sports. Today’s GAA mums are a very different breed to those who made the sandwiches years ago.

They are part of the resurgence in a well-managed, well-marketed sporting institution which runs itself professionally and towers over other sporting organisations. Because it is ubiquitous, across all classes and regions, the GAA is a fantastic leading indicator of social change.

Unfortunately, the social change it is capturing now is emigration. The return of emigration has profound ramifications for all of us. If Irish young men are going now, when both the US and the UK are close to recession, they must feel that their chances there are better than they are here. This is damning.

The implications for tax revenue, the budget deficit and house prices are straightforward. The less young people you have, the less tax revenue you have and the more expensive public projects become. As for house prices, if the GCTI is accurate, the implication for house prices is simple — they will fall further. This is bad news for not only the housing market but for the banking sector too because without a vibrant, young population, much of the dynamic of an expanding economy disappears.

In addition, most studies reveal that the most able people emigrate while the not so talented or ambitious might be more likely to stay at home and be on the dole. Emigration is self-selecting and it reinforces a downturn, not just in terms of the quantity of people in the country, but the quality too.

The political implications of a return of Irish emigration, coupled with net immigration into the country are again straightforward. People will get angry if “our own” are forced to live in Queens or Camden while the country plays host to all sorts of foreigners. This is not a racist comment; it’s a political reality.

The GAA Club Transfer Index is pointing to massive social change and a return of emigration but don’t expect to hear about this from our authorities. If you want to see why there will be tearful reunions at Dublin airport for the first time in decades this Christmas, don’t wait till the experts report back; head down to your local GAA club and see what’s happening to the teamsheets.

  1. Audrey Murphy

    Interesting article David, but what do you make of the following indicator of demographics which appeared in the press yesterday: Our leading representatives in the Olympics – the only ones who might bring home the medals – are working class young men involved in beating up other young men (within the rules of boxing of course), while the so called cream of our well educated youth, our rich south county Dublin representatives, go on an orgy of drink and violence (against the rules) in Crete.

  2. Hi David. After reading your article i checked out the numbers myself. And the difference between Jan and summer is not unusual. If you look back over the past few years. Janurary always has less going abroad then the summer months. And compared to the summer months of 2007 and 2004 (random years I picked) 2008 summer is not statistically different. (Janurary 2004 was by far the biggest janurary and that was in the middle of the boom) This probably has more to do with students going abroad after college is finished then anything else for a year out.

    I have a graph of the numbers over on my blog if you care to have a look. (sorry about the inflamatory headline) :)

  3. Paul

    The talented and ambitious will have to find someone to rent that over-priced house before they can move anywhere. I live in kildare, and it is the less talented that are free to move, because they could not afford to get onto the property ladder, they may not make much money, but they did not get ripped off, they are not stressed, although they do not particularly want to leave, they are prepared to do so, and are very thankful that they did not buy property now.

  4. The GAA gang are leaving too due to their fields been flooded and unplayable with the slapped up houses these same boys put up on the flood planes next door to them , but none of those G A A sports men cared to question the sense of this when they were driving home with their few grand in the back pockets each week for erecting timber framed houses , which will rot in this ‘new climate’ , but that’s Ireland for ya !
    This new game has been slowly coming for the last few years and yet apart from your self and a handful of other economic commentators , no one cared to question what should we be doing to keep the economy going ?.
    Every Irish person knows what F.F and their spitting image opposition are about , yet our inherent attitude of ‘not giving a sh*t , when I’m all right has landed us where we are presently at, from the over paid radio jocks to the journalists writing for the commercial papers , there is No One or Group saying this can’t go on,that the general public are willing to really listen to.
    Sure you have people like Ryan Airs Michael O Leary telling us in the Sunday Indo , what we should be doing , but the heavy main stream media ridicule him and then we collectively switch back on the premiership to see how our ‘teams’ are getting on.
    Ireland , the land of saints and scholars ( and fat cat developers , overpaid useless civil servants, self governing legal profession, lazy health workers and mind numbing stupid regional planners ! ) have to take a step back and look at what we have .
    A Knowledge Economy ?, what a joke that is , half the government web pages are out of date and as for high speed cheap broad band…? , well bring on Tommy Tiernan , at least he puts some effort into his shows and calls himself a comedian !.
    So our young G A A men are better off going to play in London and New York , and fair play to the few who will go and get paid for playing for the Aussies.
    We collectively deserve this mess for the hypocritical bunch of self centered individuals we have become and I hope bankers get burnt too.

  5. Noreen

    Paul, did you ever think that some of the most talented might have copped on to the housing bubble and thus didn’t buy into it?

    The notion that all the smart ones bought property is more than a little naive! Some of us are under the impression that you’d have to have been not so bright to have bought in the last few years…

  6. Philip

    Does it really matter that we have mass outflows. After all, the traffic congestion is still up, Health Service is over burdened as are the schools etc. If we cannot build the infrastructure, we need to reduce the load on it. Free it up! That’ll be good for logistics as well.

    Reduced population means more empty houses and fewer to build and that means less lurries and in yer face bumcracks. Great for the C02 footprint.

    The GAA are a drain on resources for a wider range of sports – we have hardly any olympic sized pools and a paltry few quality running tracks as a result. A reduction in their numbers might see a corresponding reduction in the refs being hurlied by disgruntled fans after local county matches for instance. I feel the GAA have forgotten the meaning of “Amateur” = “Done for the genuine Love of” sport in this ridiculous race for “uber alles” competitiveness and individualism. Give me back the days where the GAA was associated with genuine sportmanship and kids could confidently go to their clubs by themselves with their friends rather than this gross excess of Q7s, X5s Taxis driven by yummie mummies in their pyjamas.

    Also, we need to seriously question the dynamics of a society that recently pinned it’s growth to an imported cheap labour force. This is just economic bulimia leading to severe regurgitation when the economy simply could not absorb and consolidate in such a short timeframe.

    Let the population fall…There’s no harm in it if we are actively learning from our mistakes. The rapidity of these events could work to our favour as it remains in the current memory – next by-elections should be interesting…

  7. Paul

    Noreen that is wishful thinking, keep telling yourself that. meanwhile in the real world, there are a hell of a lot of people stuck in 40 mortgages, on property that is losing money by the day. The only good things is, you no longer have to listen them boasting about how they are millionaires on paper.

  8. Noreen

    Ah, Paul, I think you misunderstood me. Obviously there are many people who bought and are now in big trouble – my query was your assumption that it was the talented and ambitious who were disproportionately affected. I just haven’t seen any statistics that said ‘less talented’ people were less likely to own property. The lending practices of the last few years were fairly indiscriminate!

  9. Mihai

    The reality is that, as long as ‘the country plays host to all sorts of foreigners’, “our own” are NOT forced to live in Queens or Camden. They CHOOSE to, since they cannot compete with the “all sorts”, and the London Olympics may provide some money for their brawn to shine – for a little while.

  10. Malcolm McClure

    Spending a few years working abroad, finding out how other people solve familiar problems might be a good thing, if the emigrants were to return home and apply their positive foreign experiences to improve a characteristically Irish Ireland.
    However, we Irish have been doing this for generations, but instead of Dev’s ‘ideal’, we now have a horrible Irish conjunction of everything from Brent to the Costa del Sol to Queens, for better or for worse.
    TS Eliot said:–
    “We shall not cease from exploration
    And the end of all our exploring
    Will be to arrive where we started
    And know the place for the first time.”


  11. Colin

    noreen and brendan w are spot on.

    only a gobshite would buy a house (thrown up quicker than a whore’s knickers) for 10 times his salary. only a ultimate gobshite (there’s plenty of them) would boast about being a homeowner. were they trying to impress their peers? of course they were!

    clever paddy didn’t buy. he’s mobile and free to follow the money.

    so, did the government ever think our youngsters would leave (didn’t mary “dessert trolley” harney boast about this government performing so well our young people need not emigrate)? why would they stay in these conditions? i’ve mentioned this in previous posts….. young people should have been marching on the streets complaining about house prices (which made the bankers and other lepers rich). what followed? they went to mammy and daddy to ask them for a few quid to help them buy.

    no one should have any sympathy for those in negative equity. they walked into it (all be it with daddy holding their hand)

    the youngsters will come back when property prices collapse and the knife is wielded through the public sector.

  12. Johnny Dunne

    Not so long ago (late 1980′s), there was over 70k per year emigrating through necessity. This had gone down to as low as 10k during the ‘boom’ while immigration rose to nearly 100k per annum. With over 20k redundancies announced in a quarter, 18k last month joining the dole queue — these are ‘massive’ numbers considering our population continues to increase. We have over 2 million working mainly providing ‘services’ in the public & private sectors where demand /budgets are moving in one direction…

    Unfortunately, it won’t be long before we have unprecedented levels of emigration and unemployment !

    David, well done for trying to highlight this again —who else is really calling it as it is — why not now ?

    I agree it’s not very helpful to be taking the view, we deserve to be where we are, that’ll teach us etc.

    It’s possible to turn the tide with ‘dramatic’ changes ‘after’ admiting to the problem – hope it’s not too late ?

  13. Stephen Kenny

    Noreen & Paul
    I should imagine that although the smart and the less smart are equally wading through the property quagmire, the very smart got out 18 months ago and are well into the next thing.

  14. Hi , with reference to Mr Johnny Dunne , ‘I agree it’s not very helpful to be taking the view, we deserve to be where we are, that’ll teach us etc.’
    It Certainly Is !, a first year economic student in secondary school should be able to tell , you cannot sustain an economy on construction and it’s attached services indefinably, for the last 2 years Mr Williams here and Mr Cooper on his radio show have been talking about the ‘construction slow down’ , but were put down for talking the economy down !, and survey after survey we have been told ‘we’re happy with the F.F. and partners in power !….. I would today like to know who these pollsters surveyed !
    For years too , I have listened to that over weight Health Minister of ours speak about our closeness to Berlin and ties with Boston , well if she had stepped out side of the fast food outlets when she’s been state side she would have seen there in the last 18 months their construction slow down and for sale signs !
    Any one who did buy here in the last 18 months was and is naive, why did we have such immigration over the last few years ?. Ask a Pole or Latvian it’s because we let them in and we as a race are friendlier than our neighbors and we needed them for our artificial boom, but they didn’t buy the cars or cafe lattes they went to the post office and banks ( who even hired their fellows to deal with these transfers )weekly to send home their wages and put a few extra bodies into every house they rented, the majority of these service workers won’t have any issue with leaving either , as they did not buy into our ‘Bubble Economy’ they have been laughing how they got jobs so handy here.
    We took our sun holidays and paid a Euro for our espresso and when at home we pay €3 , and just accept it .
    It’s time we stopped accepting things , but we generally are like sheep and afraid to speak up , just in case we’re knocked down.
    Your right we shouldn’t worry , not doubt when our elected officials come back in late September they will have a new quango ready to look into where we go from here and they will pay their mates to run it a few hundred grand , and sure when the tribunals are finished (which should be already as they them selves are criminal ) .
    Every thing will be all right again.

  15. B

    @Paul. Maybe some people stayed out of the market who have talent. I am 34 and stayed out of the market on purpose and I am not lacking in talent. I walked away from a house in 1999 and still have no regrets.

    Its all very well having a high flying job and a great house but if you are in debt up to your ears with an over priced house as a rapidly diminishing “asset” you’re looking a bit dumb now. If your job moves or the opportunities move you are screwed because your mortgage and other loans has you nailed to the ground. Real clever.

    If you have a 40 year mortgage ‘because you were forced” then poor you. I stayed out. I got the piss taken out of me on many occasions for it. I still won’t buy until its on the floor. We are nowhere near the floor yet.

    @Philip The HSE is in the horrors as a direct result of the Department of Health being overruled by the unelected John Charles McQuaid in the Mother and Child scandal of 1951. It never recovered and as a direct result of the suspension of logic prompted my McQuaid we have a ‘service’ that is rewarded for bein illogical, opaque and as far removed from reality as is possible. They make the right sounds but they will never reform. It has nothing to do with the size of the population. Greater Manchester has more people than Ireland. Its got more to do with superstition and right-wing fundamentalism than money. Throwing all the money in the world at the HSE will make it worse not better.

    @Malcolm McClure Dev was the biggest asshole to wear an Ireland jersey. He was a total disaster and we still live with his shite every day. The bongs at 12 and at 6 on RTE are his reminder from beyond the grave. And the eyesore that is Bolands Mills.

    @Brendan W. If we don’t elect them they can’t mess it up. I almost cried when Bertie got in again. Not because I am anti FF but because they are in power too long. Power makes people lazy. I speak up and I do get knocked down on a regular basis. The corruption and spin here is monumental. We have the State leeching money from us like never before and MOCKING us by burning that money right in front of us and we have the complicit media who make sure that the public are kept on message.

    I don’t buy it and we all look stupid for letting it happen.

    If you want to make a change use your vote. Tell your public representitive you are not happy with them and if they don’t listen DON’T ELECT THEM. Its that simple and that complicated.

  16. Philip

    Just a personal observation based on my experience working with MNCs. I would like to know if anyone noticed similar – maybe there’s numbers on this. Since the mid 90s I saw many very clever management folks who came and lived here or were “grown” here ramping up MNC investments. They lived in tight communities something like some walled in wealthy ex-pat communities you find in 3rd world countries (without the walls) . They loved it here – but as outsourcing cut in as our costs ramped locally, they got pushed and just moved on – usually to London, Paris & Amsterdam etc. Many of these guys were well connected and played an important role in sucking in more investment. They flew our flag for us.

    Those caught on 40 yr mortgages (clever or otherwise) have seen organisations they work for loosing such leadership. Their ability to fight their corner was diminished. All of this was nicely masked by the credit boom and an ignorance due to a complete lack of experience in the public mind of busts.

    I believe that since 2001 since the dot bomb bust there was a rapidly deteriorating enviroment in the mfg sector – not due to China/India or our costs but due to the rapidly diminishing numbers of influentials who worked in these sectors in Ireland. However, retail, construction etc took up the slack. In the meantime, the guys who moved on were now operating out of the major cities in Europe and elsewhere which are always buzzing even in the biggest recessions.

    Now if you are starting out on your career and want to progress, why would you hang about? In a recession, Ireland is a comparitve backwater relative to richer countries. I know of at least 3 competent people in the last few weeks being encouraged to move to France, Germany or UK by their influential bosses.

    Unless we can get these guys back, we are always going to be a nation of willing semi-experienced tryers. We will never be able to build the professionalism that would build credibility and depth for the country. Our public service will become more incompetent – because the average citizen is less sophisticated in articulating need and FF are here forever by default.

    I think FF has to leave power as a matter of public interest (I really have nothing against them as I think the others are not much better and indeed are probably more stupid due to their lack of power exposure). We need an all party move on finding root casues of our lack of leadership (It is nothing else) and dealing with it. Until then, emmigration will keep ramping.

  17. dave parry

    Seems a very lazy article.Why did you not compare the January and July figures for previous years?.Obviously, more people will leave during the Summer months’.

  18. b

    @Philip I agree totally. I would go further and say that Irish “management” outside the MNC sector is haphazard and depends more on politics and bullying than actual competence.

    When I was in the US in 2001 I was amazed how the Irish organized themselves in Queens and Boston by their County or GAA affiliations. Outside of this you were screwed and got no work.

  19. Johnny Dunne

    Philip, interesting point about the MNCs. Might explain why there are not enough senior MNC managers developing indigineous businesses or growing MNCs. If these ‘leaders’ aren’t in Ireland, there won’t be opportunities to create sustainable enterpises for the future. Then investment capital must go overseas ?

  20. Fergal

    Paul in your post “it is the less talented that are free to move, because they could not afford to get onto the property ladder” clearly implies that the talented did get onto the property ladder.
    I believe I’m reasonably talented, Irish, emigrated in 2004 after being offerred the ‘opportunity’ to buy a house in central dublin for a mere 9 times my salary (I had a considerable deposit). The house needed re-roofing and re-wiring and didn’t have central heating. The numbers just didn’t make sense. My point? Plenty of smart and talented people said – hang on – this is irrational exuberance, a terraced house in Tallaght (or Dun Laoire) is NOT worth a small chateaux in France. The Irish property market is still massively overvalued – prices compare to Manhattan! Dublin is not Manhattan.

    If you got suckered in, it’s for one reason – you’re not that smart. As someone said above, the real smart ones got in early and out before the crash. If you bought since 2002, and you’re still there in 09 or 10, you’re a sucker for sure.

    A realistic price for the average house is 5 – 7 times annual salary. Pay over that, and unless you’re lucky, you’ll be fleeced at some point.

  21. Michael

    The GAA championships in the US host a bunch of Irish-based players that typically are out of their own local championships in Ireland and are at a loose end. They are really well taken care of by the clubs here – flown out, housed, fed, watered, set up in jobs and take a nice dosh of cash for their services……… there is a “hot” summer market there that may throw off your numbers in the GAA transfers………US clubs have seen an aging group of players that are based in their cities, and have to rely on heavy fundraising which in turn is used to entice the “talent” from Ireland….How long term these players hang around is questionable, perhaps we’ll see more of them stay now.

  22. Ref To Michael, spot on here These figures when studied over a period do of course show this, lads here have been doing it when they can’t get onto first teams here or when their clubs do not need them , and as the irony is they get well ‘look after ‘ state side fixed up with work and a few dollars for ‘their services’ at the weekend’s. So Mr Williams with this article is throwing out just maybe to fill his contracted column inches here to a degree,. but you are right in current climate (economically and climatic ) they may not return for other ‘seasons’.
    @ Philip and the MNC’s managers returning I fall into the bracket came back because I like overall the country with all it’s faults , but over the last year I have been blocked by Civil Servants in bringing in a new company here , as they are part ‘sponsored’ by another MNC who I would be competing with , I have a drink to help smokers with when they can’t smoke , but feel like having one have a look at U.S. commercial here. or Nic Lite on your utube.
    @ Mr B , regarding talking to my local representatives and if they don’t listen this time not to vote for them,I have done this with the current crowd who got in anyway due to having the financial funding to fool , the general public yet again. Now I watch my F’F'er take up news paper space wanting a flood wall he’d backed , now it’s construction to be halted , and wants us to ‘work with him over this issue!’.
    So my point when I know the current groupings in power and sitting on the other benches, is we the people deserve new thinkers to run against this bunch of ‘new state men ‘ It is time now to move on from the groups that ‘freed us’ from the great oppressive English and get Politicians who will work for ‘us’ who elect them to look after our little small island , but Like in the States where you could have had Ron Paul ( see him on U Tube ) running instead of McCaine he wanted to pull America out of there 130 different war zones, look at dismantling the federal reserve, close all their quangos such as ‘home land security’ and to stop borrowing off China to buy their products they import into the states and to start fixing America’s own problems, but Big Media don’t like his honest style as , they’d loose out too.
    It will take more than my single non vote to change the country , but we certainly need more choice that what’s currently out there.

  23. Some More Good News Mr B, regarding the bankers , Lehman Brothers the big US investment house ( no doubt an Office up in the IFSC , have losses for third quarter coming in at $40 billion ! 700% higher than what has been estimated, so watch what that will do to the markets .
    Just glad I bought in 1990 rented out and sold out in 2005, when my Bank ‘advisory’ wanted me to trade up !

  24. ref. last posting before been corrected , Lehman Brothers on target for $4 Billion only ,. but watch what this will do to our banking stocks !

  25. B

    @Brendan W. You got out at the right time. Fair dues.

    Re Lehman Brothers. Yippee. The more the market falls the better it is for me. Both of the businesses I am involved in are countercyclical. The nastier the recession (if it happens) is the better it is for me. The rising market and celtic tiger were a total disaster for my business. Nobody wants lifejackets on a calm day.

    The thing about voting in Ireland is that the vast majority couldn’t give a shite and don’t bother to register or vote skewing the result towards the parties with the more rabid followers. There is no incentive to vote or to keep your name on the register. The government would be mad to change this as apathy works for them and against us. I get booted off the register on a regular basis in spite of having the same address since 1984. If everyone voted instead of bitching and moaning we would see changed but as I said most people are disengaged and couldnt give a hoot.

  26. Look what the cat dragged in

    At Fergal,

    “If you bought since 2002, and you’re still there in 09 or 10, you’re a sucker for sure.

    A realistic price for the average house is 5 – 7 times annual salary. Pay over that, and unless you’re lucky, you’ll be fleeced at some point.”

    Fergal, I bought in 2005 a house 3.5 times my annual salary. My salary is above average but not much more. My theory was that the market was going to crash…it’s been on the cards since 2000 if you ask me but I needed a house. I bought the worst house on the best street (as opposed to the best house on the worst street) and done it up rewiring and re-plumbing it.The cheaper it was, in my opinion, the less it would fall. Also, as its so central to boioth the city centre and the local hospital & schools it has rental porential (I refused to purchase your average 3/4 bed semi in an estate on the outskirts of the city as these are more likely to plummet in value as opposed to a house with a more competitive advantgage. It’s 10 min walk from city centre (bear in mind I’m not in Dublin). Point is, some people HAD to purchase. It was out of necessity. It was simply a case of limiting potential losses as opposed to leaving oneself wide open to exposure to negative equity.

  27. Ed

    Philip and Brendan, I totally agree that the politics has to change if we’re to become serious about developing our country to it full potential. Last night’s prime time made me sick to see the smirk on Willie O’Dea’s face while trotting out the same old spin – “a slap in the gob”- might teach him to show some respect for our people in these uncertain and trying times – not a care in the world on his big inflated salary He was behaving like a cocky celebrity with contempt for anybody who questioned his government’s strategy or lack thereof -a mind your own business approach. It’s time to get rid of this lot of exploitive chancers that are living off the freedom card and lumbering us with inherited mediocrity in the leadership field. It’s now time to elect politicians who’ll “feed us” and forget about those that have inherited from the ones that “freed us”

  28. Paul

    “If you got suckered in, it’s for one reason – you’re not that smart. As someone said above, the real smart ones got in early and out before the crash. If you bought since 2002, and you’re still there in 09 or 10, you’re a sucker for sure.

    A realistic price for the average house is 5 – 7 times annual salary. Pay over that, and unless you’re lucky, you’ll be fleeced at some point.”

    Yes Fergal

    The Irish are not smart at all, they got rightly suckered, and now they are heading the way of the Japanese. I see ive hit a berve, that is because you know aswell as I do that alot of people who thought they were smart have been given a good rogering by developers and speculators. Most of these muppets actually released equity on these properties to buy more, and got suckered again.

  29. Malcolm McClure

    B said “The more the market falls the better it is for me. Both of the businesses I am involved in are countercyclical. The nastier the recession (if it happens) is the better it is for me. The rising market and celtic tiger were a total disaster for my business.”
    This is a prime example of ‘contra-economics’, which seems to be the motive for participation in this blog by several of the respondents here.
    It is characterized by delight at the fall in property, glee at the failure of banks, heaping blame on FF for the downturn and distaste for developers, who were providing employment for half the country.
    Ireland’s weakness is begrudgery but contra-economics is an even more destructive mindset. We are where we are. Let’s try to be positive about the actual components of the Irish economy.

  30. John


    Yes, the numbers used are meaningless without putting them in seasonal context. It would be great if David could have a look at them. Its a very clever barometer and if the pattern we see from jan to june 08 is not apparent every year, then it is an interesting change. I’d say the increase in those wanting to go into teaching (anecdotal but also evident in the points system (CAO)) is also a very interesting outcome. Have a look at the CAO data and give us your thoughts!


  31. B

    @Malcolm McClure

    It is not a motive it is a reality. The business does not do as well as it should when easy credit and the client companies have customers awash with more money than sense. When the recession bites invoices will go unpaid and people will try to skip off without paying their debts. Systems and companies go lax in fair sailing and are lost when things go bad as they probaly have never experienced it and blind panic sets in and their heads head for the sand.

    I was around for the last recession and will be around for the next. Finacial distress is good for my business. But so what? It is not begudgery it is a fact of my financial life. I don’t see you complaining about the HSE and VHI making a living out of misery and sickness. There are markets everywhere.

    I work cleaning up other peoples messes and make no apoologies for it. Its easy to ponce about in cars paid for with other peoples money. It is far more difficult to operate when credit is tighter. This is where we work well. When the constraints on business are tightest. If not me do you want foreign companies to come in and clean peoples bottoms and wipe their noses? Doctors don’t cause accidents.

    “It is characterized by delight at the fall in property” – I have never bought and probably will never buy a house. It is academic to me. Your house is only worth what someone else is willing to pay for it. The opportunity cost of buying a house is too high for me. The economics of it went totally stark raving mad and I chose to stay out of the crowd. Sorry. I should toe the party line and be a more compliant citizen. I will try harder at this.

    “Glee at the failure of banks” – AIB failed before and we bailed them out. Fool me once, fool me twice. The banks wouldn’t bail you or I out so why should we show them the slightest sympathy. Separate the people that work in the bank from the legal concept of a bank.

    “Heaping blame on FF for the downturn” – If the cap fits. They have finally managed to get elected into a recession without handing off the economy to FG as it goes bankrupt. FF have hardly got a stellar record as regards economics with their lord and master DeValeras utterly stupid economic policies displacing half a million people. As with my business it is easy to “run” the economy when you get a lucky wave but the true test is when things get hard. Its easy to buy a house when you won the lotto. Its easy to run an economy when tax revenues are high when consumers are having mone thrown at them in a property boom. Its like the junkie who won the lotto and four weeks later he is back on the streets because he is lousey with a little money and even lousier with a big lot of money.

    “and distaste for developers, who were providing employment for half the country.” I worked for one of the biggest. What is your point? the whole propery market has a nasty stink of shit from it and I naturally keep away from it.

    I am not contra-economical. I deal with the reality that usually hits you in the face after mindless optimism is smote down by a lack of cash flow. It is never fast and it is NEVER EVER a surprise. Constantly looking for the bright side is the mindset of a simpleton. Concentrate on the upside but minimise the exposure to external risks and minimise the downside. People lose their houses over this and there are real human tragedies but one has always to be careful not to believe your own spin. Pride comes before a fall and I have fallen many many times.

    I don’t begrudge anyone for making money. I really couldn’t care less so long as they play by the rules. I do however resent clowns who try to play to the gallery and spout what they think people want to hear. I think that Irelands main problem is the willingness to take any old bullshit lying down. Don’t confuse honest construcitve criticism for begrudgery.

  32. Ed

    B, the developers were only working within the framework laid down by government, of course the government were well rewarded for their part in the plot. It beggars belief that they, the government, should promote such a risky policy and then when the dogs in the street knew the game was up, continued to push the illusion very forcefully – realists such as David were condemned from on high as though he was some kind of traitor – the serious question is, are these people, the government, working in our collective interests or is it simply in the interests of they themselves and of their supporters ?
    In David’s case – George Orwell springs to mind , to quote “ During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act”

  33. Hi All,

    I’ve done a bit of number crunching on this issue, and the results contradict many of the things David says in his article. The details are here:



  34. Malcolm McClure

    B said “I deal with the reality that usually hits you in the face after mindless optimism is smote down by a lack of cash flow…. Constantly looking for the bright side is the mindset of a simpleton. Concentrate on the upside but minimise the exposure to external risks and minimise the downside.
    That, B, is excellent advice at any point in the cycle. Ensure that: ‘Heads you win plenty; tails you don’t lose much.’
    However, as you have told us, your business plan depends on the failures of others. No harm in that, at all, at all, but it doesn’t necessarily establish a strong basis for proffering forward-looking economic thoughts. For example, few people consult their bookie for investment advice.

  35. Philip

    Stephen Kinsella, any view on movement of good players? Typically, the good ones leave before the rest know what is happening – so 07 could be interpreted as more worrying – horse having bolted. As I stated above, I saw immigration of many key individuals 6 years ago. This has petered out and I think we are going to see the effects of a loss of influence. This is a personal experience.

    Malcolm McClure, I agree with your view that we should try and control our negative emotions with respect to Government, Banks and Developers etc. But people are not stupid and you only need to open your eyes are you travel around the country to know something is wrong looking at unfinished estates all over the place to know something is up.

    I also agree we should be positive about the actual components of the Irish economy. I would like to understand those positive components. Certainly the policy of having 50% of the country employed by the building industry is akin to taking bookie type advice. Any responsible leader/ manager in a similar situation would mitigate such a risk asap – but as I said earlier, I believe we are becoming bereft of such people

    On begrudgery – this is actually what you get at the recieving end of gov policy, banks and developers who have effectively damaged domestic businesses trying to get off the ground.

  36. MK

    Hi David,

    I’m not sure if GAA Player transfers can be a leading or accurate indicator of people movement, and as some have pointed out, perhaps the months you used and indeed the data set did not back up the case you were making, which is that Ireland can and does ‘export people’ (ie: people emigrate when there are better opportunities elsewhere. It has ever been thus, emmigration and immgration is a fact of life and part and parcel of our culture. Whether that is currently happening now or about to happen is still not definitive.

    The CSO figures (which are laggard rather than leading) on also published recently (same day as your article?) are showing that emmigration is moving up and immigration is slowing. There is still net migration though – for now.

    As a ‘tool’ in our island economy, I think people migration is an important valve. Its good that our people are mobile, that they can go abroad to the US, to the UK, to Europe, Asia, Oz/NZ, etc, and get access and be employable. Yes, it is true that our best and brightest and the most contributing to the exchequer will be a loss, but some of them do come back. Many dont though, and that is ironicllay one reason why we have the diaspora that you mention so often in your pieces. But even if people do not come back, perhaps they can be links for the future.

    Another way of seeing what is happening in the economy is the reduced spending going on. We are spending more on less volume:

    The global slowdown is teetering in direction. Markets and analysts are unsure where its going to go. If there are huge swathes of hidden debts lying somewhere. If there will be a domino effect, a contagion, etc. We as a country need to be very smart on our feet. We need to box smart, like Ken Egan did today. Think with our feet, our hands and our heads. We need to be competitive. Of course, a country, like a boxer, may just not be good enough. Some dont even try, people can be lazy. Are we competing as best as we can? Unlikely.

    Can we do better? We know we can? If the people in Ireland put in only 1% as much effort as our boxers have demonstrated, we would be doing a lot better. We probably would have a much different landscape politically as well. Not Ministers walking around in floods after they’ve happened, nor ex-Taoiseach’s presenting GAA programmes badly on the licensed-based broadcaster to ‘curry favour’ with the populace stealthily, nor an opposition which gets over-excited just at the thought of ‘power’, etc, etc.

    We have a long long way to go ….. (maybe in a galaxy far far away we are different!)


  37. b

    My business plan does not wait for failure. We just have the experience to help extricate companies from self made disasters. So we will let them fail if thats your logic. Most of our business has come from an unwillingness to face reality. A lot of frothy businesses providing services that are debt fuelled and discretionary are looking at the wall now.

    I don’t see you complaining about ambulance chasing lawyers or corrupt mortgage advisers creaming money off in the boom.

  38. Malcolm McClure

    Philip said: “Certainly the policy of having 50% of the country employed by the building industry is akin to taking bookie type advice. Any responsible leader/ manager in a similar situation would mitigate such a risk asap ”
    Bertie was a consummate politician, not the kind of guy who would stand in front of a runaway bus. The dogs in the street knew a couple of years ago that it had to end sometime. Meantime national consensus was “Lets make hay while the sun shines”.

  39. Ref Malcolm McClure and ‘Our Negative begrudgery towards the developers and Government !…..Mr McClure what state agency are you working for ? your in an alluded bubble ! , I do not begrudge any person who gets up and takes a risk or chance in the commerical scense , but stating that devlopers give employment and the Government developed a strong economy, well then your are either brain washed and working with a state body or your on some new happy drug. !
    If Developers are such good guys creating all these jobs for the trades people , why do they then refuse to build social house projects ( McNamara’s) , these boys are all in the game for one reason and one alone , and that is to make a Lot of Money for themselves, if these developers were any good with the exorbitant profits they made off the back of this country they would be assisting in social development like donating to schools , building sports halls , community centers , a hospital wing but this is not the case . Instead they with clever accountants , pay as little tax as possible and avail of the tax breaks the politicians they have ‘contributed to’ who are running the country have put in place for them.
    Yes I would agree with you there is a begrudger y attitude in this country , it has been bet into us from the old catholic national schools up , and by the sly whores who run the place.
    But all you have to do is look back to where this ‘Celtic tiger’ began it was our politicians with the poor mouth going over to Brussels to get infrastructural funding , it’s off the back of these funds that the whole construction boom began and sure as long as a few were doing fine and banks lending silly money and most believing the hype we have landed where we are presently.
    The attitude here of , ah sure it’s the way it is , ..this we have to change a friend of mind recently went for an interview with a state body ( heritage and housing ) and he was asked , ‘what would he do in the office when there was nothing to do ?’ …. He said been positive he’d find something as something always needs to be done’…. Naturally he did not get the job!.
    I may sound negative here , but out of negativity comes positivity and change….
    As a nation of entertainers and with a reputation globally of our friendliness, we have to now sober up, and start asking the serious questions as to why our elected officials make such fools of us. Why we have the best paid politicians in Europe , why Irish Lord Mayors get more than American senators, and why badly run semi state directors get half million plus salaries.
    It’s the attitude of , sure you can’t change the system (which is rotten ) that has to collectively change.

  40. Malcolm McClure

    Brendan W: You have quite seriously misquoted me. Please read again what I actually wrote. Also I can assure you that I do not fall in any of the categories that you have suggested.
    We live in a democracy and we enjoy free speech and access to our TDs and councillors. We do not have to wait for an election to make our concerns known to them. We can lobby them in their consituency offices and elsewhere. They are not always remote Aunt Sallies, only available for remote expressions of outrage on the web. If enough displeased people appear in front of them, they will soon get the message. However there’s no point in demonstrating unless you have a coherent alternative policy, that can be put in place fairly quickly.
    Two questions for you Brendan W. Did you vote and have you ever expressed your concerns to a politician?

  41. Philip

    Malcolm McClure, great to see someone taking the opposing view and demanding alternative answers. And it is good to see others highlighting contradictions in inaccuracies in David’s column. That’s how we learn here.

    I fully agree with you on…
    “Bertie was a consummate politician, not the kind of guy who would stand in front of a runaway bus. The dogs in the street knew a couple of years ago that it had to end sometime. Meantime national consensus was “Lets make hay while the sun shines”. ”

    The snag was that the “hay” has proving to be a poor feed/bedding for the winter that was coming. No leadership, no guts, no courage to do the right thing and maybe loose an election and perhaps go down in history as a real visionary. This issue is leadership – something very few people in power know about.

    William Blake said that prudence (aka cute hoorishness) was like an old woman weighed down by the cloak of necessity (hanging in there no matter what). And that was during a very rough period in England’s early industrial development. I hope we are a bit beyond that in Ireland – but it is a worrying indicator where we are in the political psyche.

  42. B

    Philip, How in all honesty is going with the Government line an opposing view?

  43. To Mr McClure …. Your Answers , not only have I voted , but I have had dinner with politicians and senators and shared a few drinks too with my local councilors ( when I did drink ! ) and have had dealings as far up as the Health Ministry….. But as others even on this page alone, will tell you , they are a shower of cute whores , when I brought up their unwillingness to speak up , the general response has been,…. ah sure Brendan we;re doing our Bit and sure you can’t please every body !.
    When has an Irish Politician ever given a straight and honest answer , sure they’ll shake your hand and promise when they get in they’ll , ‘look after ya ‘. Reality is though quite different.
    My point here and in other forums is , it’s time we had change , not for the sake of it but for necessity. All the revenue that Our Government took in during the good times , has by and large been wasted on setting up unnecessary bodies and committes ,the hiring of ‘advisor’s’ and the fitting out of the Dail bar and other wasteful ventures that I do not have to print here.
    As regards giving a coherent alternative policy that can be put in place quickly ? , well you didn’t ask me to comment on that , but help the shower of rogues that are there now……. I’d need to be paid very well to help them stay there !
    If on the playing fields of any sports , when you don’t preform you come off, same should be applied to Our current civil servants , by just cutting out the hangers on , there would be more funds in the exchequer for the next move.

  44. @ Phillip,

    What constitutes a good player? One who plays for his county? That’s in the data.

  45. Malcolm McClure

    Brendan W said: “..not only have I voted , but I have had dinner with politicians and senators and shared a few drinks too with my local councilors”
    Brendan, you’re never going to get a coherent response from politicians over the port and nuts.– Make an appointment. Go to your TD’s office and have it out, calmly, face to face. If that doesn’t concentrate his/her mind, then start up a ‘Constituency Discontented’ website, where other disaffected voters can get together to plan concerted action. Place an ad explaining its purpose in your local newspaper and be ready with suggested policy changes listed on your website. If enough activists do this, the country will change pretty quickly. This is democracy in the age of the internet.

  46. b

    What, is , with, the, commas, all over, the , place and ,, in the mid,dle of sentences? Are there no coherent Irishmen left?

  47. @ Mr McClure port and nuts !, these meetings were all business meetings which finished with simple coffees after desserts but any way !. What you’ve put forward here regarding a ‘Constituency Discontented website’ is actually a great idea. But I’ll await to hear our Leaders address to the nation when he gets back from his caravan first and I have some consultancy work taking me to Italy and Dubai also in September, but I’ll hold on for the winter of discontent here first !
    @ Mr B ,,…. we are at the best of times in coherent or are you from the Joycean school of thought and don’t believe in all these commas !. Our ex Leader Bertie (what an after dinner speaker he’d make ! ) his scripts must be littered with the things the way he mumbled through so many of his speeches ! , He was a Brave man on Radio this week saying he’d dig us out of this recession , why wasn’t he asked ,..who put us in it !

  48. Johnny Dunne

    Ref Ed’s comment about Willie O’Dea on Prime Time in a ‘debate’ with Richard Bruton. The only ‘solutions’ mentioned by either was to cut government spending ‘if they can’, continue ‘original’ NDP plan, breach the EU 3% of GDP for borrowings and they won’t cut taxes. O’Dea seemed to say ‘sure there is nothing else we can do’ as we are a small open economy exposed to a downturn.

    Do the politicians really understand what is going on ? For example, the CSO reported this week the value of exports were down 8% for June compared to same time last year – exports of computer equipment are down 25% (assume that’s Dell, Intel etc ) while chemicals materials are up 45% and petroleum products 71%. Are we know importing and exporting bulk liquid materials to prop up GDP ?

    Has anyone heard an Irish politician come up with anything ‘substantial’ to turn this economy around ? If so, I’m sure many people would to hear their suggestions. If not, we should be asking does any of our ‘leaders’ understand what is going on in the Irish economy not to mention the international market.

  49. Fergal

    “Look what the cat dragged in”

    “Some people HAD to buy”. Give me some reasons, the Germans rent, most of Manhattan rents. Did you have to buy? Why? Did you consider emigrating?
    You’re probably reasonably OK, thoughh how you bought a house in central Dublin for 3.5 times your slightly above average income eludes me. In 2002 I was making about EUR 40K (pre-tax) and was looking for very similar to what you described – central and cheap. The closest I got to what I had resigned myself to (not wanted) was EUR 360K.

    In any case, anyone who is looking at negative equity now would likely have been better off renting. They’re not that smart. Ireland is still in a property bubble – deflating, but still a bubble. It has a lot further to fall. It was clear to some that the fundementals were wrong in 2002. I left because I saw that the numbers didn’t make sense. Others left too. Still more rented. We weren’t as smart as those who got in and out, but I’m pretty sure we’re smarter than those who fed the flames and now sit in or near negative equity.

    The fall should be welcomed by the majority, in the long term it will help to restore competitiveness in the Irish economy. Wages won’t need to be so high to cover housing, Ireland may actually start producing again. It will be a painful few years, but it may prove to be an opportunity that allows Ireland to get back into a competitive mode.

    Don’t forget that you’re not always better off making EUR 65K with a 400K mortgage than you are making 35K on a 175K mortgage. It’s the same house. The 20 and 30 something buyers have been making their elders wealthy through excessive borrowing. Life’s harsh.

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