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The housing boom of the Celtic Tiger

The housing boom in Ireland was fanatical — totally irrational, except that people made loads of money. I benefitted from this myself, in a small wage-earner's way, doing initial cleans of windows on sites after completion of the major construction work. In those days, most any contractor was able to set the terms of a deal because there was such demand.

I've seen a lot of unremarkable houses, many of them "semi-detached" (duplex,) built to mediocre specification and sold for a quarter-million euros — houses just like the 300,000 units that now stand empty across the island in the so-called "ghost estates."

The pinnacle of the episode, the emblem, I think — the tallest building in Ireland — is the Elysian in Cork city. 17 stories of high-end residential units, empty. Well, 80% empty, by official figures — but some of the 20% are only renting, and by the looks of the place many not really there at all. The Elysian was funded by Anglo-Irish bank, an, uh, controversial (now state-owned) organization.

And that's where it all gets confusing and overwhelming. That's where it gets into the territory of information that the economists don't understand.

Somebody built a lot of damn unnecessary houses.