News John Drennan

Friday 29 August 2014

New post-Tiger boom roaring with young cubs and old cats

In a nation still failing to thrive, gallivanting greys and Google kids are bucking the trend, writes John Drennan

Published 03/11/2013 | 02:00

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GOOGLE-EYED: Enda Kenny, friend of web multinationals

A PUZZLING contradiction is starting to emerge in the narrative of the Irish State, and for once it has little to do with our politicians.

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Despite the best attempts of the Government to say otherwise, for the vast majority of citizens Ireland is still experiencing a recessionary stagnation. High streets continue to be emptier than Goldsmith's Deserted Village, courtesy of a contained but still venomous mortgage arrears crisis and the vast swathes of people left with no money after the bills have been paid.

But while most of the country is failing to thrive, there are exceptions where, if a Martian (or a group from the Troika) were to land in Ireland to go looking for this recession, they would leave believing it is as mythical as the leprechaun.

Throughout Dublin, the East Coast, Cork and our more salubrious provincial towns, there is an Ireland of thriving Michelin-starred restaurants and new bars bursting at the seams with that Gatsby-style blend of the young and the beautiful. There is an Ireland, too, of upmarket shops and plush four-star hotels which are permanently booked out.

Some of the gilded habitues of this Celtic Tiger reincarnation are tourists, but there is no shortage of local accents among the partygoers.

Ironically, Enda Kenny provides us with a clue to the identity of the first class fuelling Ireland's selective boom.

Last week, a Taoiseach who is never happier than when he is elbowing Richard Bruton out of the way to open up a new Google or PayPal multinational, looked as if he had died and gone to a heaven where Mayo win All-Irelands every year as he attended the Web Summit.

These 'smart' multinational jobs that Enda drapes himself around are the most cherished of all, politically, for they say to a generally indifferent outside world that we are still a first-world state.

The Google kids, though, are also critical drivers of the domestic economy: for, rather like the initial Celtic Tiger cubs, the kids are spenders.

Unlike so much of the rest of the economy, they are unencumbered by debt, or fear, or mortgages, which means they are the ones now flooding into Fade Street and its equivalents, brightening the bars and streets like fireflies.

The celebrations of our nouveau riche are not confined to that class – for the most intriguing feature of the post-Celtic Tiger boom is that the over-60s golden generation, or those of them at least who were wise enough to have not invested in property or bank shares, are also partying.

They, having put their children through third-level during the free fees era and paid off the mortgage, will have retired with a certain defined benefit-style income, the much-loved lump sum, the medical card, and a host of other benefits.

Now, as they travel across the land brandishing the free travel pass, this group of newly liberated pensioners are going further on their income than they could have dreamed of.

In saying this, no one, except perhaps their putative heirs, is begrudging those who lived through plenty of misery in their own time.

It is, though, a curious economy that depends on the very young and the aged to drive it – for the struggling thirtysomethings stuck in the middle are certainly not.

Sunday Independent

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