Jobs, fancy shops, better coffee - but don't expect an easy time on return home
Published 24/08/2016 | 02:30
A daft property market report in January 2009 strived to make the best of a desperately unravelling situation.
Things had "got a lot worse with bank bailouts, Budget debacles, job losses and public sector cuts" it stated.
But: "Ultimately, with the resolve to put right what needs to be fixed . . . we have to be confident about our prospects for the future."
It would take a full eight years to feel the warmth of those better prospects and while the financial reports peak recession were sombre, the reality was worse.
A walk down any retail thoroughfare showed the striking dearth of both shopping bags and smiles - with 2008 showing the worst slump in sales since 1982.
Nights out in pubs and restaurants were poignantly lacking in bustle.
'Rush hour' was far too comfortably navigated because of the lack of cars on the road, with vehicles often simply abandoned at Dublin airport with the keys left in the ignition.
Those who had the readies were flocking to Allsop's distressed property auctions, chequebook in hand, to pick up an apartment block for €375,000.
Ireland was emptying out as the young packed their bags in a frenzy not seen since the grey gloom of the 1980s.
And who could blame them?
A 'lost' generation spent their 20s abroad, slipping into comfortable lives in Australia, London, New York and beyond, while those who remained mourned the loss of their energy and verve.
It seemed impossible they would ever come home.
But the tug of family is a strong one and social media has made it easier for returning emigrants to pick up the threads of their lives here.
An 'Irish Around Australia' Facebook group created a few years ago for Irish people thinking about moving home received over 1,000 requests to join in 24 hours.
Many emigrants are coming home to raise their own children amid the familiar Irish culture and values, while some have been forced to return because their visas have run out.
Now, having passed the two million employment mark for the first time since 2009, on the surface we're back to where we started but in pop psychology terms, the stats belie the 'journey' we've taken to get here. This has left Ireland a different place to the one the returning emigrants may have known it to be.
Tech stepped in when other industries faltered and Ireland now employs over 80,000 people in information and communications technology - with Jobs Minister Mary Mitchell O'Connor saying we could see almost 100,000 people employed in tech by the end of 2018.
The presence of leading tech firms like Google, Ebay and Facebook has rendered us ever more global and outward looking.
Returning emigrants can enjoy the same avocado toast and cold-pressed juices for brunch that they savoured in Sydney or San Francisco.
For better or worse, there's a Starbucks on every corner, whereas in 2008, there was one in Dundrum Town Centre with a queue out the door. But even in coffee, our tastes have kept abreast of global trends for smaller producers as part of Ireland's vital Agri-food sector which employs 50,000 directly, with 180,000 linked jobs.
Adversity led to many food-based cottage industries springing up and at Bloom this year, buyers from the UK's Harrods, Selfridges and Fortnum and Mason came over in the hope of finding new exciting Irish food products suitable for export, together with six buyers from the Middle East. Some 1,443 people are now entering the country every week.
We almost welcome the return of rush hour traffic.
Buzzy bars and restaurants with trendy new menus are back, complete with warnings that "you can only have the table til 8.30pm".
There have been some social improvements, with two weeks' paternity leave kicking in for new fathers from September 1.
The Referendum on Marriage Equality was arguably the beginning of the new mood of national positivity, compounded by the feel-good factor of the 1916 Commemorations.
But it is far from all positive.
The housing crisis remains the biggest threat to our nation's well-being.
Shocking statistics show that 2,020 children were living in emergency accommodation in Dublin last month.
As always, there is a lot done, more to do.