Friday 19 July 2019

7 things we learned from David McWilliams' 'Ireland's Great Wealth Divide'

Ireland's Great Wealth Divide - David McWilliams
Ireland's Great Wealth Divide - David McWilliams

Ed Power

David McWilliams delivered an impassioned attack on government economic policy on Ireland’s Great Wealth Divide, airing on RTE1 last night.

Arguing that the post-crash economy functioned essentially as an enrichment device for the megabucks one percent he warned that unless the decline in living standards of the middle classes was addressed, the country faced political strife and social instability. Here were seven takeaways from the broadcast

1: Bunclody is Ireland’s Poorest Town

The sunny south-east is not usually associated with grinding deprivation. Yet McWilliams cited statistics showing that incomes and job prospects were worse in this picturesque Wexford market town than anywhere else in Ireland.

2: Ireland’s Super-wealthy Prefer To Splurge Abroad

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 24: Items are displayed in the Gucci store window on Bond Street on January 24, 2011 in London, England. Despite the expected retail slump, sales of luxury goods are booming, with many companies posting large profits. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

You won’t see our mega rich staggering down Grafton Street, weighed down with freshly -wrapped bling. They prefer to discreetly shop in London, spending tens of thousands on jewellery and other luxuries - far from the envious gaze of the hard-toiling masses.

3: The Banks Are Only Interested In Dealing With The Super Rich

“The banks don’t want to lend to the average guy,” said McWilliams. “The average guy, with no assets, has become a massive risk after the crash.”

4: The Big Problem Isn’t Wealth Inequality – It’s Opportunity Inequality

“What we have in our society is an inequality of power and opportunity,” American right wing pundit PJ O’Rourke told McWilliams. “It should be our political aim to make sure the people acquiring the great wealth are doing it legally and that everybody has an opportune to get a foot up.”

5: The Marker Hotel Was A Bargain

The Marker Hotel at Grand Canal Square in Dublin’s Docklands.

The international developers who swooped in to buy this swish hostelry at Dublin’s Grand Canal Dock essentially picked it up gratis after disposing of an adjoining block of 80 apartments for double what they had paid.

6: The Private Jet Business Is Booming

Back in the day, packaging magnate Michael Smurfit was the solitary custodian of a private jet in Ireland. Today, there are some 2,500 private jet “movements” – flights to the lay person – out of Dublin annually. A concierge explained that, whilst whizzing off to Davos or New York, jet owners dined at a Michelin star level. On one occasion, rare mineral water from France was sourced for a client. No salted peanuts for our betters.

7: McWilliams Is Ultimately Positive About Irish Prospects

“The wealth gap is eminently fixable,” he said .”The history of humanity is a history of moving towards equality…Let’s just do it.”

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