Monday 22 January 2018

20 top baubles of the Celtic Tiger

From the New York shopping trip to helicopter entrances at Communions, Kim Bielenberg looks back at Ireland's boom-time must-haves

Kim Bielenberg

Kim Bielenberg

1 THE BT OXYGEN BAR Punters were prepared to pay €10 for the privilege of taking a breath of air in an oxygen bar on Dublin's Grafton Street. Brown Thomas, which ran the operation, reported good business in the bar, which opened in 2001. These inhalations of O2 through a plastic tube were said to "boost energy levels, relieve stress and revitalise people".

2 THE Chopper communion Families were happy to pay Celtic Helicopter €1,000 to fly their offspring to Communion ceremonies -- but not, of course, before they had taken them to the tanning salon to get the right look.

3 Belmayne The gloriously over-the-top ads for the Northside property scheme Belmayne captured the spirit of the age. They featured a glamorous woman spreadeagled over a table while her partner fed her strawberries. Sure, we were all doing it. The racy ads certainly turned heads, but they could not prevent the developers going into receivership.

4 Glittering Bag Ladies As early as 2001, the Louis Vuitton shop in Brown Thomas was smashing European sales records as punters snapped up bags costing up to €2,500 apiece. Cathy Reynolds, daughter of the former Taoiseach Albert who had set up the boutique, was able to boast: "They were shocked in Paris at how well we've done."

5 Offaly's Posh n Becks Ger and Naomi Killally were dubbed "Edenderry's Posh 'n' Becks'' for their spendthrift lifestyle in a gargantuan faux Gothic mansion in Offaly. He was a Fianna Fail councillor and property baron, while she ran an interior design business. They famously ensured that they were the first to get new cars in their county -- proudly investing in "his 'n' hers'' OY1 and OY2 registration plates. But he later went bankrupt.

6 THE Patio Heater Okay, so you splashed out five grand on decking for your garden. Then you realised that the evenings are not actually balmy on the Dun Laoghaire Riviera. You could always try to heat up the great outdoors with this expensive-to-run, gas-powered device. Also seen next to wheezing and spluttering smokers in "beer gardens" (usually a potted plant next to a couple of kegs).

750k Bathrooms In pre-Celtic Tiger Ireland you could have bought a house for €50,000, but now you could blow that amount in an afternoon kitting your bathroom with computer-controlled steam baths, jacuzzi or multi-jet whirlpool showers with more controls than the Starship Enterprise. And of course you really had to have five or six bathrooms.

8 Ciara Quinn's wedding cake The cake gobbled up by guests at the wedding of Sean Quinn's daughter to solicitor Niall McPartland was reported to have cost €100,000. The tiered confection was baked in New York, packed into 20 boxes and flown to Ireland. It was then assembled into a six-foot lavish tiered creation surrounded by edible flowers.

9 THE SUV It became normal for people of unexceptional wealth in the suburbs to have at least three cars -- an executive saloon, a sporty convertible, and the Yummy Mummy piece de resistance, a gas-guzzling SUV -- or Dalkey tractor -- that looked like it could be used to invade Iraq.

10 Corporate schmoozing The prawn-sandwich brigade was in its element, as they lapped up corporate hospitality at sporting events. In 2007, John Coughlan, head of catering at Punchestown Racecourse, was able to report that they were entertaining 6,500 corporate guests every day -- requiring 2,500 sides of smoked salmon and 7,000 bottles of champagne. Cheers.

11 Girls Aloud at the 21st In 2007, the little-known Wicklow property developer John Kelly offered his daughter Sinead the ultimate indulgence: for her 21st birthday in the Four Seasons Hotel, he booked the chart-topping band Girls Aloud. The group was flown by private jet to Dublin for the knees-up, and performed on stage before mingling with guests, for a fee estimated at the time at around €400,000.

12 Boom in busts Cosmetic surgery seemed to become as popular as popping down the shops to buy a litre of milk, with breast augmentation, botox and every variety of nip 'n' tuck. The Irish Association of Plastic Surgeons was moved to complain that parents who gave their children cosmetic surgery vouchers for Christmas were trivialising their profession.

13 Marrying Like an Onassis Former gossip columnist Gayle Killilea and developer Sean Dunne set the standard for Celtic Tiger opulence in 2004 with wedding celebrations lasting almost a fortnight on board Cristina O, a yacht formerly owned by Aristotle Onassis. Ms Killilea later had her Marie Antoinette moment when she remarked of these ostentatious nuptials: "If it was good enough for Jackie Kennedy, I thought it's good enough for me."

14 The New York Shopping Trip For the affluent, a quick trip to the Big Apple for a bit of retail therapy was as much a part of Christmas as Santa, the Christmas tree and the office party groper. At one stage you could do a course in New York shopping given by Bertie Ahern's partner Celia Larkin.

15 The Golf Buggy By the middle of the noughties, you weren't anyone unless you were charging around on a golf buggy with a €20,000 membership at a club that may now be in NAMA. The pinnacle of success was going out for a day on the course with the Anglo boys, whose outings were epic. Check if you have any of those Anglo golf balls lying around your negative equity gaff. They are now collectors' items.

16 The Crane-filled skyline In England, they have Waterloo Sunset; in India, sunrise at the Taj Mahal. In boomtime Dublin, we had a sky full of cranes next to the river, standing like giraffes ready to drink. And then, all of a sudden, they disappeared.

17 The Bulgarian apartment You might have bought it in less time than it takes to order a champagne mojito in the Four Seasons, after a man you met in a pub told you it was necessary to "diversify your assets". Sadly you never got to stay in it, or even see it. Was it ever built?

18 The Panini Some time around 2002, sandwiches doubled in price and turned into panini in every snack bar and coffee shop from Bundoran to Ballybunion. Ham came from Parma and tomatoes had to be sun-dried. Then of course there was the Panini Breakfast Roll.

19 Dort-speak It used to be confined to Dublin 4 and the train along the Dublin Southside coast. But in Celtic Tiger Ireland, the mangled vowels and OAR-T-E sounds spread across the nation. It was described as one part Irish, one part posh English Sloane Ranger, and one part Californian, with textspeak thrown in.

20 The Coffee Cup The cup with cardboard holder from one of the thousands of coffee shops that sprouted everywhere became as vital an accessory as the sunglasses worn on the head. They dreamt up names like Grande Skinny Macchiato Frappuccino Latte for what was basically froth. The more elaborate the name, the more preposterous the price.

Irish Independent

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