Tuesday 20 February 2018

The Age of Indulgence

From the late nineties to the late noughties, Ireland was the talk and the envy of the world thanks to the phenomenal turnaround in its economic fortunes.

With full employment for the first time in the history of the State, the Government’s coffers overflowed with surplus cash, which it doled out with abandon at every budget to anyone who held their hand out and asked for more.  Having made do for decades with far too little or just enough, we became accustomed to having far too much, almost overnight.

And once we got a taste of plenty, we refused to give it up again.  Even when the music stopped for the first time with the dotcom collapse, we just kept on dancing to the tune of an illusory boom, fuelled by the sale of the houses and apartments we built and bought and sold to each other at an ever increasing rate and at ever increasing prices.  Not content with simply having a home to call our own, we became landlords to those who were either too poor or too wise to step on to a property ladder, which turned pit to be little more than a crude Ponzi scheme.

Buoyed up by our imagined wealth, we splashed out on all the new ‘must haves’ from island kitchens for our houses to luxurious cars which we were allowed to “drive away today” thanks to the sky-high finance readily available on the forecourt.  Not content with the fantasy lives we created for ourselves at home, we took every opportunity to get away from it all with holidays in the sun and in the snow and at all times of the year.  Having the money for anything less than the best house, a brand new car and several overseas jaunts a year was seen as tantamount to being in poverty, an unforgiveable sin in an era defined by its Bacchanalian excess.

With the crash, we went and lost it all again.  If we hadn’t gone and lost it all already.

In this week’s Sunday Independent, we chronicle the Age of Indulgence and look back on the parties and the property, the money, the madness and the murders.

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