|Photo from Flickr/kathybragg|
One of the abiding memories I have of the Ireland of my childhood is of the countryside dotted with empty houses, most in ruins. My grandmother told me it was the result of the potato famine and the general emigration from Ireland which has happened in waves before and since then. In fact emigration from Ireland has been going on ever since the 17th and 18th centuries.
When Ireland joined the European Union, the country went through an enormous boom. Money was pouring into the country, jobs were plentiful and immigrants were attracted from other parts of Europe. House prices rose accordingly.
With the recession the property bubble has come to a catastrophic end. The property market has been banjaxed, as my father would have said. There are empty houses once again in Ireland. They aren't the old stone-built country cottages, they are in modern estates, now referred to as ghost estates. One in five houses in Ireland is unoccupied. Even if every Irish person in need of a home were to be given one, there would still be many left over.
This is partly the result of over-build spurred on by visions of easy gains. Planners were allowing the development, bankers were lending the money to enable it to happen. Then it all stopped.
Not only did the money stop flowing, the influx immigrants slowed right down and many returned home. Now unemployment is rising sharply, and more and more Irish are emigrating again. The difference now is that it was so unexpected to the generation most affected.