What is the Legacy of the Celtic Tiger?
Eoin Ó Broin is a talented author who recently released the book Defects: Living with The Legacy of The Celtic Tiger. Ó Broin is also a Sinn Féin TD for Dublin Mid-West and he is the party’s spokesperson for housing, local government and heritage, and Eoin spoke to Ellen Gunning on Dublin City FM’s Mediascope. The financial fallout of the Celtic tiger led to financial crisis for a number of people. Eoin’s book examines the impact of the resulting housing crisis on five different families. One story is that of Stephanie, a woman whose partner took his own life as a result of their housing difficulties. The book does not only detail the money resulting from the issues, it explains the personal human impact of these issues.
The Celtic Tiger describes the economy of the Republic of Ireland from the mid 1990s to the late 2000s, and it was declared dead by late 2008. It was a period of rapid economic growth fueled by foreign direct investment, and its demise was a subsequent property bubble which resulted in a severe economic downturn. The crises that followed were broken into a property crisis, a banking crisis, a fiscal crisis and a financial crisis. Questions of who or what was “to blame” continue to be highly controversial.
Many families and individuals benefited greatly from the artificial riches of the boom, such as employees of the public sector whose salaries soared, and those who were involved in finance and construction. Politicians and the majority of the media were cheerleaders for the seeming prosperity, and it can now be said that the Irish society may have lost the run of itself. The financial crisis that followed the boom led to thousands of families facing a life changing amount of debt. One of the consequences of the Celtic Tiger is that thousands of people across Ireland live in homes with serious fire safety issues and structural defects, many of which have made the news. Ó Broin’s book details the human cost of the self-certification of building regulations that was in place until recent years.
Housing has continued to be an ongoing in Ireland over the years, and the fractures in the housing supply have been a topic of much discussion. In August of this year, Ireland had just 2,455 homes available to rent, the lowest on record, and a severely low figure for a country of Ireland’s size and population. The cost of rent has more than doubled in Dublin in the last decade, and the result of unattainable housing for many has resulted in the emigration of many, and the inability for many emigrants to return home to Ireland.
Defective building has tainted the building industry since the start of the Celtic Tiger. According to ESB connections data, between 1997 and 2007, 658,988 houses and apartments were built in Ireland. There are no figures on how many of these buildings contain defects, but there are estimations to the extent of the issue. In October 2015, Nama told the Dáil’s Public Accounts Committee that they had spent €100 million fixing structural defects, but that there were still fire hazards in 150 of the 300 vacant properties remaining under the agency’s control. The way in which the system is set up make it impossible to prove who is responsible for the defects.
Architects, surveyors, supervisors and other employees can all point the figure at one another to avoid blame. It is virtually impossible to prove who is responsible for housing issues. The government attempted to institute a recommendation from a 1977 report that would place legal liability on builders and construction workers for construction difficulties. However, that legislation did not go through due to pressure from a committee representing architects as well as the construction workers themselves.
Building a house takes large teams and makes it difficult to trace back who is responsible for the issues and a lot of issues cannot be checked through a visual inspection such as fire safety inside the wall, water damaging structural integrity takes years to present itself, the effect of weather on a house can’t be checked. Ó Broin strongly believes that buildings manufacturers as well as the government should be responsible for covering the costs of shoddy buildings. Homebound runs an industry insurance company for construction companies. Unfortunately, a lot of defects are discovered after the statute of limitations has expired.