Sign of the times This article was posted on Monday, 20th December 2010

As the year draws to a close, it has to be said that 2010 was a better year than 2009. Last year, the Irish economy completely collapsed on itself. The writing was on the wall, but no one wanted to read it- everyone preferred the surprise.

I went from being a poor student to briefly having a rather good income, back to being a poor freelancer- all in the final years of the boom. I think I’m lucky not to have experienced the huge disposable income that was associated with the economy boom, the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’, you can’t miss what you never had.

There have been significant changes in every aspect of Irish society- I really notice the changes amongst the men of my generation- a huge number left school to work in the construction industry. I was a college student while my construction industry counterparts were earning an unprecedented income.

Now, post-boom, it’s a common sight to see men in their twenties and early thirties wandering around town during the day with no apparent purpose- aside from regular visits to the pubs and bookies.

The slightly older members of this group can be seen in the supermarkets following ‘the missus’ around, pushing the shopping basket, two paces behind the working partner. I guess they’ll eventually learn how to cook and shop themselves, and won’t look like such useless tools.

During the good old times, the growls of some ridiculously pimped out, low riding, unmuffled Honda Civics rattled every house that they passed. I don’t know where they went, but running them on a regular basis must have proved expensive for the unemployed. I see a few more bicycles around town than before.

When the warmer weather comes around, the ‘boys’ will be out in their t-shirts and vests, showing off their extravagant tattoos. Unlike Miami Ink though, there’s no meaningful story behind the tattoos, they’re just testaments to the excess time and money that they had on their hands.

I feel that we, as a population, were given an opportunity to strengthen the basic structure of the country, prepare ourselves for a time when money isn’t as available as it was in more bountiful times. Instead, huge wages were wasted on superficial symbols of wealth and invested in negative equity.

It was a test of maturity which we failed miserably. We should have been improving the infrastructure of the entire country, not just the capital. Sustainable industry and small businesses should have been encouraged and supported, to keep people employed even in poor economic times.

At this point though, we have to look forward and learn from our mistakes. I’m not hoping for another boom- I’d like to see the economy improve at a level that is realistic and not dependant on a single area, like the construction industry.

Perhaps the next time our fortunes improve we will know how to deal with it and hopefully we won’t fuck it up. Again. 

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