Rags flutter over the hollow windows of half-finished, vacant houses. The wraiths of shattered dreams dwell within, like phantoms of a nowhere place.
Ghost estates dot the Irish landscape. They can be found up and down the nation; no county or major city was spared the wrath of the JCB. Over time, these sites have become hallowed ossuaries, unholy grounds where the covetous failures of a thousand property developers now lay interred. Walking around these enclaves of desolation, one could be forgiven for thinking that a great evil befell the country, one which left behind the husk of a lost generation.
And in a way, that is exactly what took place.
It wasn’t a plague, or a natural disaster; nor was it a foreign invasion. The man-made rot took hold from within, and spread outwards from the very sanctum of power, from the consecrated edifices where the lives of the peasantry are condemned at the stroke of a pen.
After the conflagration that ravaged the country following the detonation of the Bank Guarantee device, ashes of the old Ireland drifted in a firestorm of stark contrasts. On one side, the petulant disdain displayed by a Government which, far from attempting to look after the needs of its people, engaged in full self-preservation mode. On the other, the very citizens who not long ago put said Government in power, only to now face a two-pronged attack; from the Government itself, even though its ministers had by now been rendered second rate players in a much larger power play orchestrated from the European heartland. And from the very banks that the citizens of Ireland had been forced to bail out. The banks’ corporate jaws were now clenching down hard on people’s misfortunes.
So the stage was set for a David vs Goliath scenario. The unholy triumvirate of the banks, Government, and the Troika, pitted in a savage gladiatorial contest against the citizens of this country. Popular faith against wilful corporativism. The wishes and basic needs of the people of Ireland fighting the cloaked spectre of immoral capitalism.
‘From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.’
The greed of a few became, unjustly, the downfall of many. The aftermath of the Bank Guarantee monstrosity will linger for decades. The loading of private debt into the saddle of Irish citizens automatically ensured that economic growth would be stifled for years. The future was sold wholesale, sacrificed upon the altar of retribution.
The poison injected on us on that night of September 2008 flows around the country’s bloodstream even today, creating the perfect conditions for the gangrenous growth of youth emigration patterns, for example, and the canker of repossessions. This venom lays a heavy, corroded crust over the country’s chances of financial restoration, thus inhibiting growth and development.
Today’s Ireland resembles Atlas, the primordial titan who supported the weight of the world on his mighty shoulders. Only this modern-day version of such myth features Ireland becoming the crutch that bears the brunt of foreign European debt. If only we could call upon Atlas’ brother, Prometheus, to steal fire from the gods once again and burn this European dead weight.