Chapter 5: ‘Super-rich’ Irish property developers and the Celtic Tiger economy
Ireland, long a backwater in the European economic system, underwent a profound economic transformation from the early 1990s. Within the context of sustained political support for foreign direct investment, the Irish economy experienced rapid and continuous economic growth (Drudy and Collins 2011). The metamorphosis from a struggling economy characterized by endemic out-migration into the Celtic Tiger fundamentally altered the country’s self-image and physical infrastructure. The rise of the Celtic Tiger was expressed materially in new urban landscapes. Urban renewal programmes, relying on substantial tax incentives for property investors and developers, transformed the inner-city areas of large and, later, smaller cities around the country. Inner-city Dublin, long viewed as a locus of crime, drug abuse and poverty (Punch 2005), became the focus of large-scale apartment development for the new middle-classes. The derelict warehouses of Dublin’s docklands area were transformed into the gleaming office blocks of the very successful International Financial Services Centre (Murphy 1998). In tandem with the economic miracle, the combination of rising real incomes and a deregulated mortgage market unleashed a latent demand for property ownership (Kitchin et al. 2010). As the property boom gathered momentum, small-scale property developers increasingly assumed the role of super-wealthy entrepreneurs. On the back of massive land price inflation, a banking system enthralled with property markets and a facilitative planning system, Irish property developers became members of the super-rich.
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