It’s springtime in Dublin and everything is beginning again. Last week two momentous things happened on the same day. The Minister for Finance revealed that he judges house prices by what they were at the peak of the boom. Prices have been going up in Dublin by €5,000 a month and there’s been talk of a property bubble starting all over. But the Minister for Finance isn’t worried about this at all. “We need to get property prices up another bit,” he said. “Property in Dublin fell by over 50%. They’re still down 47% from peak to trough. We can relax for a little while anyway.”
At the same time, three former bankers are on trial for breaches of Irish company law. One is the former chairman of the bank. The other two were the former head of lending and the former director of finance. The judge directed that this particular issue – the fraudulent alteration of loan facility letters – not go to the jury. He decided that the chairman and the head of lending had no case to answer. You read the news and thought: how could it be otherwise?
The remaining charges involve the provision of unlawful financial assistance by the bank to ten individuals. The bank loaned ten men €45m each to buy shares in the bank, a circular transaction that is prohibited. In his charge to the jury the judge went so far as to say that the ten men “were certainly good men and acting with good motives.” An astonishing thing for a judge to say to a jury. So we wait for the bankers’ final acquittals today or tomorrow.
It’s springtime and it feels like there is a concerted effort to wind the clock back about ten years.
Even the city centre feels like a version of its boomtime self: there are roadworks everywhere. Roadworks on Dawson St, Westmoreland St, O’Connell St. Construction work on Grafton St. Construction work in the Front Square of Trinity. The green shoots of drilling.
Maybe because it’s springtime the local authority was feeling generous – they sent someone to cut the grass yesterday in the small park near where we live. The park that’s never open to anyone. The park that was closed because alcoholics and drug addicts used it. The park that only alcoholics and drug addicts use now, because they’re the only ones who jump over the walls.
Ireland, the best small country in the world to etc, etc