We are still haunted by the ghost of the Celtic Tiger
We are in danger of seeing boomtime fripperies as touchstones of economic success
“There’s a bit of a buzz around Dublin at the moment . . . Perhaps it’s a delirium induced by Abercrombie & Fitch pumping out its cologne on Dame Street.”
Ever get the feeling you’re being haunted? A presence that you can sense but not prove? Maybe it’s the Halloween vibe, as bangers explode with greater frequency at night and kids scarper to their flats with stolen trolleys full of wooden pallets for bonfires, but there is a spirit haunting the capital.
The ghost of a healthy economy is stalking the streets, banshee-like, clip-clopping in her Louboutins and rattling Tiffany chains. It’s muttered in hushed tones that, you know, there’s a bit of a buzz around Dublin at the moment.
Don’t say it too loudly! Perhaps it’s a delirium induced by Abercrombie & Fitch pumping out its cologne on Dame Street with an enthusiasm that would make the previous top street-air polluter, Lush, around the corner, blush.
But mind-warping fragrances aside, something is happening. There’s an understandable nervousness that now accompanies economic recovery. It’s not yet a case of “the boom is back, everyone hide”, but you simply can’t ignore the independent businesses that are inhabiting previously dormant retail units or the remarkable restaurant frenzy, as broke 20-somethings are overlooked to target those in their 30s and 40s re-emerging from the hibernation of disposable income.
More affordable retail rental prices and flexible leases are bringing life back to the city. South William Street is a fine example of the buzz that’s getting louder. In just a short while, dormant units have been populated with a cheesecake shop, a vintage store, a large restaurant and a make-up store. These affordable luxuries are popping up more frequently than what has been typical in city retail units over the past couple of years – lowest common- denominator discount stores.
Tea shops, cafes and other independent businesses are appearing almost out of nowhere, and there’s a bit of economic omertà going on: don’t talk about it in case you jinx it. I think it was Bill Bryson who wrote that if you saw a tiger sitting calmly in the street, you’d probably be tempted to go up and pet it, at which time it would most likely rip your head off.
There’s a big difference between rebuilding the urban economy and flirting with the Celtic Tiger again – fool me once, and all that. But the ghosts are everywhere. Writing this article in a cafe, I’m listening to two young men having a conversation I don’t understand about the opportunities for software development in the diamond industry and the profits to be made. At the top of Grafton Street the other day, one besuited man said to another that the ATM they were at was only dispensing fifties. “Hmm,” I thought, “that sounds vaguely familiar.”