Irish Twitter did what it does best when piling on comedian Michael Fry after it was revealed that he was to co-host Help Me Buy A Home, a new Virgin Media series about the property crisis. His unforgivable infraction was to interview the Minister for Housing about the housing emergency. “Be kind” social media hadn’t been so outraged since the last thing it was outraged about.
In fact, Fry’s involvement is largely peripheral in the first episode (Virgin Media One, Sunday, 8pm). That disgraceful sit-down with Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien will feature in a later instalment. The real star of Help Me Buy A Home is buyer’s agent Liz O’Kane, who steers the show into those familiar waters where you already find Channel 4′s Location, Location, Location.
Her task in part one is to help Sunil from Clonard, Co Meath, buy an apartment in Mullingar – “I feel like I’m a 27-year-old teenager sometimes,” he says of living at home – and to assist with the accommodation woes of Dublin-based couple Kevin and Nicole. This is property TV at its most straightforward, even if the sums involved were eye-watering, with a modest dwelling in Dublin nowadays typically costing the bones of €500,000.
Fry pops up halfway through as a representative of Generation Stuck. He explains that he had moved house “nine times in 10 years”.
Your heart goes out to him, though I’m not sure his predicament is as exclusive to millennials as he appears to believe. I had a flashback to the eight occasions I was required to change address between 1995 and 2002.
One property lacked hot water while all my neighbours sounded as if they had an exciting selection of Victorian respiratory conditions. Another time, a housemate took pity on his best pal after he’d had a falling out with his girlfriend and invited him to move into our livingroom without telling the rest of us: I slouched down to breakfast to find our new roomie drying his underwear on the mantelpiece.
For better or worse, such nonsense is a rite of passage for twentysomethings in Ireland. It’s been that way back to the 1980s, when there was no accommodation crisis because there was no economy and everybody was off working on a building site in London.
You won’t find many happy endings in Irish property in 2023: the Government is still disgracefully behind on its target for new builds and mortgages are harder to come by than ever (one area where previous generations truly had a huge advantage). But this series has some good news to impart. Sunil buys a two-bedroom apartment in Mullingar. And, having considered a move to Donabate, Kevin and Nicole finally put down roots in Crumlin in Dublin.
Fry meanwhile goes to leafy Maynooth, where he meets academic Rory Hearne. Hearne is articulate but he seems to pop up on TV any time the housing crisis is mentioned. Irrespective of his views, I’m not sure about the added value of wheeling him once again.
The comedian also speaks with a family who, feeling they could never buy a home, put their saving into a mobile coffee business. And that is that from Fry. That controversial sit down with Darragh O’Brien is still a while off – more than enough time for Irish Twitter to fire up the outrage pistons anew. If we built houses as fast as we took umbrage, this country would be a bricks-and-mortar Shangri-La.