A cynic’s view: Ireland will be a haven for elites while Europe burns

Our comparatively milder weather may make us a holiday destination of the future for the wealthy, says AILIN QUINLAN
A cynic’s view: Ireland will be a haven for elites while Europe burns

Wildfires burn next to houses in the area of Drafi east of Athens this week. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

HIS theory, the man said, was that Ireland was set to become the most popular residential destination in the world. It was all about the climate, stupid.

He’d been talking to a couple of tourists who came to Ireland regularly on holiday. They were from some place out foreign, a place that was so sickeningly hot that people stayed inside as much as possible, and anyone forced to venture outdoors just scurried between air-conditioned buildings.

These people told him that the reason they came to Ireland for their holidays was purely for what most Irish people call the bad weather.

They love our cold, grey days. They love our rain and mist and clouds. They love the way the sun comes out for a quick look and then darts behind big grey clouds again as if it didn’t like what it saw.

They can’t get over the fact they can actually walk around outside in comfort. Now they were looking for a permanent home here.

Jeepers, we said, and looked up at the television screens showing firefighters across Portugal, Spain, France and Greece and Morocco battling to control the massive blazes raging across God knows how many tens of thousands of acres, as the king of heatwaves ravaged south-western Europe.

We were among the few who had not yet risked getting Covid and sunstroke to pile aboard crammed planes and get out of Ireland for a while - to Portugal blistering under temperatures of 47 degrees Celsius, or Spain and France coming in close behind with extreme heat at 45 and 43 degrees Celsius respectively.

A friend went to Britain where, as the records for highest temperatures ever were shattered, train tracks in London burst into flames.

He described his overwhelming relief at disembarking from the plane on the tarmac at Cork airport and feeling the breeze.

In Portugal, nearly 100,000 acres have been destroyed by wildfires between January and mid-June – more than three times the area over the same period in 2021.

Firefighters in the Gironde region of south-west France struggled for days to control two forest blazes that have destroyed nearly 25,000 acres.

A section of Italy’s biggest Alpine glacier has given way, killing 11 – a disaster that has been officially attributed to climate warming. The country’s legendary river Po, Italy’s longest waterway, is drying up and dying.

Croatia is ‘only’ in the mid-thirties, someone said sardonically. “But they’ve had wildfires too,” someone else said. Half the EU is at risk of drought.

Anyway, the man interrupted – and now we were all listening, our smirks fading – given the way things were going, Ireland would always probably be cooler than the parts of the world which are now burning. Which means Ireland is set to become a massive attraction for the one per cent and other very rich people willing to pay top dollar to get away from the heat.

“You think property prices are crazy now,” he chortled. “Give it another generation or two and Irish people won’t be living in Ireland any more. All these millionaires and billionaires and zillionaires will be moving here for the cool.

“The Irish won’t be able to afford to live here because the whole place will be bought up.”

Our kids already can’t afford to live here, we huffed. Property prices have increased by more than 14% in the last year.

Someone quoted President Higgins; housing in Ireland is no longer a crisis, it’s a disaster. Someone else recalled how Peter McVerry, a 40-year veteran of homelessness services, has said he has “never been more despaired or depressed” about the state of Ireland’s housing.

“The cost of living here is outrageous. You’re afraid of getting sick because you’ll end up sitting on a chair in an emergency ward for 72 hours and catching Covid – if you’re lucky.”

Someone else had heard a story about the paramedics called to a house where an elderly person had become ill - they told the family that the patient was better off (for that, read “safer” ) at home than in the Covid-ridden, overcrowded hospital.

“What super-rich person in their right mind would want to live here?” someone asked bullishly. “The country’s a mess.”

”Wait,” the man said. “We’re on the fringes of another major recession. Blame Putin, blame Brexit, blame climate change, blame the long-term impact of the pandemic, but it’s coming. Paschal Donohoe has admitted it.”

And when it comes, he continued, and the people are once again forced to emigrate to God knows where, the mega-rich property and investment vulture funds will be waiting to cash in on the opportunities every recession affords the wealthy; property, Just like last time.

And the houses will be sold, at sky-high prices, to rich foreigners escaping the heat.

Meanwhile, small private landlords continue to leave the rental market in droves because they’re being taxed out of it by bad government policy, which views the private rental market as a source of taxes, rather than as a crucial part of the solution to the housing crisis.

It’s worth wondering, he added, whether all those smart people in suits earning huge money to create policies which are destroying this country - while bringing in droves of vulnerable war-refugees to a State which can’t adequately house or look after them because everything is falling apart at the seams - have their eye on nothing more than international optics and big jobs in Europe.

Meanwhile, the rest of us are going down the bloody toilet, and the super-rich are poised to flush the lot of us into the sewers,” he concluded triumphantly.

Oh God. Just shoot me now.

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