During the height of the post-Celtic Tiger economic collapse I remember driving from Malahide to Howth, two middle-ranking suburbs in north county Dublin, and observing the number of up-market cars, BMWs, Audis and Mercedes, along with more exotic beasts like Porsches and Jaguars, on the roads or parked up outside homes and businesses. The thought stuck me then, “Depression? What fucking depression?“. Oh certainly there was evidence of a downturn, ostentatious houses of dubious architectural merit left half-built, boutique shops looking somewhat forlorn, but in certain places and for certain people the economic slump, the loss in employment and income, repossessions and emigration, was what happened to other people. Like the infamous “KPMG girl” drunkenly sneering at those she regarded as her social inferiors, the 1% continued to party as if it were 1999.
I was reminded of that trip while reading an opinion piece in the Sunday Independent newspaper by Miriam O’Callaghan, the RTÉ journalist who was earning some €300,000 a year from the tax-payers’ pockets during the gloomiest period of Ireland’s great depression. Examining the subject of over-pampering parents, O’Callaghan writes in light-hearted fashion:
“…if we’re not gifting emergency language-weekends in Bordeaux or Berlin or Ballingeary on hardy youth facing the concocted National Trauma, formerly known as the Leaving, we’re either positively neglectful or deep in negative equity. The Transition Year designed to prepare our teenagers for work is subverted, as more privileged parents dispatch their beloveds to Alpine eyries or Provencal monasteries imprinted by Nazis, hidden Jews and old abbots waving au revoir mes enfants. The parental subtext being with that crowd in the Gaelscoils, they’ll never get the A in Irish. And what use is Irish anyhow? But, by Christ, they’ll get it in the French.
A school pal reminds me, it was ever thus.
I’m amazed by the number of mothers and fathers toddling to universities ‘for a word’ with the professors about their adult children’s results. Think about it. On a Tuesday night, galoots and straps in their 20s are devouring each other in the euphemism of Netflix & Chill. By Wednesday morning, mammy and daddy are interrogating academics about the grades the dotes are scoring for their obviously Nobel-standard essays.”
Back in the February general election, during a televised leaders’ debate overseen by Miriam O’Callaghan, an incredulous Sinn Féin leader, Gerry Adams, famously asked the presenter: “What world are you living in?”
It’s a question we are still asking…