The Big Read: How Ireland’s Nama moved centre stage

The FT continues its focus on Ireland with his long article by Vincent Boland – here.

17 replies on “The Big Read: How Ireland’s Nama moved centre stage”

“We would go into these enormous houses and there would be multiple subscriptions to Sky Sports on every television and they would have swimming pools that cost €20,000 a month to heat. We switched everything off,” says this person, who is no longer with the agency.

Ross O’Carroll Kelly’s father never forgave them for that.

“told the Irish Times its sale would be “an uncivilised and barbarous act”, as if the building was “a warehouse outside [suburban] Mullingar”

[suburban] is the wrong explanation. All the meaning is in the word Mullingar. It’s beyond the pale .

Look who’s in the comments

The Dork of Cork.

“Ireland had a glut of homes and offices. Now it has a shortage of both, especially in Dublin”

How many different times can you call bollox to it all.
Ireland no longer exists as any unit that can be defined as real and seperate from the other.
The shortage of houses is artifical and has no connection with domestic demand / domestic credit.
Ireland is open to capital flows and yet does not produce any domestic credit.
It therefore acts as almost a unit of account (and not society) that can be inflated by outside forces looking for a yield when in reality there is none.


“Ireland had a glut of homes. Now it has a shortage.”

If this is true, the only possible explanation is that the ‘glut’ was greatly exaggerated as part of a political agenda. If, as was claimed incessantly, there were 300k empty houses in Ireland in 2009-2011, how can there be a shortage now, given that the population has increased by only a cumulative 0.6 per cent in that time (compared with 2-3% annually when FF were in government)?

The ‘glut’ was indeed exaggerated as part of the demonization of FF and the construction industry. We are now paying the price. For example, both these from Ireland’s Paper of Record Lies:

(1) In a presentation that drew several collective intakes of breath, Morgan Kelly told the conference “Ireland WILL see more demolition than construction of houses over the next decade, as the economy struggles to recover, and house prices will fall by 80 per cent from peak to trough in real terms.”

(2) And Enda Kenny said in July this year: “We (ie FG/Lab government) will build 25,000 houses a year by 2020. We won’t repeat the mistake of Fianna Fail, who built 75,000 houses a year when only 25,000 were needed.”

Both these statements are now seen to be complete tosh.

Can anyone imagine what the housing shortage would be if Morgan Kelly’s lunatic advice had been taken? As for Enda Kenny, if he represented Ireland in the PISA mathematics test, Ireland would come bottom. If FF built 50k more houses annually than were needed, WTF are they and how comes there’s a shortage now?

The reality is that the average annual increase in the number of households in Ireland from census 2002 to census 2011 was around 45k. Add in obsolescence and second homes, and the annual requirement for new houses in that period was 55k-60k, not 25k. I do not dispute that FF built more than that, but it was modestly more, maybe 6-8 per cent more were built than were needed during that period. There never was a surplus of 300k empty houses. It was invented as some economists and commentators with an agenda wanted to propagate the view that economic growth during the Celtic Tiger years consisted mainly of housebuilding and that FF and the construction industry were in a corrupt alliance.

We are now paying the price and an unprecedented housing shortage looms. If there is zero net emigration, then natural population growth and falling household size (due to increasing divorce) means an annual requirement of 25k-30k new houses. If there is a return to net immigration, which is very likely given recent economic growth, the annual requirement will be much greater than 25k-30k. It is clear that all those academics and commentators, who have spent the past few years demonising the construction industry, haven’t a clue how to achieve those targets.

Action needs to be taken to ramp up house-building asap. The best way to achieve this is through market forces and an increase in prices. The ONS reported last week that the average house price in UK was £265,000, or about 320,000 euros. The average house price in Ireland is barely half that. We also need to stop the demonization of the construction industry by loopy-left academics and commentators. Ideally, we should also bring back the Galway tent. There was never any shortage of homes or offices when it was up and running. As an additional measure, I’d suggest that all those economists and commentators, who spent the past few years claiming that there were 300k empty houses and that Ireland wouldn’t need to build any new house for 20 years, should be forcibly conscripted into chain gangs and made to work on building sites until the shortage is ended, as they are responsible for it.


Any possibility that there are far too many houses in some areas and not enough in others; courtesy poor planning and property tax incentives most actively promoted by FF?

That is certainly the case in my neck of the woods.

“Its crisis-era origins appear to have inspired in Nama’s staff an almost superhero-like dedication to recovering taxpayer losses”
oh, pass the sick bag….. “highly paid people carry out work for which they are highly paid, demand sainthood (see p 27) “


It is possible that there is a surplus in a few area. But, not generally. Otherwise, how do you explain that house prices are now rising outside of Dublin? The difference between Dublin and the rest isn’t between economic ‘boom’ and ‘bust’, but in timing. Dublin entered the latest economic ‘boom’ first. House prices outside of Dublin are now rising at same rate as they were in Dublin a year ago.

Unless action is taken, the housing shortage can only get worse, as population growth accelerates. This is already happening, as recent CSO population figures indicate.

The bottom line is this:

During the last FF government, the population rose by 1 million, an increase of 30 per cent in a decade, and one of the largest percentage increases in population in such a short time that Europe has ever seen. At the end of it, there was no housing shortage, there was next-to-no homelessness, and there was a huge increase in the quality of the housing stock. And, contrary to all the nonsense about builders building ‘shoebox appartments’, there was a large increase in average house size (now one of the largest in EU).

Contrast with:

Since 2011, population has increased by a derisory 30k (somewhat less than FF’s 1 million), and there is a housing shortage and increasing homelessness.
If this occurs after 3 years of high emigration and negligible population growth, what’s it going to be like as the economy surges and population growth accelerates sharply, both of which are now happening according to the CSO.

How come?

During FF government, houses were built and proper regard given to having a buoyant construction industry. Since then, the construction industry has been demonised and more or less removed from the economy, to be replaced by the ‘anti-construction’ industry, an assortment of loopy-left eco-loon academics, planners and commentators, who regard all builders and developers as crooks, and whose priority is not to construct badly-needed new homes and offices, but to ensure that builders and developers never get a look in again.

If you want to relieve the shortage of homes and offices, cinsider the possibility that the Bailey Brothers, Johnny Rohan, Greg Kavanagh et al are much more likely to do it than the likes of Owen Keegan or Frank McDonald.

“Action needs to be taken to ramp up house-building asap. The best way to achieve this is through market forces and an increase in prices.”

“Increase prices” :Extraordinary bulls$it.

The market has been rigged, rigged and rigged again.

NAMA has hoarded land from the outset, so have receivers operating on bank instructions, so too have councils, all with the implicit if not explicit approval of the DOF and minister who wants house prices to ‘rise another little bit’

Bedsits have been banned, pushing marginal tenants out onto the road.
The objective, has been to increase rents, thereby saving the (mostly insider D4) BTL landlords; also to improve bank collateral, and have NAMA make a profit so that it can pay out bonus payments to its staff.

I hope the stress testers from the ECB take note. The Irish Housing Market and therefore bank collateral based on its has been rigged and manipulated.
Your argument about price increase is total nonsense, regardless of you big city comparisons.
Its costs about €150,000 to build a decent house. In a country with huge land banks, enough to build 60,000 in the greater Dublin area, why do we need price rises? Whose pocket do you intend to line with land price rises, so that you force FTB and others to pay more for housing?

The banks also conducted another wheeze. They now advertise mortgages under false pretences, just to get bidding wars going. They then drag their heals, before refusing a good number of applicants.
Great stuff. it helps bid up the prices without giving out the money. It must be great fun to sit and watch from the top floor of the banks.

It is a complete and utter conspiracy to boost bank collateral.


I have a good idea of the local housing market in two Munster counties and it does not bear the slightest resemblance to your description. The best that can be said is that the market has hit bottom and there are some sales as buyers – mainly cash, one would assume – cherry pick properties in circumstances where owners have to sell for one reason or another. I was not aware that the situation was any different elsewhere on the island other than in Dublin and some of the larger towns. The evidence of my own eyes is also a help as I drive past empty houses and NAMA owned developments, both domestic and commercial, every day of the week.


Under FF the population increased by 1m. I had never thought of FF as a sort of human Coolmore operation.


Average house price outside Dublin up 7 per cent since market hit bottom in Feb 2013. Not compatible with claims of hundreds of thousands of empty houses. Plus, rise accelerating in recent months. Much more than bumping along bottom.


Do FG/Lab have any plan to increase new house building? If so, what is it? Ironically, the more successful their policies on economy generally, the more apparent will be their failure on housing, since the growth will reduce emigration/increase immigration and accelerate population growth.


You seem not to believe in allowing facts to get in the way of your argument. Unlike with previous housing bubbles, actively driven by various vested interests, and FF in particular, there is now a register of prices actually achieved for properties.

The split nature of the market – and the knockdown prices outside Dublin and its environs and some other urban centres – is blindingly obvious.

The register is also removing the capacity of those flogging houses (a more dignified description is not possible given the lack of any real regulation of the profession) to puff and mislead buyers. The practice of allowing claims of “current highest offer” from some unknown and possibly non-existent other buyer is unheard of outside what might loosely be described as the Anglo-Saxon world.


“Average house price outside Dublin up 7 per cent since market hit bottom in Feb 2013. Not compatible with claims of hundreds of thousands of empty houses. Plus, rise accelerating in recent months. Much more than bumping along bottom.”

It can be compatible with thousands, or tens of thousands, of empty houses. Prices reach clearing levels. When they do so, at a level below the previously achieved peak, it is called a “bottom”, if followed by a recovery towards, rather than necessarily to, previous levels.

If investor demand is sated by the repossession sales of BTL from AIB/BoI noised recently, maybe a clearer picture will emerge of the countrywide property situation, both price- and supply-wise. Rational analysis might follow.

In the meantime, I do wish that anybody using the term “property ladder” be sentenced to cleaning the toilets of every occupied house in negative equity, with their tongues, until they see the stupidity of the expression. (I say “occupied” because I’m not a complete sadist.)


As with everything else, I use CSO (and other similar) figures rather than personal experience. So, I rely on CSO figures on house prices. I don’t drive around the country counting ‘for sale’ signs and asking every house owner how much his house is valued at that. I don’t even know how many houses are empty in my own street or how much they are worth. I don’t even know how much my own house is worth.

The reality is that CSO figures show the average house price outside Dublin is UP by 7 per cent since early 2013 and the rise is accelerating. This tells me that, while there may not yet be a shortage as in Dublin area, there is no great oversupply either. Two years ago, all the ‘experts’ were saying there was a massive oversupply in the Dublin area too, and now look at it.

Regarding FF’s housing record, I agree there was overbuilding towards the end and prices went too high towards the end (both greatly exaggerated, as is now clear). But, the bottom line is this.

Forecasting housing demand is not an exact science. There are many variables (population growth, migration, household size, marriage breakdown etc). Those who think it can be forecast exactly are the sort of people who would have been at home in 1930s Soviet Union, working on Stalin’s 5-year-plans, where the exact requirement for every commodity was forecast to 3 decimal places years ahead. They were always totally wrong, of course. All this is true generally, but doubly true in Celtic Tiger Ireland, where percentage population growth was greater than has occurred in any European country in the past 200 years. Ireland’s population increased by 30 per cent in just over a decade. The corresponding UK figure was 5-6 per cent and Germany 1-2 per cent. It is always much more difficult to forecast the exact housing requirement when the population is growing at such breakneck speed.

The primary objective of housing policy is to build enough houses to house the population. Building too many is bad, but building too few is worse. FF did this, despite the huge increase in population and the difficulty in exact forecasting I referred to above. Population 1 million higher in 2011 than in 1997, and yet no housing shortage and virtually no homelessness. I agree too many houses were built, but this is better than not enough houses being built, which is the case now under FG/Lab, with the result that, despite far lower population growth since 2011, housing shortages are growing and homelessness is increasing.

Good point re puffing, an old Irish tradition.

I have heard that even in Scotland, all sales are by means of auction, with a defined close date, and written bids that must be available for inspection, just to weed out the puffers.
Such a system would be far too straight for Ireland!!


Personal experience? You have just been sent by me a link to the details of ALL house and apartment sales since the the Price Register was introduced (over the dead bodies of the estate agents and other vested interests).

If you do not know the value of your own house, I presume it is because you do not need to. The LPT legislation demands that you put a market value on your dwelling. If you get it wrong, the computed unpaid tax has to be paid when you sell.

Aiman above has already made the main general point that I had wished to make. You are misinterpreting the CSO data.

By the way, apropos the other thread, what is the relevance of house prices in the UK to the Irish market?

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