It’s not too difficult to imagine the following…
LETTER TO BRIAN COWEN FROM A PROPERTY INVESTOR
I was one of the Celtic Tiger go-getters who drove our economy when we were the envy of the world. I was a risk-taker. A mover and shaker. A free-marketeer. A wealth creator. And not just for myself, but for Ireland in general.
Some would say I was greedy, now that the zeitgeist has changed and we are all wise after the event, of course. But wasn’t it Michael McDowell, when he was your coalition partner, who said that greed was good? Or was it Margaret Thatcher? I get confused sometimes.
Then there were all the tax breaks your government had on offer, courtesy of that economic visionary Charlie McCreevy. You see, as the self-employed owner of a small business, I never did agree with the principle of paying tax. So I took advantage of a few of your government’s numerous property-based tax shelters to minimise my exposure. I must introduce you to my accountant if things ever pick up again – he knows a trick or two!
To cut a long story short, Brian, I built up an impressive portfolio of investment properties over the course of our unprecedented boom, many of them acquired through interest-only mortgages. At one point I was a millionaire several times over (on paper, anyhow). I loved reciting my list of apartments to my friends, over a nice meal in Rolys, as we discussed the market and the next up-and-coming areas. Clondalkin was one, I remember. Halcyon days indeed!
I had all the trappings. I used my property portfolio as leverage to get finance for a lovely Aston Martin DB9, and I traded in the E-Class every year on the same basis. Those registration plates say so much about you. Image is everything in the world of the entrepreneur!
But I did some good for society too. I provided employment for two people in my once bustling coffee shop, and it might have been more but for the minimum wage. I provided accommodation for our expanding labour force, and made sure that as much money as possible was coming into our economy by upwardly revising my rents every year, kicking out anyone who wouldn’t stump up.
Now, Brian, it’s all gone awry. My investment properties have plummeted in value, I can’t rent them out, and the DB9 has been repossessed. Now I am reduced to driving around in a 06 Merc, and I’ve had to take the boys out of St Andrews.
It’s not that long ago that one of Fianna Fail's greatest-ever thinkers, Bertie Ahern, was saying that the boom could only get boomier, and I didn’t doubt him. Who would? In short, Brian, I think your government led me, and others like me, astray. You led us to believe, along with all those economists, that things could only get better.
Your party has been very kind to the bankers and the developers, so what about the little man/woman like me? We are the deserving cases, as we drove the whole shooting match. We were the ones on the ground, making it happen.
There has been considerable discussion in some quarters about the possibility of a bail-out for hard-pressed mortgage holders. I hope you give such suggestions serious thought, and consider those of us who have multiple mortgages. I think it is only right and proper. After all, aren’t we the most hard-pressed of all?
There’ll be a vote in it for you. Again.
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