Dalrymple addresses the Irish debt crisis again, this time in City Journal, and gives a sense of the bubble’s scale:
Dotted around the country, outside of almost every town and sometimes in the middle of nowhere, are housing estates — completed, half-completed, and never-to-be-completed — which are unsaleable, will almost certainly never be inhabited, and are destined to fall into graceless ruins. Some 300,000 new dwellings now stand empty in the Irish Republic, a number whose equivalent in the United States would be approximately 21 million.The madness that gripped the country can be gauged from a few examples. A 25-acre piece of land on the edge of Dublin on which a derelict factory stood sold in 2006 for $550 million. After the banking collapse two years later, it was valued by the National Asset Management Administration, the public-sector organization set up to handle the banks’ toxic assets, at $80 million, a sum itself arbitrary in the absence of a flourishing market. The Anglo-Irish Bank, which eventually collapsed and left taxpayers a legacy of approximately $40 billion of debt, lent an average of $1.7 billion to each of six property developers; it lent more than $650 million each to another nine. A house in Shrewsbury Road, Dublin, sold for $80 million in 2005 but, now standing empty, is on the way to dereliction, and no house on the road — a millionaires’ row — has sold for the last two years, despite a fall in prices of at least 66 percent. During the boom, taxi drivers and shop assistants would tell you about the third or fourth house they had bought—on borrowed money, of course—and of their apartments in Europe, from Malaga to Budapest to the Black Sea Coast of Bulgaria. It was not so much a boom as a gold rush, or a modern reenactment of the Tulipomania.