The single biggest difference between Irish expats abroad and just about any other nationality, is how we Irish emigrants treat the homes we have left back in Ireland like the long awaited child we thought we’d never have and others treat theirs like a piece of property.
It’s instilled in the Irish from an early age that to own house is basically the be all and end all. Unlike our European counterparts who have no issue living in rented accommodation all their lives, albeit rent controlled rented accommodation, they seem to live quite happily knowing that a fixed percentage of their income will be dedicated to the rental of their home and what of it? Sure, for the period of time after one retires and before the house gets sold in order to gain entitlement for the full time nursing home care, they don’t enjoy those years of resting on their laurels knowing that the roof over their heads is paid for, but neither do they have to worry about the tail end of the mortgage having to be paid, maintenance costs or inheritance tax.
But not us, we throw a few blocks on a patch of land and no amount of negative equity or inflated interest rates would see us turn our backs. As if we suddenly sprouted roots, we become transfixed with our homes and the thought of ever having to leave, sell or agree to repossession, becomes an obsession. As if not having a home would render us orphans to Irelands biggest family, Property Owners, and as if that having a home which we can’t afford and can’t live in is any better. If an Englishman’s home is his castle then an Irishman’s home is his everything.
Such is the emphasis on the property ladder in Ireland that it will soon be a line item on our headstones, right underneath the dates, above the reposed by, written in stone:
RIP, Mary McCarthy, 1976 to 2075, Negative Equity, Reposed By: Bank of Ireland,
So taking the most extreme action, thousands leave their homes in an effort to save them. Letting go to hold on, the greatest act of love. Living in UK, USA and UAE far from their beloved homes for a few years, willing to do anything and all to pay towards their mortgage and same sacred homes.
It’s the Bain of any Irish emigrant’s life, having to leave the home that they strived for and perfected. Whether derelict and difficult to rent or let to careful tenants who incidentally have the law firmly on their side when it comes to rental disputes, it a toss-up, both situations are worrisome. Holed up in company accommodation complete with chipboard kitchen in Jakarta is hardly recompense for the grand granite worktops of home and the Carrera marble floors that we were foolish to think we could afford. But for a short time we thought we could, we delighted in our homes, they defined us and home ownership became and still is like a religion in Ireland. A religion with its own commandments and beatitudes.
‘Blessed are those that hunger and thirst to pay their mortgage, they shall be satisfied’.
Or will they?, Those that slipped the country as soon as things got rough, skipped the opportunity to avail of the unemployment benefit, stayed off the live register and sent every penny possible home are now struggling to avoid repossession of their 4 bedroom semi- detached home in Aherla and are willing to live in Azerbaijan for six year to do so. Other nationalities look on with amazement, they have no issue offloading their ranch in New Zealand or their 3 bedroom period dwelling in London, its only property, they say.
However, it’s not that easy for the Irish, etched into our psyche so deep is the need to own a house, that we are prepared to forfeit all, including, quality of life and peace of mind. It was the case that a step on the property ladder was a plus. ‘Ladder’ implying a compulsion to move up and that we did; two steps at a time, only looking down to pity those that hadn’t made the first rung but little did we know then that ‘Blessed are they who are first time buyers in an economic downturn, for theirs is the kingdom of Ireland’.