While the town of Prosperous may have an alluring name, the small Dublin suburb has fallen on hard times like so many other communities around Ireland. Bloomberg reports on the community struggling to live up to its name.
Prosperous was founded in the 1780s and meant to serve as a cotton manufacturing center, though never succeeded in its prospects. The small town in Kildare, like many other communities around the country, is now plagued with strains of the collapse of the Celtic Tiger today - especially in areas of plummeting house prices, debt and emigration.
The Celtic Tiger boom between 1997 and 2007 brought massive growth to Ireland, and Prosperous, just 25 miles outside of Dublin, reaped the benefits. House prices jumped to around $400,000 for a three-bedroom property in town. The town expanded by about 27 percent between 2002 and 2006; accordingly, the number of housing spots rose to 845 in total, an increase of 30 percent.
Those days, however, feel long gone now in Prosperous.
Those same houses are selling for about 60 percent less than their original prices. 1 in 12 houses in Prosperous are unoccupied, while around 1,850 properties are still incomplete.
Sean Reilly, 66, and a Prosperous local business owner, said, “People were queuing for homes, suckered into believing they had to get onto the ladder.
“A lot of people bought to rent. There was a period where people felt they weren’t part of the gang if they didn’t buy. People were playing pass the parcel and hoping to God they didn’t get caught.”
While the climate of Prosperous is appearingly desperate, it’s the same around the rest of the country, says Reilly. “It’s a mirror image of everywhere else in Ireland; people are drowning and under pressure.”
An auctioneer, undertaker and antique-shop owner, Reilly had employed 30 people at the height of the boom. Now though, his workforce has reduced by more than half with only 12 people still working for his businesses.
His antiques shop - which used to welcome customers purchasing products worth thousands of Euro - is advertising its largest ever sale, with many products at half-price.
“If you walk into a pub and ask them, eight out of 10 people would tell you they are more worried than they ever have been in their lives,” said Reilly.
Mayor of Prosperous and member of Fine Gael, Michael Nolan echoed Reilly’s sentiment by saying the troubles in Prosperous are echoed throughout the region and country.
“No one is escaping the frustration out there,” said Nolan. “People bought into the economy, thinking it was built on solid foundations and who is paying? The ordinary person.
“It’s going to be 10 years or maybe longer before we to get back where we would be comfortable, to live without worry of mortgages, bills, schools uniforms,” he said.
Economist Juliet Tennet with Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin confirmed Mayor Nolan’s fears - “That disconnect between the headline numbers, how the world views Ireland and what it feels like on ground is going to persist for some time.
“Consumers continue to be faced with austerity, tight credit conditions, a weak labour market and high household debt.”
Evidently, the hard times are spread evenly over all the generations. Struggling alongside Sean Reilly is 25 year old Ger Boland, a videographer who has seen work all but disappear over the last few years. Aside from the work, he’s seen most of his friends emigrate elsewhere - Boland is currently waiting for a Visa application to head for the US like so many other Irish people have done.
“In the boom, the work was immense,” said Boland, who this month helped organize a three-day music festival in Prosperous aimed at restoring the village as a venue and giving a boost to local businesses. “Now, with the recession, I have so much time on my hands.”
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