The Galway races festival which was once an occasion for helipads, champagne tents and plush restaurants was notably bereft of the country’s biggest tycoons this year.
On businessman told the Sunday Independent “We're avoiding it like the plague this year. It would be financial suicide. The banks have become absolutely ruthless and any morsel of grace they might give you would be out the window if you were pictured there.”
John Glynn, a Galway-based hotelier illustrated exactly how bad the situation for businesses had become. He said “They're hauling you in every three months, threatening to take possession of properties, putting pressure on you to meet repayments. How the hell could anyone -- myself included -- be seen at the races? You wouldn't even have the mental capacity for it.
“Come autumn, there will be a lot of bloodshed, pain and grief and a lot of people I know are wondering how they're going to deal with it.”
He said “Several I know have already been put on notice that their interest-only loan facility is going to stop at the end of the summer. So even though they might like nothing better than to switch off and forget about it for one week, they couldn't run the risk of being spotted anywhere near the place.”
Another source from Executive Helicopters said “I've been working at the Galway races for eight years and I've never seen anything like it. All the usual big guns have stayed away.
Back when times were good there would be over 300 helicopters flying into the Galway Races.
"The wealthy developers that were long a staple on our books, I haven't seen one this year,” said the source.
One of the pilots said “A lot of our business this week has been made up of ordinary guys offering cash on the spot for a ride to or from the course.”
A local restaurateur said “I had one local high-profile builder in on Monday night and he said he was going away on holidays for the week, rather than enjoying his usual shindig at the races.
“The usual big parties held in the penthouse-suites of their hotels have been cancelled too. A completely different type of customer is dominating the festival this year-and they all come from the equestrian world.”
Another said “I remember at the height of it we counted 28 helicopters lined up in the fields around us. It was like a scene from Apocalypse Now. Now there's perhaps just two or three at any one time.
“The place is packed out again this year, thankfully, we had a 10-month waiting list for tables, but the usual familiar names aren't on the books.”