Homeownership is now an unaffordable dream for Ireland's younger generation of younger citizens, it will soon engulf the entire Irish political and economic system they have been carefully building for a century.
Home is the most emotive word the Irish use. "Are you going home for Christmas?" an emigrant is often asked. "How long has it been since you were home last?" is another frequent question.
It's always assumed that home still means Ireland. No one who was born in Ireland will ever suggest the country you emigrated to is now or ever could be your real home, no matter how long you've lived there if you came from Ireland first.
It's a curious thing about us, our marked attachment to the land of our birth. Or more particularly our marked attachment to the homeland, parish, town, and house that we grew up in, to the centrality of that in our imaginations.
Most Irish people could describe the last mile to their door with the meticulousness of James Joyce. They could probably find their way to that old door with their eyes closed if they think about it. They could see and find their way through every twist and turn in the long and winding road blindfold, having unconsciously mapped and plotted it in the long years they lived there. It's how we are.
Perhaps our deep attachment to home is the result of the inherited trauma that the psychologists speak of. When your home is repeatedly attacked and ransacked over time you can grow uncommonly anxious about it. Perhaps our long history of invasions and conquests and evictions - as the world's oldest colony - makes us uniquely conscious of just how provisional and unsettling life can be, and our deep attachment to home place is a reflex and result of all that.
No matter if it's a big house or a tiny council flat, for most of us, home stands plain as a wardrobe in our imaginations, with a similar sort of indifference to change. Change has often been so traumatic in Irish history perhaps that's why we cleave to the places and things that stay constant in our memory, in an unspoken quest for a little peace and continuity.
What's surprising to me then, given our long and quite identifiable history and habits, is how slow the Irish government and the metropolitan landlord class have been to appreciate that because homeownership is now an unaffordable dream for a generation of younger citizens, it will soon engulf the entire Irish political and economic system they have been carefully building for a century.
Sensing a looming revolt, the current coalition government is now offering three years of tax cuts to the middle class in Ireland, in much the same way that a bullfighter shows a red cape to a bull. Look at this, don't look at that, the government is saying to voters. Follow the big red cape, not your own lived experience.
Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael have played musical chairs through each successive Irish government since the Irish state’s inception in 1922, so they're startled to discover that real change is finally in the air.
Fifteen years ago, the average age of a first-time homebuyer in Ireland was 29. Now it's 34. Rents and house prices continue to rise and have actually exceeded income growth, making the property ladder an increasingly unaffordable dream for a growing percentage of the nation's voters.
“The writing is on the wall,” said Sinn Féin's president Mary Lou McDonald recently, but political mandarins in Dublin are in no mood to read it. With Sinn Féin's declared intention to raise taxes on the wealthy to bolster their affordable housing drives, the corporate world is for the first time reacting – and overreacting - to an ascendant European left-wing model of politics they haven't simply seen before, since the foundation of the state.
Even in Donegal, the Republic's most conservative and risk avoidant county, voters who have been appalled by the government's inadequate response to the demands of homeowners - who have watched their new houses crumble like Weetabix thanks to the defective mica blocks scandal - that they are finally doing something that Donegal isn't famous for, contemplating dramatic political change.
Voters know that the housing crisis is only going to get worse over the next decade with rents in Cork projected to rise 36 percent by 2028 and in Dublin by 50 percent to an average rent of €2,500 a month for a one-bedroomed apartment. House prices are set to rise even further.
What this means is that housing exclusion is going to get even worse, even beyond the current crisis levels, with direct and obvious impact on the lives, incomes, and mental health of the Irish people who find themselves increasingly excluded in their own country.
For the last three decades, the Irish government has withdrawn from housing provision, letting the market dictate and decide rather than create their own program to meet the real housing needs, with disastrous results.
As high rents and mortgages bleed households and local economies dry, the transfer of cash to the landlords, banks, international shareholders, and investment funds continues. It's a never-ending heist that only leads to further emigration.
Which means that until the government alters course or we elect a new government, another generation will soon be forced to emigrate, only to hear themselves asked eventually if they are going home for Christmas? And once again, they will have to ask themselves where that home and welcome really is.