I’ve been meaning to share/comment on this letter to the Irish Times for a few days.  Basically it makes a case to stop calling the Celtic Tiger years ‘the boom’ and instead refer to it as a bubble.

“A chara, – May I ask your paper to stop referring to the years of unsustainable high house prices as the “boom”?  In the past few days alone this word has appeared several times in your paper.  “The habit acquired in the boom years . . .”, Conor Pope (Magazine, December 31st). “Lots of people took Spanish or French during the boom” (CC, Magazine, December 31st). “Boom-era debts take toll on big-name builders”, Barry O’Halloran (Business, December 30th). “The Elliott group . . . was one of the prolific players during the property boom”, Simon Carswell (Business, December 30th). “In 2007, Ireland’s long property boom ended”, Dan O’Brien (Business Review, 2011, December 30th).

The word “boom” infers there was economic soundness which lead to success.  In reality, a mass pyramid scheme has burdened thousands of people with unmanageable debts and meant that we have lost economic sovereignty because no-one else will lend us money on the international markets.

Perhaps as a New Year’s resolution your excellent writers could desist from using the word “boom” and henceforth refer to this infamous period by just using the more accurate word “bubble”? – Is mise,


Language is important because it creates perception and frames how something is discussed and understood. Referring to the Celtic Tiger years as a boom does, as Alex Staveley argues, suggest that this was a sustainable, well managed period of economic growth that would slow to a lower level of growth at some point; not that it was growth fuelled by massive debt that led to a huge reversal of fortunes and a deep recession and bailout.  To be fair, prior to 2001, Ireland was experiencing rapid economic growth based on exports.  After that, GDP growth was driven by borrowing money on the international money markets, property development and speculation.  It’s most definitely a bubble from this point on as history has demonstrated with its popping.  Boom suggests it is a period we aspire to return to; bubble reveals it for what it really was.

Rob Kitchin