The New Ruins of Ireland? Unfinished Estates in the Post‐Celtic Tiger Era


In the wake of the global financial crisis, and as Europe’s financial and fiscal woes continue, Ireland’s beleaguered economy has attracted a great deal of scrutiny, with much made of the country’s status as one of the PIIGS and the fact that it was bailed out by the troika of the IMF, EU and ECB in November 2010. Whilst most attention has been directed at Ireland’s banks and the strategy of the Irish government in managing the crisis, substantial interest (both nationally and internationally) has been focused on the property sector and in particular the phenomenon of so‐called ‘ghost estates’ (or, in official terms, unfinished estates). As of October 2011 there were 2,846 such estates in Ireland, and they have come to visibly symbolize the collapse of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ economy. In this essay, we examine the unfinished estates phenomenon, placing them within the context of Ireland’s property boom during the Celtic Tiger years, and conceptualize them as ‘new ruins’ created through the search for a spatial fix by speculative capitalism in a time of neoliberalism. We detail the characteristics and geography of such estates, the various problems afflicting the estates and their residents, and the Irish government’s response to those problems. In the final section we examine the estates as exemplars of new ruins, the remainder and reminder of Celtic Tiger excess.