Never mind the likes of Messi, Ronaldo or Drogba; never mind Barcelona, Chelsea or Real. In our house, when it comes to football at the weekends, there is only one team: the Cabinteely FC under-10s. Every Saturday morning, under the watchful eye of Michael, our Scottish manager who is Alex Ferguson, Kenny Dalglish and David Moyes rolled into one, we head out from the supermarket car park in Ballybrack, travelling all over Dublin to do battle.
Schoolboy football tells you a lot about the recent changes in our country, about who lives where, what areas are growing and which are stagnant. It tells you where rents are rising, and where the demand for schools and facilities are at a premium.
The under-10s play in places that didn’t exist ten years ago against clubs that didn’t exist five years ago. We play against kids from all sorts of backgrounds. We played against a practically all-African side a few weeks back, and regularly come face-to-face with a team of Russian-speaking Lithuanian children who are drilled to within an inch of their lives. These Lithuanian nine-year olds spring the offside trap in a manner that would make George Graham’s Arsenal back four weep.
Further out, way past the M50 and down the M9 to places that used to be farmland, we encounter entire communities that have sprung up even since the collapse of the economy. In fact, there are many out here who I am sure never expected to still be here when little Sean reached the under-6s, let alone the under-10s. They are stuck and they will not be moving for a long time.
This week, these anecdotal observations from the sidelines were given some statistical veracity by the latest publication from the wonderful Central Statistics Office.
The interesting thing about economics and debts and currency crises and whether we default or not is that, irrespective of all these, life goes on. No matter what the general tone of the economy, people still fall in love, have children, move house and get on with the normal day-to-day rigmarole of life. This is uplifting because that is what we are supposed to do, and humans have enormous resilience in the face of adversity.
The latest census data published this week, goes a little deeper than the overall picture released a few weeks ago. What it shows is that the country is becoming increasingly urbanised (or at least suburbanised). But what is more interesting is that we are becoming a nation of renters.
What we see is that people are stuck where they are. In 2006, 322,000 people moved compared to 273,000 last year. This is the ‘full house’ syndrome that we see all over the country where parents, who thought they had their children raised, find their adult children back sleeping in same room they slept before they made their Holy Communion. How many of these people do you know?
We also see a big change in the number of people moving house, moving up or maybe moving out. Even in a slump, people will always be moving because family size changes, irrespective of the latest pronouncements from the troika.
In the year to April 2011, 114,617 people moved house. That is down from 145,864 over the same period in 2006. This is a dramatic 21 per cent fall in the number of people moving.
Given the increase in the overall population, we can see the impact of the credit crunch and – probably more than anything else – the stagnant job markets. When there are loads of jobs, people move around.
The other factor is the huge rise in the number of people renting. Four out of every five people who moved house last year are renting their new houses.
The most striking figure representing the collapse in mortgages and the credit crunch is that in 2006 close to 50,000 people changed house and used a mortgage to do so.
Last year, that figure had slumped to 14,707. This means that only one in every eight who are moving house is getting a mortgage. In Kildare, there has been a 33 per cent increase in the number of people moving into rented gaffs.
We see a huge increase in Dulchies – Dubs moving to the country. Nearly 100,000 Dubs left the capital to go to places like Kildare, Wicklow and Meath. These commuters are the Kells Angels. You will see them this summer at Croke Park, families where the dad will be wearing Dubs jerseys, the son will be in green and gold of the Royal county and the older daughter, daddy’s girl, may be in Dubs blue.
Two-thirds of people who now live in Meath were not born there and, of these, one in six are immigrants. This is a huge immigrant population by European standards, never mind those of Ireland.
Of all our immigrants, 32 per cent live in Dublin. So we are seeing the beginning of the process whereby Dubliners, born in the county, are moving out and they are being replaced by immigrants.
This is a trend that is becoming more and more pronounced. One quarter of all people who were born in Dublin now live outside the county, which reveals extraordinary internal migration.
This is leading to the urbanisation of former county towns. Among the larger towns, Portlaoise grew the fastest, with an increase of 38 per cent from 14,613 to 20,100, followed by Ashbourne (by 33 per cent), Cavan (29 per cent) and Balbriggan (28 per cent). The biggest town in the country is now Drogheda.
Now, when you put all this together, we see the imperative to get the
economy going again – and quickly.
If there are so many new families and they are not moving, they are not moving because they are in negative equity and can’t finance any further moves. They have young kids, the children who play against the Cabinteely FC under-10s. As food and fuel inflation rise, it takes a disproportionate amount of cash out of the pockets of young working parents. These people, the Pope’s Children, need a break on their debts, otherwise we will see mass default in the commuter belt.
The real strength of a country is its people, its human capital. The financial balance sheets with debts, negative equity and falling asset prices isn’t actually economics, it is accountancy.
Economics is about people, and our population is growing quickly; these people need to be given a chance otherwise they lose hope.
If anything underscores the urgency of getting the economy going, it is the rising population; otherwise, we could see the radicalisation of the suburbs. It has happened elsewhere in the past and a few more years of this and it will happen here.